Social innovation at St Mary's, 1830-2020
The Beginning 1830 St Mary’s Church was built in 1830 as one of 3 churches built in Sheffield to commemorate the battle of Waterloo. The others were St Philip’s Netherthorpe and St George’s Portobello. St Mary’s is the only one which remains a church. When it was built St Mary’s was “quite in the country” but as Sheffield’s industry developed it became surrounded by small “Mesters” housing. It seems that St Mary’s was always at the heart of the community.
World War II 1940s onwards The parish history records that over 250 men regularly attended Bible studies - of whom 137 served in the Great War, 15 did not return. During the blitz of the Second Word War the church was badly damaged: the roof was virtually blown off and the congregation relocated to St Barnabas in Highfield. Due to shortage of materials it wasn’t until 1950 that rebuilding work began.
Rebuilding 1950 - 1960 To reflect the changing needs of the parish the vicar, Stephen Burnett planned to split the building, so that one half would become a community centre and the other remain a church. This plan was enthusiastically supported by the local community who raised £40,000 through pub collections, jumble sales and tea parties.
Growth 1961-1990 For the next 30 years or so the community centre thronged with life and all sorts of societies sprang up: boxing, fishing, sewing, cricket, dancing, amateur dramatics, young couples societies and youth clubs forming a network of community support which sustained people through times of immense poverty and change. However the housing around St Mary’s was poor quality with shared toilets and baths and the city council embarked on a housing clearance programme, reducing the local population sharply and by the 1980s the community centre was really struggling to remain viable. St Mary’s has a rich history in community development
Innovation 1991-2000 When Julian Sullivan became vicar in the early 1990s he recognised that a new cycle of social innovation was needed and started the vision to completely refurbish St Mary’s to meet the needs and opportunities of the 21st century. At the turn of the millennium a £2.65m refurbishment programme was started. The congregation moved to Sheffield United football club for the duration and the new St Mary’s opened in October 2001- offering a completely integrated building of church, conference centre and community centre.
Inclusion 2001 - Present Over the past 20 years St Mary’s has continued to innovate to remain a parish church in the 21st Century: welcoming all, responding to the whole of a person and bringing together different people in society for the common good and the thriving of all. This is a unique space in the civic arena. TimeBuilders is the latest expression of this mission.