In the coming weeks, we will look back at the history of some of Mid Cheshire’s older schools.

This week we begin with St Wilfrid’s Catholic school in Northwich. In the 1820s there was no call for a Catholic school or church as there was only one Catholic person of Irish descent in the whole of Northwich (or as the area was then known as Witton-cum-Twambrooks, Northwich town being from the Bull Ring to Crown Street).

From the 1840s onwards the Catholic population expanded rapidly to over a thousand due to the arrival of many Irish immigrants, and at that time they were restricted to a meeting in a cottage in the Yorkshire Buildings which were in the vicinity of the now Brio leisure centre car park.

This became impractical due to the demand and for a short period, the worshippers used a former congregational church in Cross Street.

By 1864 enough funds had been raised to buy a plot of land big enough to house a church, presbytery, and subsequently a school. The site chosen was on Witton Street adjoining Brewery Meadow and not far from the town railway station.

Northwich Guardian: St Wilfrid's in 1892St Wilfrid's in 1892 (Image: Rose Hurley)

The foundation stone for the church was laid on August 25, 1864, by Cannon Frith of Stockport and building work began.

The cost of the entire building was to be £1,545 which in 2023 would be £158,330.

The stone was duly laid, and during the ceremony, the foundations were sprinkled with holy water.

The opening for worship took place in December 1865 although the official inauguration didn’t take place until August of the following year, two years to the month after the first stone was laid.

The school adjoining was constructed by the same firm as the church and was completed in the late 1860s at a further cost of £600.

Northwich Guardian: St Wilfrid's Parish CentreSt Wilfrid's Parish Centre (Image: Rose Hurley)

The school was used for many events and an example of this was in November 1879 when it was reported that a Grand Musical Concert took place.

To quote from a local newspaper at the time: “As in former years the entertainment was a thorough success attributed in great measure to the energetic efforts of Father Barry and a number of his zealous co-workers”!

Many local singers and actors performed and the whole event was deemed a tremendous achievement to loud applause.

In December 1913 a Christmas party took place for the pupils, punctuality was strictly adhered to on this type of occasion of course.

The school room was transformed into a winter wonderland and a huge amount of food and drink was supplied to the children’s delight.

A pianist was brought from Manchester to accompany carol singers and he also undertook the role of Santa Claus distributing presents to the waiting children.

Northwich Guardian: Northwich New StreetNorthwich New Street (Image: Rose Hurley)

The event was funded by kind-hearted and generous donors, Mr and Mrs Taylor of Cuddington.

St Wilfrid’s school also had a famous ex-pupil, reported in April 1943, one Gilbert Lennon, a seaman and son of Mr and Mrs Lennon of 30 New Street, Northwich.

He had been featherweight champion of the Home Fleet in 1937, and despite the war conditions was able to fight Helmy Chenouda, Champion of Egypt at the Alhambra Theatre in Alexandria.

At that time Gilbert had 170 wins to his credit.

The school building became too small to accommodate all the pupils and by the early 1950s other locations close by were also being used.

The infants were housed in a building close to where Chester Way dual carriageway is now, opposite was the St Wilfrid’s school canteen.

Northwich Guardian: St Wilfrid's and Mr Garvey's class circa 1958/59St Wilfrid's and Mr Garvey's class circa 1958/59 (Image: Rose Hurley)

Behind Northwich Baths the sixth form were taught in a building called The Institute under Mr Pye.

In 1972, the school relocated to Hartford and the Primary School is called St Wilfrid’s, but the senior school is called St Nicholas, both are on the Greenbank Lane Campus.

The Witton Street building is now used as a parish centre.