The life of the Lithuanian community began around 1885, when some people left Lithuania to avoid military service in the Russian Empire’s Tsar’s army, others left in seach of a better life overseas, and some left for other reasons. In many cases, England was a springboard to South and North America, Canada and Australia. People stayed here for a while to earn money to travel further. But some remained. In the beginning, they kept close relations with the Polish and Ruthenians, who were Byelorusians and Ukrainians (gudai, rusėnai), mostly Catholics.
From 1884, the spiritual affairs of Lithuanians, Polish and Ruthenian Catholics in Manchester were served by br. Kalusz, a Jezuit, who also served Widnes and Liverpool, where there were Lithuanians too. In 1887 Jakob Linden came from Holland, later Jozef Lassberg, J. A. Foltin, Majchrzak. Church services were held in the chapel of St. Wilhelmina.
In 1903, a priest J. A. Foltin came from Gliwice (Poland), his nationality is not clear but he spoke Polish. In 1904 he opened a joint Polish, Lithuanian and Ruthenian chapel and later a church of St. Casimir on Oldham Road, which continued until 1934. This church was established though the joint efforts of Polish, Lithuanian and Ruthenian emigrants.
When Lithuanians and Polish became angry about events in Vilnius in 1919, their relationship broke down. In 1935, the spiritual affairs of Lithuanians and Polish were served by the prel. Jonas Ladyga, an envoy from Kaunas, by Rev. Vincas Slavinas, Kazimieras Gečas, later Rev. Ilys and then Rev. Staškūnas. They helped improve local Lithuanian-Polish relations.
From 1947 to 1953, Lithuanians were served by Rev. Jonas Kuzmickis, Rev. Justinas Steponaitis. They prayed in Notre Dame chapel in Cheetham. That chapel is now demolished. From then until now, Canon Valentinas Kamaitis is serving them.
In addition to St. Casimir’s church, there was also a shared club, which was originally named Slavic Club. In 1910 the club was re-named Kosčiuška (Kosczuszka). The club lasted for 9 years. The Ruthenians didn’t attend that club because the Polish didn’t allow them to sing. Later, the Lithuanians got their own club “Vytis” [Vytautas], but since the club did not keep order, the city council closed it in 1915.
The Lithuanians had a school for their children. Later they opened a meeting room, which closed in 1917. But then the First World War scattered the Lithuanian community. After the war, they began again to organise themselves and in 1925 they opened a Lithuanian Club in Pilling St. off Rochdale Road and this continued until 1949. The aim of the club was to unite all the Lithuanians and maintain close relations with now independent Lithuania, to where the club organized trips as well as establishing a fund for the rebuilding of Lithuania.
When the Second World War began, the club had about 100 members. Since most of the young Lithuanians were born in England, they were all called into the English army. After the war, the number of members had reduced to 40. Although most of the young people still knew Lithuanian, they were not that interested in their club. This was left to their fathers, who had come from Lithuania and settled in Manchester. Before WW2 there were about 600 families living here.
In 1947, the first DP (Displaced Persons) Lithuanians came to Manchester and joined the diminished ranks of the club’s members. Two years later, having completed their two-year contract in agriculture etc., more Lithuanians came to live in Manchester and the existing club premises became too small so more spacious premises were sought for the club. Such a building with land was found at 121 Middleton Road, Higher Crumpsall and was bought on January 8, 1949. Buying and maintaining the club was helped a lot by Lithuanians from previous emigrations: V. Valinskas, J. Muraška, P Puodžiūnas, J. Orentas jnr. and S. Misiukevičius.
After the new club building was acquired, there was a variety of cultural and oganisational activity, which the club supported.
In the period 1949-1994 in Manchester the following organisations and groups were active and some continue to function:
- Lithuanian Resistance Concord Manchester section /closed/
Lietuvių rezistencinės santarvės Mančesterio skyrius
- Lith. Association in GB Manchester District branch /closed/
DBLS Mančesterio Apygardos skyrius
- Lithuanian rebirth movement /closed/
Lietuvos atgimimo sąjudis
- Sports club “Kovas” /closed/
- Sports club “Saja” /closed/
- Manchester Lithuanian Women’s Circle “Rūta” /closed after 23 years of activity/
Mančesterio lietuvių moterų ratelis „Rūta“
- Manchester Lithuanian Cultural Coordinating Committee /closed/
- Sunday school /closed due to lack of children/
- Scouts and School Parents’ Committee /separate before this/closed/
- Manchester Lithuanian Cultural Circle, who published the “Northern, later England’s, Lithuanian Bulletin” from December 1967/closed 1992 after 25 years/
„Šiaurinės, vėliau Anglijos Lietuvių Biuletenis“
The following groups are still active:
- Manchester Lithuanian Social Club
- Lithuanian Association of Gt. Britain Manchester Branch
- Manchester Branch of the Union of Veteran Lithuanian Soldiers “Ramovė”
- Manchester Lithuanian Catholic Society
- Lithuanian Philatelists’ Society “Vilnius”
- Lithuanian Film and Radio unit
- Manchester Scouts (boys) “Maironis” troupe
- Manchester Scouts (girls) “Živilė” troupe
- Lithuanian Association of Gt. Britain Manchester Youth Branch, from 1979 Lithuanian Youth Association of Gt. Britain
Although the number of organisations in Manchester has deceased, the organisational and cultural activities continue at full force.
The club’s library is part of the cultural activity of the club, it holds many publications from independent Lithuania’s time, publications by the “Nida” book club in London, from America including “Lithuanian Encyclopedia” and from elsewhere. In addition, the club regularly subscribes to various Lithuanian publications.
The Lithuanians in Manchester and its surroundings have two burial plots in Moston cemetery, one of which has already been filled. It has a monumental cross commemorating the 700th anniversary of the first Lithuanian baptism and to remember those buried here. This section contains 54 buried countrymen. There is another section with 77 spaces and a monument to St. Mary of the Dawn Gate, which has not yet been filled. Many Lithuanians are buried in other cemeteries around Manchester: in Eccles, Agecroft, Blackley, Stockport, Bolton, Rochdale and others.
When the emigration to overseas (mainly USA, Canada, Australia) started, all the organisations in Manchester’s community suffered a lot because many of its most active members left. Most of the remaining members of the community are now of an old age but still involved in the activities of the community, in various committees holding several positions. Most of them have been active for a long time. There is no one to replace the remaining active members. There are only a few young people interested.
This is a list of the most active Lithuanians from the newer (after the war) emigration: K. Barėnas, A. Liubinskas, J. Štaras, V. Dijakas, G. Glatkauskas, V. Kupstys, J. Kalvis, A. MyIė, A. Petrikonis, J. Šiaučiulis, A. Kuzmickas, J. Verbyla, P. Navakauskas, A. Zubrickas, L. Venskus, K. Rudaitis, V. Stabačinskas, P. Butkus, J. Čeponis, A. Pilkuskas, Kylas, A. Jaloveckas, A. Puras, P. Venskuvienė, E. Venskutė, J. Šneliūtė, K. Šneliūtė, J. Jokubaitytė, P. Gugas, Kuraitė, Barauskas, B. Navickaitė, S. Lauruvėnas, S. Karanauskas/Karnas/, A. Pupelis, A. Kublinskas, K. Steponavičius, A. Podvoiskis, V. Motūza, D. Banaitis, B. Ličkauskas, G. Žemaitis, J. Navickas, A. Norvaišas, J. Bendorius, A. Pužauskas, V. Rudys, V. Bernatavičius and many others.
The Club was and still is the centre of the Lithuanian community’s activities in the Manchester area, which it supports. It also supports other Lithuanian activities and provides help where needed.
From an account written in Lithuanian in 1995 by Ark. Podvoiskis.