Touching Place 

ss john and mary magdalene, goldthorpe

A church built in reinforced concrete in the Italianate style is not something you meet every day, especially in a South Yorkshire mining village in the Dearne Valley. Lord Halifax gave Goldthorpe the first ever reinforced concrete church; designed by Alfred Y. Nutt, it was consecrated by Cosmo Gordon Lang in 1916. You could see four coalmines from the church tower. Time passed, the concrete leaked, acid rain got in; the iron core began to rust and chunks of concrete fell off. By 1994 the pits had all closed; unemployment climbed.

Faced with a huge restoration job, this community made what can only be termed an heroic response, in raising over a quarter of a million pounds through its own efforts. The National Heritage Lottery Fund contributed 950,000, so that the church was rehallowed by Dr David Hope on 29 June 2002.

The interior of the church is generously provided with the instruments of worship; life-size carved and coloured Stations of the Cross occupy both aisles, and a voluptuously carved eighteenth-century Flemish pulpit presides over a light and airy nave. You stand a good chance of finding a statue of your favourite saint, from John the Baptist to Therese of Lisieux, and from the Archangel Michael to the Holy Infant of Prague. It is all calculated to warm the cockles of the heart of an old-fashioned Papalist like this writer. But don't forget the stained glass window at the west end of the south aisle, which commemorates the four local collieries, and the book remembering the miners who died in accidents. Goldthorpe church is rooted in its community.

Be inspired by the efforts of Goldthorpe in restoring their church. Pray for the unemployed, and for all those who fight to retain their self-respect. Remember in your prayers all clergy who work in deprived areas. OS ref. SE462045

Simon Cotton

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