I popped by to see you yesterday – a truly remarkable structure set amongst the terraced housing of an unremarkable street.
The foundation stone for the present building laid by Bishop Beck in August 1962. He returned to bless and open the church on 25 June 1963. The new church was built from designs by Walter Stirrup & Sons – job architect Kevin Houghton, at a cost of about £60,000. The church is notable for its dalle de verre glass, by Carl Edwards of Whitefriars.
The church is a very striking and characterful building with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof rising in peaks on four sides, with clerestory lighting in the angles, that on the west side jutting out to form a canopy over the entrance. It was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘wildly expressionist’.
It never fails to surprise, turning the corner of a somewhat anonymous suburban street to find:
A building of outstanding importance for its architectural design, advanced liturgical planning and artistic quality of the fixtures and fittings.
Broadfield Drive Leyland Lancashire PR25 1PD
The Benedictines came to Leyland in 1845 and the first Church of St. Mary’s was built on Worden Lane in 1854. The Catholic population was small at this time, but had grown to around 500 by 1900. Growth was assisted by the industrial development of Leyland and after the Second World War the town was earmarked as the centre of a new town planned in central Lancashire. By the early 1960’s, the Catholic population was 5,000. Fr Edmund Fitzsimmons, parish priest from 1952, was a guiding force in the decision to build a large new church of advanced liturgical design, inspired by progressive continental church architecture of the mid 20th century. The church was designed by Jerzy Faczynski of Weightman and Bullen. Cardinal Heenan blessed the foundation stone in 1962 and the new church was completed ready for its consecration and dedication by Archbishop Beck in April 1964.
Pink brick, reinforced concrete, copper covered roofs, zig-zag to main space and flat to aisle. Circular, aisled plan with projecting entrance and five projecting chapels.
Central altar. Entrance in large projecting porch with roof rising outwards and the roof slab cantilevered above the doors, its underside curving upward.
Large polychrome ceramic mural representing the Last Judgment by Adam Kossowski occupies the width of the porch above the two double- doored entrances.
Brick rotunda with projecting painted reinforced concrete chapels to left and right, of organic round-cornered form.
Folded radial roof above main space, leaning outwards to shelter triangular clerestory windows. Circular glazed light to centre of roof, its sides leaning outwards, culminating in a sculpted finial of copper or bronze.
Internally, sanctuary is floored in white marble, raised by a step, and the white marble altar is raised by three further steps.
Fixed curved timber benches are placed on slightly raked floor.
`Y’ shaped concrete aisle posts, designed to incorporate the Stations of the Cross, sculpted by Arthur Dooley.
Above these the exposed brick drum rises to the exposed, board-marked concrete folded roof. The aisle walls comprise thirty-six panels of abstract dalle-de-verre stained glass, totalling 233 feet in length, by Patrick Reyntiens, mostly in blues and greens. The theme is the first day of Creation. Suspended above the altar is the original ring-shaped light fixture, and also Adam Kossowski’s ceramic of Christ the King.
Further original light fittings are suspended above the congregation.
The font is placed in the narthex, in a shallow, marble-lined depression in the floor. It comprises a concrete cylinder with an inscribed bronze lid.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its rising roof slab, contains a green marble altar with in-built raking supports.
Behind it is a tapestry representing the Trinity, designed by the architect J. Faczynski.