St Elizabeth's Church, Stockport, Cheshire, UK

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Houldsworth Mill in the district of Reddish in Stockport was built in 1865, at the height of cotton production in the north-west of England. It was commissioned by William Houldsworth (1835 - 1917), a son of one of the region's wealthiest industrial families. As well as a mill, Reddish boasts a road, a large pub and the main town square all named in his honour.

The soap opera connection

There is even a character in Coronation Street1, Reg Houldsworth, who bears Houldsworth's name., and it was Houldsworth family money also enabled the construction and dedication of St Elizabeth's Church, an Anglican edifice whose spire co-dominates the Reddish skyline. This spire can be seen from miles away, and the church itself is a grand and imposing building that seems out of place in a district of Stockport which, sadly at the time of writing, is moving socially downwards.

This church, on the corner of Leamington Road and Houldsworth Street, faces the Mill and is well worth a visit by people with an interest in Victorian mock-Gothic eccleasiastica.

And the Coronation Street link? The church and grounds have been used for location filming for the soap opera; various Street weddings have 'happened' in this Church, with filming taking place both inside (there is a grand and imposing interior) and outside, where the backdrop of Northern terraces places it firmly in Coronation Street Country.

Granada Television's location fees go to Church upkeep, and the current vicar is seen on TV playing the organ during Street weddings; he is not at all worried that his Anglican church is used to represent Weatherfield's local Catholic church, Weatherfield being the fictional town of the show!

Pennies from heaven

There is an interesting footnote to St Elizabeths' story, in that the church made national news in the late 1970s and early 1980s for 'showers of mysterious cash' from the heavens.

Fortean Times, the supernatural publication, probably preserves the full story, but the incumbent vicar claimed to have been walking in the church grounds, whereupon he was assailed by money not so much thrown as floating down from the heavens above, bending, if not breaking, the accepted laws of gravity as if it were being carried down by invisible hands.

This happened not once but several times over a period of two years: the money was always current British currency, never notes, but amounts of about £5-£10 a time in coin of 50p and below. The vicar took this as miraculous invention on the part of St Elizabeth (aunt of the Virgin Mary and mother of John the Baptist) and assurance the money problems faced by the Church would soon be reconciled.

While the mystery was never solved, it may be worth noting that this particular vicar had to retire on health grounds in the early eighties, and the showers of coins were only co-incidentally witnessed by others - there is a local suspicion that a shrewd minister was drawing free publicity to the Church's cashflow problems so as to solicit more orthodox donations from devotees of the Saint who had been shown the way by Her personal attention.

1Coronation Street is one of the UK's longest running and most-loved television soap operas set in the north-west of England.

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