History of Sacred Heart

After being ordered by the bishop during the visitation of 1854, to concentrate his efforts on the opening of a mission in Hanley, Thomas Leith, the priest at Cobridge, set about collecting money and, in 1857, was able to buy ground between Marsh Street and Lower Foundry Street - 'in the centre of the poor Catholics' as he put it. In his pastoral letter of November that year Bishop Ullathorne stated:

'The Rev. Mr. Leith of Cobridge after having by his sole exertions established a mission at Tunstall has now secured land in the important town of Hanley. All the funds have to be provided for that work, and we commend to the co-operation of the faithful the aiding in a work which that zealous clergyman so bravely begun.'

In 1858, a day school and Sunday school were opened in a building erected on the land, and although there were still no services held there a mission was given in the school building by a Passionist father in Lent that year. It is said, however, that about this time Thomas Leith occasionally said Mass in a loft in Lower Foundry Street over Bath and Poole's carriage works and foundry. Finally, in February, 1860, William Molloy came from Madeley, Shropshire, to be resident priest at Hanley, staying first with John Emery and his wife Susannah. Thomas Leith noted that with the establishment of this new parish 'nearly two-thirds of the congregation and support were severed from the old mother church... With Hanley went also Shelton, Bucknall, Milton, Far Green, Northwood and their outskirts.'

Already there was £600 in hand, and William Molloy was able to open the church of St. Mary and St. Patrick in Lower Foundry Street in 1860. It was designed and built by Messrs. Ward of Hanley and had seating for 400 people. The presbytery, however, was built on three quarters of an acre of ground between Regent Road and Jasper Street where it still stands, for it was intended from the first that a church should be built there. But the congregation was very poor - the poorest in the Potteries, it was said, except for the congregations at Tunstall and Goldenhill - so it was some years before the church could be started and, in the meantime, William Molloy grew vegetables and kept pigs on the land.

Finally, in July 1889 the foundation stone of the new church, the Sacred Heart, was laid by Bishop Ilsley. William Molloy died in 1890 so the completion of the church fell to his successor, James Keating. The opening ceremony was performed on 22nd September, 1891, by Bishop Ilsley assisted by Henry Vaughan, the Bishop of Salford and soon to be Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. The organ, the pulpit, and many of the fittings were donated, but even so the debt on the new church was large. Building costs had been much heavier than expected, for the site of the church was found to be pitted with old coal working and many tons of concrete had to be poured into the great holes before the foundations could be made secure.

This work alone absorbed all the available funds, and to help towards the meeting of the debt one of the two assistant priests, Matthias O'Rourke - later to be rector - went on a fund-raising tour of the United States of America in 1890, which produced well over £1,000 after expenses had been covered. Despite the poverty of the parish, the debt was eventually paid off, and in 1911, the church was consecrated.

A brick building in the Gothic style with 700 sittings, it was originally designed by H V Krolow of St Helens and Liverpool; after his resignation as architect, the work was taken over by Robert Scrivener and Sons. With the opening of the new church, St. Mary and St. Patrick's was closed for a period. Services were subsequently held there again at various times until its sale during the Second World War.

It was originally intended that there should be a convent to the east of the Sacred Heart Church, but infact, the only convent so far established in the parish was that opened at Druid's Hall, Albion Street, along with a home for the aged by the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1890. Their stay was brief, however, for after two years they moved to Cobridge House, in St. Peter's parish (Taken from the Centenary Brochure)

Priests who have served the Hanley Parish are:

1869 - 1890 William Molloy

1890 - 1899 James Keating

1899 - 1924 Matthias O'Rourke

1924 - 1935 Alfred Mulligan

1935 - 1952 Charles Barnes

1952 - 1981 Guy Colman

1982 - 1987 James Dutton

1987 - 1990 John F. Molyneux

1990 - 1992 Sean O'Brien

1992 - 1995 Michael A Power

1995 - 2004 David Goodwin

2004 - 2016  Peter J Weatherby

2016 - 2023 Michael Puljic 

2023 Matthew Kwaghtever C.S.Sp.