There is said to be evidence to show that there has been a chapel or church on the site of St Mary’s Acklam for over a thousand years. The first reference to ACLUN is found in the Doomsday Book with a mention of 'a church and a priest'.
In 1853 it was renamed West Acklam to avoid confusing it with Acklam in the 'East Riding' but it was not until 1866 that the Parish of West Acklam was formed and the Rev E.G. Charlesworth became the first vicar.
Several buildings have occupied this site since Saxon times, a medieval chapel of unknown age was rebuilt circa 1770. This in turn was pulled down and a new church built circa 1874 by the Hustler family who lived in the adjacent Acklam Hall and owned all the land in the area. The original dedication was to St John and it is thought that around the time of the rebuilding in 1874 this was changed to St Mary. The South Porch was added in 1925.
The 1874 church only seated 135, with the rapid growth of the modern town of Middlesbrough and the new housing estates being built nearby prior to the Second World War, the little church soon became inadequate and more seating was required. A large extension to the North side of the 1874 church building was added, though still retaining the nave and chancel of the older church as the Bede chapel, the foundation stone being laid on 4th July 1956. The completed church was consecrated on 19th October 1957 by the then Archbishop of York, Dr Michael Ramsey. St Mary's could then cater for a seated congregation of 400.
For further information, please see a book written by the Vicar at the time of the 1957 extension Rev’d John L. Badger.
Click thisHistory link to view all the gravestones at St Mary's.
The website lists the names and details on the gravestones. Click on the blue number to the right of a name and that particular gravestone's photograph will be displayed.
Photographs and brief descriptions of some of the church's stained glass windows can be found on the Photo Gallery page.
Several photographs are shown below of the old church and church hall.
The old Church thought to be built circa 1770 and replaced by the 1874 church
View of the 1874 church taken from the North side.
Notice the wall and muddy path.
An old Photograph showing the church before the alterations of 1957.
i.e. this is the now present Bede Chapel !!
Chancel of the Old Church.
Looking to the back of the 1874 church
The new newly finished extension.
The boundary wall is still being built..
A confirmation Service thought to be 1960 or 1961
The Isherwood hall before the 1960's additions.
The numbers and letters in the plan of the church given below, relate to the following photographs and text.
1. On entering the Church, the window above you in the corner shows the Madonna and Child
nearby West window shows St Peter and St. Paul, acknowledging the former
link, with Stainton Parish Church, which is dedicated to these two saints.
3. Moving north, pass through the first of the arches which replace the old north wall into the new nave. The modern west window depicts the Risen Christ, surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists.
Close examination will reveal many more interesting details.
The north wall of the main nave contains four windows; from West to East these are: -
a) Two scenes showing the angel bringing good tidings to the shepherds (formerly in the South wall of the old church).
b) Plain glass. (Note) The two churchwarden's staves fixed to the ends of the pews in the aisle opposite this window. They show a crown for the people's warden and a cross for the Vicar's warden.
c) Two scenes showing the Annunciation.This bears the signature of the maker, Percy Bacon, in the bottom right-hand corner.
d) Two scenes illustrating the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
below this last window is the brass lectern which dates from 1885.
5. Moving towards the altar, on the left there is a chamber where the pipe organ built by Norman & Beard in 1912 used to be. This was removed in 1987 and replaced by an ‘Allen’ electronic organ with the loud speakers high above your heads in the roof. The chamber is now used to keep the chest where the altar frontals are stored and also houses the music library.
6. The east window is in three parts, the centre shows a full length presentation of the Virgin Mary, holding the infant Christ on a pedestal, portraying the Annunciation, to the left St Aiden with crozier and torch, to the right the venerable Bede with pen and book.
7. Below the window on the south side of the sanctuary is a stone from York Minster bearing crossed keys, the sign of St Peter. This represents a link between the Mother Church of the Diocese and one of her many daughters.
8. Beneath an extended arch in the southside of the chancel is a stone effigy of Margaret Conyers, wife of Sir Thomas Boynton,who died in 1402. The arms of the Boynton and Conyers can be seen on the cushion beneath her head pillar
9. Now moving through into the Bede Chapel:- The east window portrays Christ the King, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John. The dedication of the window is commemorated on a small brass plaque above the small arch to the left of the window. One of the churchwardens mentioned here, J. Handysides was mentioned in J. Ord’s ‘History of Cleveland’ as follows. “On the 16th December 1845, Acklam was the scene of the most fiendish crime that has ever disgraced the rural annals of England – incendiarism! Owing to some trifling dispute about wages, a miscreant in the employ of John Handysides, farmer, set fire to his stock yard causing damage to the amount of some hundreds of pounds.”
10. The oak reredos in the chapel was made in 1920, and a bronze plaque in the aisle shows it to be a memorial to twelve local men who died in the First World War. In the south wall is a plaque to the Rev Isaac Brown, vicar of both Acklam and the then smaller Middlesbrough
11. Originally behind the reredos, but now restored and sited in the south transept are four partial wooden panels showing the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer
12. In the south wall of the Bede chapel is a window by Anne Southeran donated by Anne Watson. This window celebrates the ‘Venerable Bede’
13. The small window above the main east window in the Bede Chapel is of the Lamb of God and donated by Anne Watson.
14. On leaving the Bede Chapel, note the old chancel arch with angels above the foliated capitals.
15. The font (re-sited several times) is octagonal in shape, the parallel sides having a simple Gothic design. This is not the original, which was made of black marble and stood on a white marble plinth
16. Behind the font is a stained glass window by Anne Southeran and donated by Mr & Mrs Pagan. The window depicts aspects of baptism
17. The Bede transept has been altered several times, in 1912 seating and some of the Hustler wall tablets were adjusted to make room for the organ, (later moved during rebuilding). After the building of the vestry a window became the door to the vestries, leaving the tablets as they are today.
18. Two more tablets on central pillars are memorials to the Isherwood family who commissioned the original church hall as a memorial to their daughter Alberta and son Arnold. The tablet for their parents is above this one but indistinct and difficult to photograph.
19. The south window near the entrance doors shows St Luke on the left and to the right St Hilda Abbess of Whitby. Above her head and around her feet are fossils known as ammonites, but legend has it that they were snakes turned to stone by St Hilda.
Leaving the church take a look at the exterior: - Three ages of stonework can be seen, the older structure dating from 1874, the porch, which was added in 1925, and the new nave and chancel built in 1956. The new stonework for the latter was quarried at Staindrop near Barnard castle, whereas the vestry is a mixture of new stone and old from the north wall of the original church, which was demolished to make the extension.
The bell tower was in danger of falling down in 1998, but a spirited congregation and community rallied round and raised the money in the same year to return it to its former glory.
Some gargoyles can be seen at the corners of the old church, while another removed from the North West can be seen on the vestry. These grotesque carvings, once ornate waterspouts, were also to frighten away evil spirits.
The churchyard has a boundary wall to the east, north and west. Many of the headstones were moved during the building of the new extension and therefore do not necessarily mark the original graves. Note the large yew tree near the porch to the left of the path, (there were two but recent concern by the police and insurance company about reduced visibility of the church allowing thieves to operate unseen meant one had to be removed in 2011).
A new yew was planted on the south side of the
graveyard to commemorate the ‘Millenium’ in 2000. The yew longbow was
the main weapon used by the English in the defeat of the French at the
Battle of Agincourt, 1415. It is suggested that English parishes were
therefore required to grow yews and, because of the trees' toxic
properties to cattle and sheep they were grown in the only commonly
enclosed area of a village - the churchyard, hence yews being mainly
found in churchyards