In 1901, the appointment of John Albert Cottrell saw what was to be the beginning of a new era in the life of the Church in the district of St Julian. (One has to be reminded that at this time St Julian’s was not yet a Church Parish)
J A Cottrell came down from Durham University and was invited to serve his title at the Durham Road mission church by the Rev D.E.Uewellyn Jones, Vicar of Maindee. That Cottrell even accepted the offer, for he surely must have known that he was to be number eight in a decade, gives us some idea of the insight and vision this young man had.
Curate Cottrell was born in West Derby, Liverpool, and was the son of a corn and flour merchant. The first ten years of his working life were spent as an employee of the North and South Wales Bank, chiefly to find the means for a university course. After a three year course at Durham he was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Llandaff in September 1901 to start what was to become his life’s work within the Parish of St Julian’s.
St Julian’s Mission Church was not a promising sphere of work for any newly ordained deacon, and to some might have appeared positively daunting, but Curate Cottrell came with no illusions. The Vicar of Maindee had already told him that the only use he thought the iron church could serve was as a place for the Sunday School and Mothers Union meetings, but the vicar gave this young curate a glimmer of hope by adding that a small number of people might come because they liked the ‘High Church Services’ and had been annoyed at the closing of the Church Road Mission some twenty years previously during the time of Rev Birkmyre.
The introduction of Catholic style worship into the parish certainly had its opposition among the die-hard Evangelicals and many parishioners refused to contribute to the Curacy Fund as long as Fr Cottrell was to benefit from it. Opposition came also from well beyond the parish bounds, for in their anti-ritualistic campaigns, the Kensits paid two visits to the parish in 1904 and in 1906
Undaunted by these intruding anti-ritualistic campaigners, Father Cottrell plodded on with the work of sowing the seed of firm Catholic worship and slowly but surely gathered around him a faithful congregation. In 1915, some 15 years after the arrival of Fr Cottrell, the ever growing importance of the district was recognised by making St Julians a Conventional District. Talks in regard to a permanent Parish Church had already taken place just prior to the Great War 1914-18.
The cost of a larger and fine looking church had been estimated at about £15,000, for which plans had already been drawn. However after the Armistice which was to end that war, it was found that the costs of producing such a church building had doubled to £33,000. Fr Cottrell together with his people was not to be put off by a mere £18,000, for the solution to this temporary problem was to build a church which could serve the needs of the parish, yet allow for extensions and additions to be made later to the building to implement the original plans, as and when, the funds became available to do so. Modified plans were drawn up and a church built on a less grand scale, much as it stands today. There can be no doubt that extensions were intended as signs of this can be seen by looking around the interior walls of the church and by looking at the ends of the external walls of the church which have been left toothed for any such future plan of work to be carried out.
The Iron Church in Durham Road was to remain the Parish Church of the conventional district of St Julian’s, with Fr Cottrell as the first Vicar for another four years. Induction as Vicar was carried out by the Archdeacon of Monmouth just twenty-four hours before the creation of the new Diocese of Monmouth.
The story continues with the Church Tour.