Laying the Foundation Stone


14 July 

Taken from ‘The Sheffield Times’

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Hanover Street

Laying the Foundation Stone

The interesting and imposing ceremony of laying the Foundation Stone of the new Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew’s, Sheffield, was performed on Tuesday last at noon according to the ancient Masonic usage.

At half-past eleven o’clock in the forenoon a procession was formed at the Music Hall, consisting of gentlemen who are members of the Presbyterian Church, headed by their minister (the Revd: James Breakey), and followed by the Worshipful Master officers and members of the Britannia Lodge of Freemasons, accompanied by visitors from other Lodges, including some from Doncaster, the whole of the Fraternity appearing in Masonic attire. The procession, thus constituted, was preceded by the band of the 1st West York yeomanry, in full regimentals, and marched at a slow pace along Surrey Street, Norfolk Row, Fargate, Division Street, Devonshire Street and Glossop Road to Hanover Street, halting at the entrance to the site of the new edifice, which is a piece of valuable land belonging to T. B. Holy Esq., situated on the West side of Hanover Street and near to Wilkinson Street.

The members of the congregation having taken up the places assigned to them the brotherhood of Masons opened into double line and the Worshipful Master of the Britannia Lodge, Hugh Wood Esq., M.D., (who is also one of the elders of the Presbyterian Church) passed through the ranks and led them to the stone after which the ceremony of laying the stone was commenced by the singing of the 100th psalm, accompanied by the band. The Master offered then offered up a prayer, concluding with this exhortation – ‘Oh Lord, do Thou bless all here present and grant that we may raise such a superstructure on the foundation already laid, perfect in all parts that when this earthly house shall be destroyed we all may be prepared to enter that Grand Lodge above where the world’s great Architect rules and reigns forever.”

In commemoration of the event a complete set of current coins of the realm fresh from the Mint and a set of ‘Maundy Money’ were deposited in a bottle, together with copies of the local newspapers, the names of the Freemasons who attended the procession, a full list of the subscribers to the building and of the members and adherents of the congregation, a copy of the Westminster Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, and also a well digested succinct account of the origin of the early history of the congregation and Church, drawn up by Mr. Stewart, the honorary Secretary. The bottle and its contents were deposited under the stone and securely walled up. The massive cube of Ashlar, about three tons in weight, was then lowered into its assigned place upon a bed of mortar and the Grand Master applied the square, level, plumb-rule and mallet saying – “We this day, in the name and through the assistance of the great architect of the universe, have begun a good work: may he also bless our labours and cause all things so to progress that His name may be proclaimed. “Except the Lord bless the house they labour in vain that build it.”

Corn, wine and oil were laid upon the stone, in accordance with Masonic usage, the Grand Master at the same time pronouncing these words: – “May the all-bounteous Author of Nature bless this town and country with abundance of corn, wine and oil, and with all necessaries conveniences and comforts of life, and when enjoying such may they with grateful hearts look up through nature to nature’s God and give thanks.” The stone was then declared to be duly laid the master saying: – “May the great Architect of the universe grant a blessing on this foundation stone which we have now laid, and by His providence enable us to finish this and every good work we may undertake for his glory.”

A handsome silver trowel made for the occasion by Messrs. Hawksworth, Eyre & Co. Nursery Street, and which the master had used during the ceremony, was then presented to him by Mr. Breakey in these words: – “Dr. Wood, I have great pleasure in the name of the congregation in presenting you with this silver trowel as the instrument with which you laid this stone, and preserve this as a memorial of the service you render to us this day.” The trowel bore this inscription: – “Presented by the Congregation to Dr. Hugh Wood, W. M., of the Britannia Lodge No – 162 of free and accepted masons, on the occasion of laying the principal stone of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Hanover Street, Sheffield, 10th July 1855.”

Dr. Wood then introduced Mr. Breakey who spoke as follows: – “Gentlemen of the Masonic Order, ladies and fellow townsmen – after the very interesting ceremony we have been privileged to witness, I do not think it right to detain you long, but as I am minister of the congregation engaged in building this church I do not think it proper to allow the occasion wholly to pass away without at least expressing my sincere pleasure in the work we are engaged this day, without offering my acknowledgments to the respectable body which has honoured us with its presence, and my congratulations to my fellow townsmen, and especially the members of my congregation. Though as a church we have no connection with the Masonic craft, I am glad of the pleasure and thankful for the services of such an ancient and honourable body, who are never mixed up with political intrigues or such things as disgrace other secret societies. And especially I am happy to see the trowel in the hands of the man we all delight to honour, and who has been the chief instrument in advancing this work. I congratulate my fellow townsmen because we are erecting a handsome building which will be a graceful ornament to this part of the town It is a cause of rejoicing that churches and chapels are multiplied in the town and that they are keeping pace with the increase of the population. They are not only the best but the most ornamental buildings in this place. They are the first to catch the eye of the stranger and the last to leave his mind. He sees through the murky gloom of the smoke in which the town is enveloped dome after dome, spire after spire, and he learns they are the Parish, St. Paul’s, St. George’s, St. Mary’s St. Matthew’s and hereafter shall be added St Andrew’s.

I have said such as these are the best buildings in this town for they contribute most of all to its religion, its morality and virtue. I am comparatively a stranger, but I may be permitted to say, I admire the people of Sheffield for their frank and generous manner, their kindness and their hospitality and their talent aud industry. And now I think we have a claim on the people of Sheffield for aid in this work; if for us no other reason, for this – that we are adding another ornamental and useful building to the town. But I have especially to congratulate the members of my congregation that we are so advanced towards the object of our wishes. We are few, but our cause is not to be judged of by the paucity of our numbers. Though few we are not friendless. Help has been raised up in some quarters we did not expect and it is all the more grateful on that account. We are taught not to despise the day of small things; and here where we have seen this stone laid in acknowledgment of the great Architect of the universe, as the God of Providence, in the offered fruits of “the corn and the wine and the oil,” may we not like Samuel, look upon it as our Ebenezer and say, “hither hath the Lord helped us?” If we trust in Him, he will delight in us and if he delights in us He will ’cause His presence to go with us.” He will realise this promise, “In all places where I record my name thither I will come and I will bless thee.” He will spare us to lay the top stone on with fervent aspirations of – “Grace, grace unto it” – Non nobis domine ; sed nomine tua da Glorium. ” 

It is for this object we build this temple unto the Lord, and also our monument, a house that we and further generations may be blessed – a deed which shall gild our humble names; for, my hearers, it is a glorious work in which we are engaged. Those who build these surrounding houses were only working for time; we are labouring for eternity and for the best interests of man. I trust we shall be spared to stand in its aisles and sit in its pews. But the proximity of that cemetery reminds me we shall pass away – that we shall sleep in yon field of graves – and that other men, women and children shall sweep into its porches – mingle their devotions, pour forth their praises, then they shall look back with gratitude to this day and generations yet unborn will bless God, who first put it into our hearts to build this house. Therefore let us think no present sacrifice great when we contemplate such results. 

Ah! we are indeed labouring for eternity, and the work we do this day shall have incalculable results. Yes, when “the stars shall fade away, the sun grows dim with age, and nature sink in years’ – when the dread archangel shall proclaim that “time shall be no longer’ – when the elements shall meet with fervent heat, this world be dissolved, and the great globe become as the baseless fabric of a vision, and leave not a rack behind – then if we be blessed in this work we shall experience its influence in a world not to pass away, in a life immortal, and have the verification of the words – “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, for they do rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. “

As I know in this great multitude of people there are many who are not acquainted with our principles for their satisfaction I state. We lay this stone in the faith of the Bible as the word of God, the alone rule for faith and morals. We lay it in the faith of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost as three persons in one Godhead equal in substance, power and glory. We Lay it in the faith of the resurrection of the dead of the judgment to come and of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. This above all – We lay it in the faith of Christ crucified – the grand doctrine of the atonement – the gospel plan of salvation for it is declared “The blood of Jesus Christ, God cleanseth us from all sin.” “He that believeth in Him shall have eternal life.”

This is the foundation on which we build, even that which the Lord of hosts hath laid. For, says He “Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation stone, a tried Corner stone, a sure foundation.” “And other foundations” says St. Paul “can no man lay than is laid, Jesus Christ; for there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved, but that of Jesus.” Here then we plant the cross. In this our fathers trusted – for this they fought – for this they died – for this have they gone through seas of blood. This is the grand cardinal soul precious soul-saving doctrine of all our churches. And may this building perish for ever, may the lightnings of God strike it may the whirlwind raze it from its foundations, ere the cross We plant be rooted up and other doctrines promulgated, or Christ and him crucified be denied. There are fundamental truths we hold in common with other denominations in the town – as the Episcopal Independent Baptist and Wesleyan. Therefore we do not build “to teach some new thing” or in antagonism to any of the existing churches by which we are surrounded. We extend the hand of fellowship to others and we would hope to receive the same in return. I trust we shall always be on friendly relations, placing shoulder to shoulder and joining hand in hand against the common foe, sin and infidelity, Let us not be heard boasting “I am of Paul I of Apollos, and I of Cephas.” Let it content us if we are of Christ without making our peculiar differences the cause of strife and contention. 

I have no sympathy with a sectarian spirit, or with any evangelical body looking on another with a censorious spirit or jealous eye and saying “Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou.” This spirit has little ground in Sheffield, and I am happy to say it is more and more giving way everywhere before the light of this advancing era. Shame on Christians at home that will be at variance amongst themselves when the spirit of Christianity – like the spirit of the Lord that noved on the waters of old – is crossing the seas – penetrating the dark masses of peoples in other lands and reducing all to order and beauty, harmony and love . There never was an age for Christianity like the present. Its influence is felt on the shores of China through Asia – in the gold regions of Australia – in the wilds of America and in Turkey. 

The present war will no doubt prepare more and more the way of the Lord until that happy era – the aspiration of every true Christian – will be brought in when Messiah’s sceptre shall be swayed over all lands, when men shall learn war no more, and when the Kingdoms of the world shall come under the benign influences of the gospel and the mild reign of the Prince of Peace. Let us be thankful for anything we are privileged to do towards this glorious result. Mr. Breakey concluded by offering up a solemn impressive and most appropriate prayer. The members and friends of the congregation then case forward with their offerings which they deposited on the stone. The amount, as the minister stated will be applied towards the building fund. 

Mr. Breakey in terms of cordiality and in the name of himself and the congregation proposed a vote of thanks to the Masonic brethren saying that it afforded him the most heartfelt satisfaction to meet those gentlemen. Mr. Stewart seconded the motion and it was carried with acclamation. Mr. Bailes (solicitor) said he was deputed by the Worshipful Master who had laid the stone to return thanks to the minister and congregation for the compliment that had been paid to the fraternity, and to assure them of the hearty good wishes of the Masonic brethren, whose prayer was that the great Architect would prosper their cause. (Applause). 

The procession was re-formed the band meanwhile playing a lively tune and left the ground in the same order in which it had arrived, returning to the Music Hall. 

There was a very large assembly present throughout the ceremony whose demeanour was reverent and respectful. A lithographic view of the new church was exhibited on the ground during the ceremony of laying the foundation stone and attracted much admiration. 

The edifice which will be on stone will constitute a picturesque object in the beautiful locality in which it will be erected. The cost as already intimated will be about £3,000 and this is exclusive of the ground, which has been taken on a lease for 800 years. The style of the church will be geometrical English. A tower and spire of a highly ornamental character will be placed at the north east corner. The principal front will be formed of this prominent feature of the structure combined with the end of a lofty nave having a large five-light window. The other chief features of the church will be north and south aisles and western gallery in addition to which provision will be made for the erection of side galleries when required. Accommodation will be provided for a congregation of 450. At the western end of the church there will be a large school-house with a Session Roon over it.

The designs of the new edifice have been furnished by Messrs. Flockton & Son, architects under whose superintendence the Work will be carried out. The principal contractors are Messrs. Powell, masons and Messrs. Moss & Robertson carpenters. It is anticipated that the works will be completed about the end of the ensuing Spring.

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