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The Grimsby Mission of St Mary's was established in the early 1850's, with Services held in various places around the town. This was mainly to cater for the growing number of Irish labourers who were coming to Grimsby to build the docks.
In 1869 part of the Holme Hill estate of Lord Heneage was purchased by Sir John Sutton for the building of a church. Unfortunately Sir John died before it could be built. It was to be some years before another benefactor would provide the necessary funds.
In the meantime, Canon George Johnson had the school and presbytery built.
Thomas Arthur Young of Kingerby Hall near Osgodby in Lincolnshire, took on the task of providing a church. The foundation stone was laid in 1880, and the new church, designed by Charles Hadfield, was opened officially by Bishop Bagshawe of Nottingham on 19th August 1883 - (the same week as the People's Park was opened).
In addition to the building, T.A. Young also provided the stained glass window on the chancel (Sanctuary) and the Sacred Heart Chapel, the High Altar with its Reredos, and the carved oak stalls in the Sanctuary.
The Hon. Mrs Georgina Fraser, sister of Lord Heneage, donated the Sacred Heart Altar. The statue of the Sacred Heart is flanked by those of St George, St John, St Mary Magdalene and St Hugh of Lincoln.
The whole of the church was decorated for the silver Jubilee in 1908. The money for the decoration of the Sanctuary was donated by the Charlton family. There is a plaque commemmorating Thomas Charlton's term of Office as Mayor of Grimsby in 1875. He is included in his mayoral robes in the painting of the Nativity and apparently his family were used as models for the figures of the Nativity and Epiphany scenes!
The angels on the higher level of the East wall are holding scrolls containing the words of Mary's prayer, the Magnificat - Magnificat anima mea Dominum et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutary meo - My soul glorifies the Lord, my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour (Luke 1:46-47). The artist responsible for this work is not known
Sadly, in 1963 all the artwork and decorations were painted over and remained hidden until 2004 when happily, conservator Nigel Leaney painstakingly restored some of them - though many still remain hidden.
The wooden Reredos (the screen on the wall behind the Altar) is divided into three rows below a painting of the coronation of the Virgin Mary.
Beneath the seven archangels are the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The bottom row depicts Ss Norbert, Thomas Aquinas, Gilbert of sempringham and Hugh of Lincoln.
Thomas Young was responsible for bringing the Premonstratensian Order, founded by St Norbert, to Lincolnshire. In acknowledgement of this, and in recognition of his contribution to St Mary's, a small figure representing Mr Young is seen kneeling at the saint's feet. He is dressed in the regalia of the knighthood of St Gregory, an honour bestowed on him by Pope Leo XII.
The panels in the centre of the Reredos were also exposed in 2004 and are decorated in the style of Pugin, and include the prayer - Ave Regina Caelorum, - Hail Queen of Heaven.
The figure of Christ in majesty on the Sanctuary north wall is part of a continuous mural extending all the way along the wall. The Chancel Arch contains decorations, mainly of the Fleur de-Lys and the Tudor Rose.
Overlooking the Sanctuary is a balcony and a room, originally used by the choir, accompanied by a small organ. Near the balcony is a rope connected to a one ton bell in the 'Fleche' rising 50 feet above the chancel roof. The bell is inscribed with an old Lincolnshire legend "What you have heard, O Mary, I will proclaim from the rooftops"
Buried beneath the chapel are the remains of Canon Hawkins who was Parish Priest from 1884 to 1913. Greatly respected by all the town folk, especially the poor, special permission was given by the Home Office to transfer his remains from Cleethorpes Cemetery to the vault where he was laid to rest in 1914. His funeral was a momentous occasion in the life of the area.
Two stained glass windows commemorate the work of Canon Hawkins. One above the last Station of the Cross was installed from funds raised at his Silver Jubilee of Ordination in 1909.
There are 14 stations of the cross which depict the events of the first Good Friday.
The huge Hawkins Memorial window is situated above the balcony behind the organ. The balcony was originally built by Canon Hawkins to enable children to see the sanctuary. It became however, the natural position for the choir and the present organ was installed in thanksgiving for the end of the Great War. It was completely renovated in 2007 in time for the 125th anniversary celebrations.
The pulpit, richly carved with the images of the four evangelists, was made in Germany and was donated by Mrs Bedilia Dunn in 1892 in memory of her husband who died in a road accident. She died before the pulpit was installed so it is in memory of both of them.
The richly decorated wooden statues of Our Lady and St Joseph came from Germany.
Under the balcony stairway is a small area of the "Fishes" Frieze which originally went all round the nave. Painted in the 1930's it allegedly included every known species of fish in the sea.
The newest stained glass window is the Peace Window installed in 1945 in thanksgiving. It includes a view of the Dock Tower.
To see a short film showing the inside of St Mary's and giving a more detailed history please follow this link:-