St Mary’s RC Church – Denton

Duke Street Denton Manchester M34 2AN

I remember you being built.

I remember our visit with the Manchester Modernists in 2015 – arranged by Angela Connelly and Matthew Steele of Sacred Suburbs

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’.

Taking Stock

I suggest that you do the same and pop by to see St Mary – Our Lady of Sorrows soon.

St Vincent de Paul – Rochdale

Caldershaw Road Norden Rochdale OL12

Well it’s almost a mighty long way to cycle from Stockport to here, but well worth it.

A clear functional design of the 1970s, designed to place all the internal focus on the top-lit altar, which beneath its modern cladding incorporates a pre-Reformation altar stone. The external appearance of the church is slightly forbidding but the interior is enhanced by vibrant slab glass.

More than somewhat bunker like in its recessed situation, well below street level, yet interesting and engaging nonetheless – I’m rather fond of grey.

Working around the comings and goings of the adjacent school, I half circumnavigated the site, capturing something of the detail and exterior views of the stained glass. The interior will have to wait until another day.

Planned and newly constructed housing developments in Norden and Bamford made it apparent that a new church was needed nearer the geographical centre of the parish. In June 1975 the present church of St Vincent de Paul was opened, nearly a mile away from the old church. The architect was Bernard Ashton of the Cassidy & Ashton Partnership, Preston.

Internally the church is simply fitted with plain white plastered or boarded walls. The low level of daylighting enhances the effect of the four corner windows, which are filled with rainbow glass, and of the top-lit altar. The dalle de verre glass was designed by Eddie Blackwell and made in Dom. Charles Norris’s workshop at Buckfast Abbey. The figure of the risen Christ on the roof over the entrance porch were also designed by Blackwell.

Taking Stock

Immaculate Conception – Failsworth

Clive Road Failsworth Manchester M35

A church of the early 1960s, built before the Second Vatican Council on a traditional basilican plan. The design is striking and unusual, with an interesting combination of Gothic, classical and modern architectural motifs. The architect, Tadeusz Lesisz of Greenhalgh & Williams, is a little known figure but a designer of some interest. The church exhibits a scheme of sculpture, stained glass and mosaic on Marian themes, mainly by local designers, and retains almost all of the original furnishings and fittings in little altered state. It also retains furnishings from the late-nineteenth-century predecessor church. 

Taking Stock

The church is Grade II Listed

The west front is very striking, the broad entrance arch enclosing a suspended aluminium figure of the Virgin by E.J. Blackwell of Manchester, who also executed the moulded artificial stone friezes. 

The stained glass is by Charles Lightfoot, much of it to the designs of the architect, some incorporating glass from the previous church.

Holy Family Church – Hollinwood

Roman Road Limeside Oldham OL8 3BY

A typical example of a post-war church built to serve a growing residential suburb; it retains some attractive ‘Festival of Britain’ features and fittings.

The church was built to seat 360, with room for fifty people in the Lady Chapel. The architect was Geoffrey Williams of Greenhalgh & Williams, the builder Whitworth, Whittaker & Co Ltd of Oldham, and the cost £27,140. Bishop Beck blessed the foundation stone on 7 December 1957, and the church was formally opened in 1958.

Taking Stock

It’s a long straight uphill Roman road to Holy Family.

Well worth the effort to visit a well kept suburban church, constructed with load bearing walls faced in brown and buff bricks and steel roof trusses. The shallow-pitched roof was originally clad in copper but is now felted, flat roof areas are concrete. 

Let’s take a look.

Leyland – St Mary’s Church

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.

Stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens.

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.

Text from Taking Stock

Many thanks to Father John and the members of the congregation for the warm welcome that they extended to us on the day of our visit to their exceptional Grade II Listed church.

St Gabriel’s Church – Blackburn

Brownhill Dr Blackburn BB1 9BA

The original design of Liverpool architect F.X. Velarde attracted so much attention when St Gabriel’s opened in 1933.

“The new building… marks a new departure from the accepted ecclesiastical style and is unique in this district,” said the old Blackburn Times when it was consecrated on April 8, 1933, by the Bishop of Blackburn, Dr P.M. Herbert.

But this is a church which throughout its life has been fraught with settlement cracks, repairs and redesign – it’s original towers truncated and clad, flat roofs pitched and timbers replaced.

For 34 years ago, the landmark building was facing possible demolition — with the parish confronted with a then-immense bill of £15,000 for repairs. The crisis was due to serious damage to the roof timbers caused by water penetration.

Eventually, it took £40,000-worth of refurbishment inside and out lasting until 1975 to save St Gabriel’s — at considerable expense to its original appearance. The main tower was shortened by six feet and later clad at the top with glass-fibre sheathing while the east tower was removed altogether and its flat roofs were made into pitched ones to deal with the rotting roof timbers and problems of settlement.

In fact, the difficulties that its design and construction posed were recognised much earlier in 1956 when the church, which had cost £20,000 to build, was found to be in urgent need of repairs that would cost more than £1,500. For an inspection by the Diocesan Architect found that major defects in the flat roof could have serious consequences unless they were given early attention and portions of the parapet wall were found to have large cracks due to settlement while half the building’s brickwork needed pointing.

Lancashire Telegraph

And so it now stands forlorn and unused – services are now held in the adjacent church hall. A series of interlocking monumental interwar functionalist brick clad slabs, once thought to resemble a brewery or cinema, now awaits its fate. Though it remains a thing of wonder in both scale and detailing, well worth a wander around if you’re passing.

Its tall slim arched windows reaching towards the heavens, Deco detailed doors firmly closed.

St Michael And All Angels – Newton

St Michael and All Angels Church.

Screenshot 2018-10-23 at 14.55.40

1 Woodland Rd, West Kirby, Birkenhead, Wirral CH48 6ER

St Michael and All Angels is a well established Church of England church situated in the heart of Newton, on the border of West Kirby, Wirral.

Our vision is to know Jesus better and make him known to others. We do this by worshipping God, standing up for and sharing the joy of Jesus, loving others and making a real difference in the church and in our community.

What can I expect when I visit St Michaels?

When you come to St Michaels you will find a warm and friendly group of people committed to making church exciting, life-changing, and enjoyable. There are services for the whole family that include contemporary worship (including a café church service), a time of biblical teaching, and an opportunity to make a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Each service is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes in length.

We wandered away from West Kirby along the highways and bye-ways to Newton.

Newton consists of a village hall, post office, public house and a general store. The local park, aptly named Newton Park, has a football pitch, outdoor basketball courts and a playground for children. Wirral Council also has several allotments in Newton that are provided for residents to grow their own vegetables and plants.

And a most surprising elevated, elevating and angular church.

Such a revelation following several  rows of well behaved semis and open fields, my extensive yet limited research can find no record of architectural authorship or attribution.

Perhaps simply delivered by hand or hands unseen in 1963.

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