Christ the King has been serving the local Catholic community of Walkden since 1952.
The Hollies, Manchester Road, Walkden was purchased by Bishop Marshall in 1951 and opened as a parish on the 13th April 1952 when it was realised that the churches of Little Hulton and Swinton would soon be unable to cope with the congregation of Catholics moving from Salford to a new housing estate at Walkden. Fr. F.J. Murphy was appointed the first priest in charge and Mass was offered for the first 6 months in an upper room of an outside building.
The Diocese purchased land at the rear of the Hollies containing an old stable building. This building now known as Barnside Hall was re-constructed as the first temporary church at a cost of £2890 and was opened and blessed by Bishop Marshall on the feast of Christ the King, 1952.
The population of the parish at the time of opening was 450 souls and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the union of Catholic Mothers were founded.
Father Murphy was appointed priest in charge of Our Lady's Langley and left Christ the King on the 9th April 1953. Fr. T. Wharry curate of the mother parish of St Edmund's Little Hulton, was appointed to succeed Fr. Murphy as priest in charge in August 1953.
After 8 years the population had grown to 600 and the temporary church was becoming too small so the Diocese granted Fr, Wharry permission to build a new church in 1961. Messrs Prestwich of Leigh were appointed Architects and Messrs Seddon Little Hulton Contractors. Work started in June 1961 and Monsignor A. McNulty (who's childhood was spent in Little Hulton) laid the Foundation Stone on September 16th 1961.
After 10 years hard work by the Catholic community of Walkden, Bishop Beck who succeeded Bishop Marshall as Bishop of Salford opened and Blessed the new church on July 19th 1962.
The new church stands on the site of the spacious lawn which fronted The Hollies. At the entrance which is at the East end, there stands a high square tower bearing a plain cross, high up and off centre. This arrangement necessitates a break from tradition for the High Alter is at the West instead of the East end of the church.
A Journal reporter asked Fr Wharry about the unconventional arrangement of the church with the High Alter at the West end and was told that they had the greatest difficulty obtaining consent to the church being erected on the site at all because it fronts onto the A6 road. The Ministry of Transport at length consented but only subject to certain conditions, one of which was that there should be no access to the church from the trunk road. This obliged them to make the entrance to the church from Barnside Avenue with a pedestrian gateway not less than 100ft from the main road.
As in all Roman Catholic churches the centreof interest is at the High Altar. Behind it, on the plain West wall is a crucifix, which the Journl reporter considered more stylised and symbolic than was customary, with the arms of Christ forming a straight horizontal line. "No," replied Fr Wharry. "It is not a modern design: it goes back a very long way. Some of the oldest churches in England have similar crucifixes." On the cross Christ is shown wearing a crown of glory, representing Christ the King; but he also wears vestments, representing the priesthood of Christ. It is an elongated figure and the four points of the cross are enlarged to form squares, each carved to represent the four Evangelists.
The High Altar, like the two smaller altars in the side chapels, is in Italian Botticini cream marble, and the High Altar has been built away from the wall (a symbolic reversion to the old idea of a table, that one can walk around) instead of being built against the wall. The altars and the crucifix were carved in Northern Italy, the crucifix by Ferdinant Stufflesser, who has been responsible for a great deal of ecclesiastical carving in Britain. The base of the altar, and the rises to the sanctuary steps, are in black marble as is the top of the communion rail.
The church was designed by Messrs. J.C< Prestwich and Sons of Leigh, and built by Messrs G. and J. Seddon, of Little Hulton: the marquertry floor is by Messrs J. Gerrard and Sons Ltd. of Swinton, the altars were erected by Alberti Lupton, of Moston and the Tabernacle, altar rails and baptistry screen were made by McGloughlins of Dublin.
Father Wharry erected a wooden parochial hall in 1962 which became a Social Club and strove manfully but without success to get permission to build a Parochial School. In 1965, Fr Wharry was appointed parish priest of St. Vincent's, Openshaw and left Christ the King on June 18th. On the 4th June 1965, Bishop Holland who succeeded Bishop Beck as Bishop of Salford appointed Fr. Francis Cummmins from St. Peter's, Middleton to be Priest-in-Charge at Christ the King, Fr. Cummins took possesion of the Parish on the 18th June 1965.
We would like you to get involved in helping us to piece together the history of this Church and your memories of being part of this vibrant community over the years. Do you have any interesting stories and anecdotes to share with us? Perhaps some images? If you have any information that you would like to share with us please speak to Father John after one of the weekend Masses.