Back in 2016 I wrote about the grave of the Rev Peter Holt in the grave yard of the former Croft Unitarian Chapel (pictured above). The first full-time minister at Croft, he later served at Leigh and Astley in Lancashire. (Click here to read that post.) I remember preaching at Astley when a student in the 1980s and the Holt family was still remembered there then. Peter Holt was the father of two ministers, the most well-known was the Rev Raymond V. Holt, the other being the Rev Felix Holt whose longest ministry was at Ballymoney in county Antrim. Since posting about the Holt family I have heard from Andrew Holt, the grandson of the Rev Peter Holt and son of another brother, and also recovered some material about Felix Holt which came to light a few years ago.
Rev Felix Holt
Felix’s nephew tells me that his cousin, Felix’s son, served with the RAF during the Second World War and was shot down and killed over France. According to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission his son was Flight Sergeant (Navigator) Alwyn Evelyn Stuart Holt who died on 19th July 1944 aged 21. He served with 207 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He is recorded by the CWGC as “Son of the Revd. Felix Holt and Margaret Isabel Holt, of Charles Street Manse, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.” He is buried at Margny Communal Cemetery, Marne, France.
Among other things Rev Felix Holt was the clerk of the presbytery of Templepatrick for seven years and moderator of the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster from 1916 to 1917 and from 1935 to 1936. He must have been a considerable scholar. He taught ancient languages at Dalriada School in Ballymoney as well as working as a private tutor. I have a copy of a flyer he used listing his qualifications.
He was also the editor of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian magazine for a few years. The picture from this front cover is the only picture I know of him.
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All Souls’ Church, Belfast exterior is modelled on Croyland Abbey in Lincolnshire. Built by the architect Walter Planck and opened for worship in 1896 it is the only church designed by that architect in Ireland. But it is interesting to note how closely the interior resembles the interiors of a number of fifteenth-century English parish churches. The arches, pillars, chancel, east window, clerestory windows all are reminiscent of a number of such places. I realised this when I saw a picture of the interior of the Church of St Mary in North Petherton. An Edwardian postcard of this interior looks almost identical to All Souls’. Even the pews in All Souls’ underline this effect, the pews were brought in from the old meeting house on Rosemary Street when that church was vacated. These originally dated from the 1870s and a lot of Victorian parish churches would have installed new, modern pews at that time. The choice of this kind of architecture was quite deliberate by the minister, the Rev Edgar Innes Fripp in 1896. He was reaching back to medieval England to establish the kind of devotion he thought was most truly authentic. But architecturally it is a marvel. John McLachlan (in The Unitarian Heritage) says it is “unique in Irish Non-Subscribing church architecture”. But there is nothing like it in English Unitarian church architecture either which has a lot of remarkable gothic buildings.
Simon Walker (Historic Ulster Churches) says “it would be as fitting in a rural English setting as in Belfast’s busy University area”. Richard Oram (Expressions of Faith Ulster’s Church Heritage) notes that “It is a unique and beautiful, little building”. Paul Larmour (Belfast: an illustrated architectural guide) calls it “a gem of Victorian architecture”.
The pictures on this page show the church under construction and soon after it was built, plus a view of the chancel taken before the NSPCI Sunday School service held there on 7th June 2019.
Having written about the tram travelling up Park Road and past the Ancient Chapel recently (click here to view that post) I recently acquired this modern print of a photograph dating from about the same period of a tram taken on Croxteth Road.
For me it is very easy to identify this as being taken on Croxteth Road just at the junction with Brompton Avenue. Just out of shot on the right was Sefton Park Presbyterian Church, then still the church of John Watson, otherwise known as best selling author Ian Maclaren. This tram stop was, according to a number of accounts, identified by the conductor to passengers as “Dr Watson’s Church”. I have written about this Church before here.
It must have been an important junction, the trams seem to have made relatively long stops there, they certainly appear on postcards of Sefton Park Church, the crew happily posing for the photographer, so they must have had reason to hang around.
Detail of a postcard view of Sefton Park Church, showing a tram waiting in the same spot
There are also clearly extra crew members included here in the photograph, with an inspector stepping on to the tram. Was this, perhaps, a place where crews changed over? On the top deck you can see the seats that could be pushed to face the other way when the tram got to the end of the line.
And to the right of the tram stand an elegant Edwardian couple.