Stolen, found and restored the bell from St James Mission Church

The history of the St James Mission Church has been well documented in the guide and history of St Philip & St James Church Alderley Edge, Cheshire, by local historian and former church warden Michael Scaife MA (OXON) published in 2011and, later updated in 2018 whilst the church received lottery funding for the Spire renovations. 2016/17

The mission church was opened by the Bishop of Chester Rt Revd Dr Francis Jayne on 16th June 1908, the vicar was the Rev Paige-Cox (second vicar at St Philips Church) and it served the community till its closure on 9th March 1975.

The land was sold by the Church to a local family, Mr & Mrs Keith Grantham. They built a bungalow after Mr Grantham was sadly paralysed from the waist down during a hospital investigation on his kidney, which resulted in medical negligence.

St Philips had asked for the bell, a pew and some flooring to be sent to the church to be reused. A demolition team called Radcliff Bros from Up Holland, Lancashire were employed to dismantle the mission

It was stipulated the mission had to be dismantled within six months of purchase. Radcliff's started to dismantle but before long absconded with the bell, pews and flooring leaving the site exposed and dangerous.

Keith Grantham, being a well-respected local man, had the support of many friends within the community, who joined forces and cleared the site, making it safe. He couldn't do it as he was confined to a wheel chair and was worried about the safety of the site.

A local police man and close friend Geoff Gregory enlisted the help of local detectives Jim Buckley and Pete Halden (also friends) who looked into the disappearance of the bell, pews and flooring.Mr & Mrs Grantham helped identify the culprits from photos and the men were duly caught and detained in the cells at Wilmslow Police Station. They were ordered to return the items by the magistrate court. The Radcliffe brothers remained in the cells till they remembered who they had sold the items to and eventually the bell and one pew was returned. The flooring was never recovered, even after the Grantham's Solicitors sent bailiffs to the Radcliffe's house.

The Grantham's duly passed on the information to the Rector, Rev Leese, who was to arrange for bell and pew to be collected by St Philips Church.

Over the passage of time, they were forgotten, the pew disintegrated, and the bell remained in Keith's shed.

Sadly Keith Grantham died in 2019 and the bungalow is on the market. During discussions for Keith's funeral Ruth mentioned the bell to Revd Robin Pye. Ruth wanted the bell to go back to its rightful place.

The bell was duly returned to St Philips and at present is in the west end of the church on display.

Martin Sinker Church Warden said "The current scheme for the bell, as approved by the PCC, is that it will be installed in the tower bell chamber (just below the spire) and the pull-rope down to the South Porch will be reinstated. We are delighted to have the bell, particularly now that we are St Philip & St James."

The Church was renamed St Philip & St James Church in 2009 under Revd Jane Parry.

Mandy Parr - The story of the St James Church bell, as told by Ruth Grantham to Mandy Parr from Alderley History Group.

Photos : St James Church, inside at harvest, Ruth Grantham ringing the bell in St Philip & St James Church and Ruth's house built on site of St James Mission Church.

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Jaki Pariser
Saturday 6th June 2020 at 8:32 am
Most enjoyable story. Thank you Mandy.
David Hadfield
Saturday 6th June 2020 at 9:22 am
Yes, a great story …….. and I like this bit that concentrated their minds ;

The Radcliffe brothers remained in the cells till they remembered who they had sold the items to …….
Stewart Dyer
Saturday 6th June 2020 at 9:37 am
Fascinating stuff. What a wonderful story. Thanks Mandy.
Alan Brough
Saturday 6th June 2020 at 9:58 am
A lovely story - and nice to see the picture of St. James which I remember from childhood.
Tony Haluradivth
Saturday 6th June 2020 at 5:52 pm
How wonderful that justice was served. Those were the days. And yes a marvellous story. There was also a Methodist Mission Hall on Heyes Lane .(Now dwellings) where my wife recalled attending as a teenager some "Tea Dances" with some of General Patton's fine GIs
Brian Simpson
Tuesday 9th June 2020 at 5:23 pm
I used to ring that bell for Sunday school. It was so flat that my grandfather (who lived on Moss Road) always threatened to buy a new one.

Tony Haluradivth - My memory says that the hall on Heyes Lane was also C of E. It was called Belmont and I used it as the (sort of) infant Sunday School before graduating to St James. There were many other events in there like the tea dances. I had some of my childhood vaccinations there.

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