Back George St, Manchester
We first saw the Catacombs on 21 November 1964 when we played at a
meeting in the Holdsworth Hall in Manchester. After the meeting, Val Grieve took us to see the building and renovation work being done on the basement of a
building in Back George St, Manchester, in preparation for the Catacombs'
opening. Val, of the Manchester Christian Businessman's Association, was
excited by this new venture in coffee bar evangelism
(see the pictures below).
Our first time playing there, which we think was the opening meeting, was a few weeks later on 17 December 1964 with Stuart Briscoe as the speaker (was John Dyer there too - not sure). The Catacombs went 'full-time' on 24 October 1965. The emphasis was on evangelism, but there was also a strong social programme, and a pioneering work with the drug addicts of the Manchester city centre streets. Altogether, it would seem that the crossBeaTs played about 66 times at the Catacombs, from December 1964 to December 1971. The last recorded booking that we have a note of was on 18 December 1971. There is some rather limited video footage (cine film) of the group playing at the Catacombs.
When the Catacombs began opening full-time (24 October 1965), the 'Trust' which had been set up (via the Manchester Christian Businessmen and Val Grieve) appointed a full-time leader/pastor. As far as I am aware, the leaders over the period were:
|Dave Eastwood||24 October 1965 - September 1966?|
|Alan Godson||September 1966? - 19 October 1968|
|Cyril McIlhenny||??? - ??? (Cyril may have been there from
1968 to the end of the 'Cats', ~1971)
|It should be
noted that the 'Catacombs Trust' continued after the Coffee Bar closed.
Frank White was detached Youth worker at the Catacombs Trust between
1973-1977. He was later ordained, and in March 2002 became Suffragan
Bishop of Brixworth, Peterborough. The Catacombs Trust presently runs a
number of housing projects in the greater Manchester area for single homeless
people with support needs (Halfway Project, Rowan Tree House, St. Cuthberts
Rectory). Other, more recent workers include Alan Ashley, a street worker in
Manchester. The Trust is currently based at 91a Piccadilly, Mancheste. I
may be wrong, but it would seem to have lost its evangelistic
John Boyes, Tony Mathias, Joe Roberts, Eddie Boyes, Sam Pennington
John, Tony, Joe, Eddie, Sam
|A publicity shot of the entrance to the Catacombs, Manchester. The 'fish' sign can be seen in some video footage on this site.||Photos probably taken in late 60s on stage at the 'Cats'|
Tony, Eddie, Sam, John
Tony, John, Sam, Eddie
Chatting in the Catacombs
|Catacombs prayer letter some time in 1969|
|The following leaflet (four pages), also from 1969, shows various views of the catacombs and catacombs people. The leader, Cyril McIlhenny, is seen in a couple of images.|
Such was the dearth of recorded contemporary Christian music (there was very little on record), that the Catacombs would record live groups, and then compile tapes of assorted Christian music. These tapes would be played as background music in the coffee bar between the group sessions. Edwin Brain (see prayer partners) was perhaps the main worker behind this. Some of these recordings are available on CD.
| In May 2007, I reveived this e-mail from Norma Huxter
(nee Boulton), which has some recollections of the Catacombs.
If you can help to supply any extra information, please get in touch.