The parish of St Gregory has reason to be proud of its impressive history.
In less than 200 years and despite poverty and adversity, Longton’s priests and people built and paid for three new churches and two new schools, whilst also launching the mission churches of Stoke 1843; Meir 1934; and Blurton 1964.
The first small church was founded in Gregory Street, 1820, by Fr Robert Richmond, chaplain to the Benedictine nuns of Caverswall. It was built to serve the potters, miners and artisans of the Industrial Revolution housed in the tiny cottages jammed between clay-pits mines and factories. Sixteen people attended the first Mass.
By the 1850’s the congregation almost reached 300 because of the zeal of the first resident priest, Fr Edward Daniel (1822-1856) who was helped by the parish missions given by Blessed Dominic Barberi from Stone.
His successor James Massam (1856-1882) built the larger Pugin Church in Heathcote Road, 1869, to house the growing congregation of 2000, swelled by Irish immigrants and the workers of a more prosperous Longton.
By the mid twentieth century this much loved and beautiful church served 4000 souls, but sadly its days were numbered. In the 1960’s to the distress of the flock, the Pugin church was found to be irreparably damaged by mining subsidence and had to be demolished.
Land clearances, industrial decline and the opening of the Blurton Church reduced the congregation to 2000 so, in 1970, Fr Desmond Donnelly (1964-1991) built a somewhat smaller modern church on a site reinforced by 150 tons of concrete. Cleared of debt it was consecrated in 1978.
The children of the parish were taught in the Victorian schools of the late 1880’s and the Georgian extensions of the late 1930’s. The former were recently demolished and replaced by the ultra modern building in 2008.
Three religious communities greatly assisted in the work of education. The Dominican sisters 1851-54, the Sisters of Mercy 1868-73 and the Sisters of Charity of St Paul also helped to foster the steady stream of 34 persons with religious vocations. One became the Archbishop of Southwark.
In World Wars I and II, 151 parishioners gave their lives in the service of their country.
The parish of the Good Shepherd in Newstead closed in July 2008 and became part of St Gregory’s again.