often pointed out that St Matthew’s Church was built on
the proceeds of beer, in fact as a memorial to Pickering
Phipps, the local brewer who had twice been Mayor of
Northampton and twice an MP. To recall the Phipps
family’s endowment, Jeremy Phipps, the current chairman
of the reinvigorated brewery, kindly consented to carry
the silver processional cross at the head of this year’s
procession. Among the family’s many gifts to the parish,
the silver cross and matching acolytes where given on St
Matthew’s Day 1891. Later, on the same date in 1893,
Pickering Phipps’ son (of the same name) carried it into
church on the day of consecration. (The cross is one of
a pair; its larger bejewelled brother is in Westminster
Abbey.) It must have been a great moment in the life of
the local church and community. With hindsight, we might
also say that the founding of St Matthew’s was an event
which has proved to be of significance to the wider
Here follows an excerpt from a contemporary account of
the opening ceremonies:
After two years of arduous labour, at length
arrived the long looked for return of September
21st (St Matthew’s Day), 1893. In the early
morning, the last of the busy workmen departed,
and the whole building was ready for the
important ceremony of the day. At 7.30 a.m.
there was a celebration of Holy Communion in the
Temporary Iron Church. At eleven a.m. came the
Consecration of the new Church, followed by the
Institution and Induction of the Rev. J. R.
Hussey as Vicar.
The Bishop, attended by his Chaplain, together
with the Clergy, which came from all parts of
the Diocese, robed at the Temporary Iron Church,
and, with the choir, proceeded to the West Front
of the new Church in the following Order,
singing the hymn “Forward be our Watchword,” Mr.
Pickering Phipps carrying the processional cross
which was his gift on the day of the foundation
stone laying …
That occasion would have been full of hope for the
future, as indeed was this historically resonant and
moving moment in this year’s anniversary celebrations.
We give thanks to God for the foresight and generosity
of our benefactors, and for the faithful of the
intervening and continuing generations who have nurtured
and sustained God’s Church into the future.