This is brief guide to the history of the Church and the area.
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At the turn of the century, the traveller passing from Wrexham to Gresford left the Municipal Borough just beyond the junction of Price’s lane and Rhosnesni Lane, continuing through open country until the outskirts of Gresford were reached. The enclosed fields of Croes Eneurys and Ty Gwyn farms lay to the left and once leafy Acton rise had been gained a clear view of mountains to the west and north-west was revealed.
Stone walls to the right, erected at the end of the 18th Century surrounded Acton Park enclosing Acton Hall, seat of the Cunliffe family. Formerly home to the
Jeffreys family, it was the birthplace in 1647 of the unfortunately notorious Judge Jeffreys who at the height of his career became Lord Chief Justice of England. The house was demolished in 1956 leaving only the impressive entrance, surmounted by four greyhounds (from the Cunliffe family crest) and three lodges still standing.
Further along is Little Acton, entered from Chester Road by the lodge which still stands to the entrance to Little Acton Drive. Near Acton Smithy stood Plas Acton House demolished during construction of the Wrexham by-pass.
At that time, Wrexham was a rapidly developing industrial town experiencing acute housing problems. Much development had already occurred to the west of the town resulting in closely packed terraced rows of colliers’ houses. This was viewed, by some, as far from satisfactory and contrasted sharply with the Garden Suburb developments already completed at Hampstead, Bournville and Port Sunlight. The poor state of housing in Wales had been observed by the MP David Davies (later Lord Davies of Llandinam) who became instrumental in establishing the Welsh Town Planning and Housing Trust Limited to develop building estates in Wales according to the enlightened ideas of the Garden Suburbs.
The sinking of the Gresford Colliery gave impetus to the founding, in 1913, of Wrexham Tenants Limited which was taken over as the first project when the Trust
purchased 160 acres of land close to Acton Park from Sir Foster Cunliffe. The Architect G L Sutcliffe, experienced in several such schemes, was brought in to plan the overall lay-out which was to include tree-lined avenues, open spaces, shops, churches, a school and institute.
Work commenced almost immediately with 44 properties completed within the first year. The first houses, villas at numbers 63-69 Acton Gate, others in Chester Road (numbers 149-167 and originally called Bryn Acton) and Cunliffe Walk were by Sutcliffe himself, with the remaining 205 being designed by T Alwyn Lloyd, Architect to the Trust.
The houses are of simple style; some being of rustic brick, others rendered. They vary in character and accommodation to provide for a variety of needs and distinctly resemble other similar developments. Every effort was made by the strictest economy in building to keep rents within reach of the working classes without compromising the false economy of using poor materials and faulty construction. The houses were fitted with excellent baths, gas cookers and coppers, wood block floors and electric light to reflect the rise in the standard of comfort required, and rents ranged from 5 to 8 shillings per week.
Great emphasis was placed upon provision of quality, well-equipped housing in a pleasant environment giving good gardens and open spaces. Grass margins were provided to roads and there was extensive planting of trees.
The houses were to be let to tenants who were also investors in the Company thus ensuring control of future development. This was indeed a pioneering approach prior to the days of Council housing. At the outbreak of the war in 1914 many houses were occupied by the Denbighshire Yeomanry, in training at Acton Hall. Sadly, no further development was undertaken by Wrexham Tenants Limited following the war; so shops, churches, an institute and school were never built as planned. Plots were later sold off for development along similar lines though the quality of the original work was never again achieved.
In 1955, Wrexham Tenants Limited was wound up; tenants being invited to purchase their properties at greatly reduced valuations. The smaller houses were sold for £250 and the larger ones for £450. This led to many houses being altered or extended thus reducing further the impact of the original scheme.
The Village Amenities
Crucial to the plan was the provision of open spaces; for recreation, gardening, sports facilities (bowling green, tennis and cricket clubs), a children’s playground, shops to be built in the centre of the Estate, an institute and churches to be built on the open ground facing Wats Dyke Way.
A Village Council, elected annually, cared for the social and educational interests of the villagers with the Institute, comprising a lecture hall, billiard room, reading room and ladies’ club room forming the centre of the intellectual and social life of the village during the winter months.
Although all have now been provided, the present institute in Kenyon Avenue was only intended as a temporary structure and the Roman Catholic Church was never built. Today only the bowling green remains of the recreational facilities. The last game of tennis was played in July 1990 and houses now occupy the sites of the allotments and tennis courts.
Free Church services had been held in a house in Ffordd Estyn (and later in the Institute) prior to the building in 1927 of Bethel Chapel. It was built on land originally intended for a quadrangle of houses similar to Cunliffe Walk, to be called Foster Walk.
Mrs F W Morris laid the foundation stone at St Margaret’s Church on the 14th March 1928. It was built on land originally proposed as open space. It was completed in nine months ready for dedication by the Archbishop of Wales on Monday 17th December 1928 at a cost of £5,000.
By 1923 the buildings of a former diamond polishing factory in Acton Park (established after the war by the Belgian Industrialist Bernard Oppenheimer) had become available. The Town Council decided to convert this to a school to cope with the increasing demand arising from their own development off Rhosnesni Lane as well as the Garden Village.
Saint Margaret’s Church
T Alwyn Lloyd designed the Church for the Welsh Town Planning and Housing Trust Limited in keeping with rest of the Garden Village development. The Church is
constructed of rustic brick, roofed with Cumberland slate and plastered inside to keep the simple look of an early Christian church from the Mediterranean. It is however incomplete, only the chancel and the transepts being to the original design. The Church was completed in 1977, at a cost of £15,000, by the addition of a lounge separated from the church by opening screens.
Unusually, the Altar is placed at the west end, high-lighted by a reredos curtain bearing the cross within an oak surround. The wide chancel and low choir serve to present the Altar as a dominant feature. Much oak is used in the furnishings; that of the Altar, Pulpit and Choir originally being limed.
The transept arches reflect the Moorish influence in Early Christian architecture and serve to uphold the timbers of the Columbian Pine roof. Four massive rafters support the main roof reaching upwards and culminating in a spired flêche.
The church is most probably named after St Margaret of Scotland whose life is celebrated on the 16th November. St Margaret was born and educated in Hungary in the 11th Century and married to Malcolm III of Scotland. She was renowned for her spirituality and care of the poor and was responsible for the building of many churches, often at her own expense, and excised a powerful influence on the reform of religion from the Celtic to the Gregorian. She died in 1093 at the age of 43. St Margaret’s Chapel stands on the highest point of Edinburgh Castle and is the home of the Mothers’ Union of Scotland
An anonymous donor provided the side Chapel to the south of the Church. It was dedicated on Wednesday the 2nd November 1960 by Dr Bartlett, Bishop of St Asaph. In style, it echoes the appearance of the High Altar.
A harmonium placed behind the choir sufficed until the present organ was installed at the rear of the north transept in 1949. It was built in 1910 by Hopkins of York. By 1980 major renovations were necessary and the opportunity was taken to make significant tonal improvements and move the instrument to its present position. This work was completed in 1982 by Hawkins Organ Builders of Lichfield at a cost of £15,500.
The crucifix above the pulpit was erected in memory of Mr Martin who was for many years the Sunday School Superintendent.
Also situated about the Church are a number of memorials to former Parishioners. These include various items of furniture, an Aumbrey and a Book of Remembrance. As memorials to parishioners of the past they amply reward the time taken over their perusal.
On the south of the transept arches facing the windows is a memorial to victims of the Gresford Pit Disaster of September 22nd 1934.
In 1956 the spacious hall was built to a full specification including stage lighting and dressing rooms. A substantial part of the cost of £13,000 was met by a bequest from the Estate of Mrs F W Morris who had laid the foundation stone of St Margaret’s Church on the 14th March 1928
In April 2006 the hall reopened after extensive refurbishment funded by a grant of £140,000 from the Welsh Assembly.
Further grants from WREN and the Welsh Assembly have enabled the purchase of new curtains including stage curtains, banquet tables and chairs and a refurbished and equipped kitchen.
It was The Rev G R Davies who did much to organise the building of St Margaret’s Church for the parishioners of Garden Village who formerly had to attend the Parish Church of St James in Rhosddu. For many years after, it was in the care of a succession of Curates in Charge who lived at 11 Kenyon Avenue. Best loved of these was Trevor Jones who remained for the unusually long period of 9 years until 1952. Canon Lort, previous Vicar of Bagillt, became Vicar during the war years before becoming Vicar of Gresford until his retirement.
It was, however, the Rev Monroe Williams who made the most dynamic changes; in 1969, following the sale of the large Victorian Vicarage in Rhosddu, he moved to the present house in Acton Gate and St Margaret’s became the Parish Church.
Further changes were in the air and by 1971, the old Parish of Rhosddu , formed in 1886, was amalgamated within the Rectorial Benefice of Wrexham. In 2002 the Benefice became the Deanery of Wrexham and now comprises St Giles, All Saints, St Margaret’s, St James’, St John’s, St Mark’s with St Mary’s Bersham and since 2006 Holy Trinity, Esclusham
Music has always played an important part in worship; there being a fine robed choir from early days. In 1958 the choir became affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music.
Those traditions still continue today.
Music also played a part in the social life of the Church; during the 1950s Mrs Wynn ran a Ladies Choir and in 1979 the St Margaret Singers was formed by Mr Paul Whittaker, a former organist. It continues to flourish under the direction of the present organist Mr David Evans with the help of accompanist Miss Jane Belton. In addition to concerts of Sacred Music the St Margaret Singers have presented several stage productions of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. More recently an Italian Evening and an evening of Songs from the Shows were performed with enthusiastic audience participation.
Shortly after the building of the hall in 1956, it was used for a number of theatrical productions. The hall was also used by the drama group established by Mr Alan Thompson in the 1970s: a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream being a particularly remembered feature of their activities.
For theatrical performances to be enjoyed once again new stage lighting must installed.
Placed in the stone wall circling Acton Park and alongside Chester Road, just south of the Church and facing the entrance to Acton Gate is a large stone bearing the engraving of a cross. This stone originally formed part of the base of an early medieval cross which stood in fields now occupied by the Council developments of Acton Park.
When it was decided to enclose the parkland in the 18th Century, the existing route of Chester Road was diverted prior to the building of the present wall. At that time, the base of that medieval cross and the only portion still remaining was moved to its present position and placed in the wall. As it had formerly stood in land at one time in the ownership of the Monks of Valle Crucis, the owner of the Estate at that time caused a cross to be engraved upon it to indicate its former origins.
Prior to the building of the present houses nearby, it was customary for the Rogation Sunday Service to be held in the field around a large oak tree situated alongside that particular stone.
1922 Rev’d G R Davies
1935 Rev’d Robert Davies
1941 Rev’d W V Lort
1954 Rev’d W R Corfield
1959 Rev’d I G Samuel
1963 Rev’d Munroe Williams
1971 Rev’d Herbert Lloyd
1975 Rev’d Glyn Conway
1978 Rev’d John Evans
1983 Rev’d T A Stillings
1991 Rev’d Ronald Evans
1998 Rev’d Andrew Keulemans
2003 Rev’d David A Slim
2008 Rev’d Richard Hainsworth
Curates in charge include:
1928-31 Rev James Lloyd
1931-36 Rev Cecil Jones
1936-39 Rev Cecil Davies
1939-42 Rev A R Morris
1942-43 Rev G E Morris
1943-52 Rev Trevor Jones
1952-55 Rev S J Wright
1956-60 Rev S K L Vick
1960-66 Rev John Davies
1928 Mr E J Stephens
1932 Mr Harold Williams
1933 Mr Albert Jones
1943 Mr J J Smith assisted by his son Mr N Smith
1950 Mr Maurice Wynn
1955 Mr Noel Smith
1957 Mr Harry Macklin
1960 Mr Eric Kilhan
1977 Mr Paul Whittaker assisted by Mr S Martin
1999 Mr David Evans assisted by Mrs Maureen Dodd