Holy Rosary – Fitton Hill

The first mission in the Fitton Hill, a post-war housing estate, was due to the work of Fr Buckley, an assistant priest at St Patrick’s Oldham. He arranged for the purchase of land in the Fitton Hill area in 1940, before the new housing was built. Once the estate had begun to be developed, Fr Buckley said Mass in an upper room in Maple Mill. The foundation stone of Holy Rosary was laid by Bishop Marshall on 2 October 1954 and the church was officially opened by Mgr Cunningham in July 1955.  The presbytery was built in about 1970. The first campanile blew down and had to be rebuilt.  In 2009, the parishes of Holy Family and Holy Rosary were merged.

Taking Stock told me so and will tell you even more.

Architect: W and JB Ellis who were also responsible for Our Lady of The Assumption in Langley.

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I first passed by one sunny day in April 2016 – happily snapping the exterior of this ever so pleasingly prosaic Italianate brick building.

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Following a cue from pal Tim Rushton, I was alerted to the significant decorative work within.

The mosaic and fresco work of Georg Mayer-Marton – born in Hungary 1897, died in Liverpool 1960 was one of Britain’s very few experts in the art of face or facetted mosaic.

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Sadly the fresco is no longer visible – painted over with emulsion when thought to be too tatty – a tiny fragment has been revealed by conservators.

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There is currently a campaign to restore and preserve these important works.

The church is now closed, but we were ever so fortunate to have Bernard Madden on hand to open up and show us around, a warm welcoming space once full to overflowing.

Now sadly silent.

We all deserve better.

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St Marks Broomhill – Sheffield

The church was originally built in 1868–1871 to a standard neo-Gothic design by William Henry Crossland. This building was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the “Sheffield Blitz” of 12 December 1940, only the spire and a porch survived (they are now Grade II listed structures). The remnants of the bombed church were used as the basis for a new church designed by George Pace and constructed 1958–1963. This new building is of a Modernist design but is also sympathetic to the Gothic spire and porch. It is a rubble-faced concrete building with striking slit windows of varying numbers and locations around the building. There are also two notable stained glass windows: the Te Deum window by Harry Stammers and the west window by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens.

Wikipedia told me so.

Welcome to St Mark’s – an open, welcoming church for people from all walks of life who wish to learn more about Jesus and Christian faith and seek the freedom to ask the big questions. We have strong engagement with Christian communities and other faith traditions. People come from all over the country to participate in our Centre for Radical Christianity, where a lively climate of debate and learning can be found.
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Their website told me so.
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This a remarkable building staffed by remarkably welcoming people, it’s exterior betraying little of the wonders within. Divine stained glass, brut concrete structures, pale limed wood, sculptural forms – full of light and warmth.
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St Michael and All Angels – Manchester

I’ve passed this way before, 2012 at the behest of Richard Hector Jones in the company of Owen Hatherley and others – recreating the legendary White Bus Tour.

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So have Historic England:

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Church. 1937, by N.F.Cachemaille-Day. Red brick in English bond with some stone dressings (roof concealed). Star-shaped plan formed by the diagonal intersection of two unequal squares, plus a wide rectangular narthex enclosing the west end. The main vessel is a lofty structure with plain walls, sill-band carried round, and plain parapet, except for the upper part of each side of the cardinal projections, which have windows in tall intersecting Romanesque arcading with Y-tracery, all in brick, with a central pilaster strip rising to a moulded cornice. Large plain cross rising from roof. The single-storey flat-roofed narthex has coupled plain rectangular doorways in the centre and 3 narrow rectangular lancets to each side. Interior (as reported 16.01.81): ingenious plan with lofty columns supporting flat ribbed roof. Forms group with Rectory attached to south side.

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So have Revolvy:

The Corporation of Manchester acquired the Wythenshawe Estate in 1926 and began laying out the garden suburb in 1930. It was eventually to have 25,000 houses and a population of 100,000. The garden suburb was designated part of the parish of Church of St Wilfrid, Northenden, but that small parish church proved insufficient to accommodate the rising congregation. A mission church was therefore opened in 1934, and in 1935 the diocese approved plans for the construction of a new parish church at Orton Road. The budget was £10,000. Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day was appointed as architect for both the church and the adjoining parsonage. The foundation stone for the church was laid on 8 May 1937, by the Bishop of Manchester. The builder was J. Clayton and Sons of Denton.

So has the redoubtable Nikolaus Pevsner:

A sensational church for its country and its day. The material is brick, bare in four of the corners, with large brick windows in the other four. The intersecting arches of the windows are the only period allusion.The interior has very thin exposed concrete piers and a flat ceiling. The church make sit clear that the architect had studied Continental experiments, the parsonage points to Germany and Mendelssohn. Stained glass by Geoffrey Webb.

Geoffrey Webb lived and worked in the centre of East Grinstead at the height of his career and is noted among enthusiasts of fine glass for his use of brilliant blues. In his early career he worked with Charles Eamer Kempe, the most prolific and best-known stained glass artist of his generation. Webb’s work can also be found in many other places around the UK including Manchester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, and in Daresbury parish church in Cheshire where he designed a memorial window in honour of Lewis Carroll.

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So I cycled by one almost sunny Sunday morning, engaged in the porch by an elderly joke telling gent, awaiting his more devout partner.

I love the bible, they all rode on motor bikes – “the roar of Moses’ Triumph is heard in the hills, Joshua’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.”

The Apostles were in one Accord. – Acts 5:12

We waited out the end of the morning service, exchanging gags, eventually I entered. Met by cheery parishioners and priest, welcomed with open arms, happy to chat and allow me to go about the business of snapping this enchanting building. Take yourself down there and bathe in the stained glass light from the sun drenched east windows, feel the warmth of the open elevating space, everything’s looking up:

A sensational church for its country and its day – today.

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St Luke The Physician – Manchester

Cycling around Wythenshawe one sunny day yesterday, in search of friends old and new, I found myself beside myself, beside St Luke’s.

1938-9 by Taylor and Young. Light brown brick in English garden wall bond (roof concealed). Modern functionalist style. Nave with west tower, north and south aisles with porches and side offices, short chancel. Rectangular tower to same width as nave, with short triangular buttresses flanking a square-headed doorway, plain wall except for very large geometrical-floral clock, parapet and very low set-back louvre stage with steeply-pitched hipped roof. Flat-roofed aisles have projected triangular west ends flanking tower, a projected porch at each end of north aisle and corresponding projected offices to south aisle, and very small star-shaped windows with pentagonal surrounds. Nave has 7 pairs of tall square-headed lancets. Short one-bay chancel has concrete cross in place of east window. Interior: basilican character, with low passage-aisles, chamfered piers terminating with lights, flat concrete-beamed ceiling; side-lit chancel with relief figures of angels. 

Grade II listed Historic England

Those are the facts – the fabulous thing is the clock, a playful lesson in geometry, surface and colour, and it keeps time as well.

Wythenshawe is awash with modern churches and this pale brick giant is hard to miss dominating the Brownley Road junction, built to serve the then ever expanding housing estate to the south west of Manchester.

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Brownley Road flats

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Manchester Image Archive

I love the playful touches which offset the monolithic volumes of St Luke’s – go ahead take a look inside:

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And out:

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St Barnabas – Manchester

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There has been a church here since 1837, there is still a church here.

Almost.

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Openshaw in the 60s was still a busy community of terraced homes and their occupants, tumbling cheek by jowl with industry, both heavy and light.

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A tightly wrapped world of corner shops and sun-canopied Silver Cross prams.

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The original imposing, imperious St Barnabas’s was demolished, to be replaced by a sharper space age architecture, embodying a new age of optimism.

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Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive

At the same time the soot-blackened Victorian terraces, are in part replaced by newer brick and block homes, the future seemed bright.

The industry however, once so invincible, both light and heavy, begins to disappear, becomes weightless, invisible.

Slowly the assured social cohesion of that new age comes unstuck.

When the doors of one St Barnabas’s close, likewise eventually another closes.

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St Catherine of Sienna – Sheffield

Sir Basil Spence 1958-62. . Brown brick. Roof not visible. Slate cladding to entrance block of parish hall. Rectangular nave sweeping around into a semicircular apsed sanctuary .

EXTERIOR: entrance to liturgical south-west and parish hall to liturgical west with vestry. Carved words “The Church of St Catherine” to left of recessed entrance. Tower linked to liturgical south-east, and comprising two convex slabs forming a sacristy at ground level and linked by concrete beams above. Patinated bronze sculptural group with crucified Christ affixed to its east side.

INTERIOR: aisleless with vertical slit windows to north and south walls and roof sloping upwards towards chancel, on laminated timbers beams, so that roof deck is separated from the walls by a narrow glazed strip. Light is thrown onto the east wall by a concealed window at the east end of the nave. Sanctuary is raised two shallow steps, and altar was originally raised on two further steps against the east wall. It has now been moved forward. Altar is a black painted metal framed table with a varnished timber top. Font of polished limestone with fossils is in the original position to liturgical south side of sanctuary. Timber lid with schematic metal dove. Large timber cross behind altar, comprising two pairs of overlapping beams, penetrated symbolically by large nails. Timber sedilia on metal supports. Laminated timber pews. Organ above entrance to sacristy . A strongly sculptural design with a powerful presence.

British Listed Buildings.

St Catherine Sienna is a fine church, sited impressively and standing imperiously on the Sheffield outer ring road, high above the city. Brick curves, a tall detached tower and open for business, serving the outlying post war housing estate of Woodthorpe with regular services and a firm foundation of community activity.

Lit delicately from side slatted windows and higher apertures, the main body is calm and assured, the scale and proportion in harmony with the simple Spence seating and slightly raised altar. The detail of the wooden roof grid perfectly balancing the warm austerity of the walls.

My thanks to Father Phillip for his time and a fine cup of tea.

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St Paul – Ecclesfield/Sheffield

High above the city on Wordsworth Avenue, Eccleshall, built to serve the large Parson Cross post-war social housing estate, stands St Paul.

On the day of my visit, more than somewhat windswept and sleet lashed, almost imperious, the church stood steadfast set against the elements.

It is however registered as at risk by Historic England.

Designed by Sir Basil Spence and built by Charles Price of Doncaster Ltd. the church was completed in 1959 and consecrated on24th January 1959.

A large open brick steel and concrete structure, glassed and open at each end, a curved roof with vaulted detail, a detached tower is connected by a concrete cloister. There is an elegant simplicity to the body of the church, which is elevated by the staggered supporting walls.

A plain altar is complemented with ornaments, the gift of Spence, decorated by a frontal designed by Anthony Blee and an embroidered panel by Beryl Dean. A plain slatted wooden screen masks the window to the rear.

The pews – also the work of Spence were not costed in the original proposal, additional funds were found and they remain in use as an integral part of the scheme and worship.

The organ, sited in the gallery, is a later addition of 1962, puchased for £100 from Mount Tabor Church, Holland – integrated into the overall design using slatted wood.

My thanks to John Roch, church organist and lifelong member of the congregation, having attended Sunday School at St Paul on the first day of its opening, for his time and erudite instruction.

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