The History of the St Mark’s Anglican Church
Strategically located in the heart of the town of Mandeville and the central region of the island, the St Mark's Anglican Church, better known as the Manchester Parish Church, predates many generations, going way back to the time of slavery.
It is not clear how the church got its name, but the history of the church is closely linked with the history of the parish of Manchester which was created on December 13, 1814 out of the parts of the surrounding parishes: St Elizabeth, Clarendon, and Vere and named after the Duke of Manchester, then governor of Jamaica. The capital of Manchester was named after the governor's eldest son, Lord Mandeville.
According to church records, it is recorded in the Vestry (name of the local government body) minutes at the Jamaica Archives that at a meeting on August 27, 1816, it was decided to build to build in the following order; a court, a house, a parsonage, a goal or workhouse and a church.
The church building was not completed until 1820 and it is unknown where services were held before this period. However, Reverend John Trew, who had been appointed to the position on May 16, 1816, by the Governor, during his clerical duties, recorded his first baptism on September 18, 1816.
It is further recorded that on December 21, 1816 he baptised 66 slaves at the request of one James Davy, Esq.
When Reverend Trew's tenure ended, his successor, George Wilson Bridges, took up the mantle from 1817 to 1823. Bridges was described as a controversial figure who rented out the Rectory to be used as a tavern as he believed it was too public. He was strongly pro-slavery and one of the founders of the colonial church union which was dedicated to maintaining slavery and destroying the churches of the non-conformists.
Nevertheless, it is recorded that he baptised 9,547 slaves and married 2,187 (slaves). It was under his leadership that the church building was completed. The chapel and timber clerestory and tower were later added.
Olive Senior in her Encyclopaedia of Jamaican History, notes that in "the slave rebellion of 1832 the organ loft was used as a jail". She expressed that many non-conformist ministers were implicated in the rebellion and arrested. One of these was the Reverend H. G. Pfeiffer, a Moravian, and 'the Mandeville jail was so full that he was locked in the organ room loft to await a court martial'.
In its 200-year history, the Manchester Parish Church has had a number of distinguished rectors including the Right Reverend Cyril Swaby, who was Archdeacon of Southern Middlesex and rector from 1957 to 1961. Reverend Charles Douet, who was rector from 1892 to 1904, was also the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese for most of the period. Bishop Albert Joscelyne, who was appointed co-adjustor Bishop in 1905 combined that position with the rectorship of the church until he left Jamaica in 1913. Bishop Benjamin Vaughn also held the post of rector became the first Suffragan Bishop of Mandeville in 1961.
Over the years, the St Mark's Church has served the community faithfully and has been a beacon of Christian mission and witness in the town of Mandeville. It frequently hosts synod services and other noteworthy Diocesan events.
Next week we will meet some foundation members of the congregation and of the clergy who served the church.