Built 1961-1963 – architects Ivan Johnston & Partners of Liverpool.
The proposed modernistic architecture of the building, caused some qualms among members of Stockport’s Planning and Development Committee, which was still discussing the plans early in 1962, but in the end it was built much as the architect had intended.
A 70ft. spire on Bramhall-lane Davenport, will be a new landmark in Stockport next year when the no-labour-cost £41,000 chapel of the Mormons – The Church of Latter-Day Saints, from America – is expected to be complete. The Stockport branch of 150 members will fund over £8000 of the cost and will provide food, shelter and pocket money for volunteer builders from all over the country.
The church built in 1965 is fan-shaped in plan. Concrete portal frame with yellow brick infill. Shallow-pitched sheet metal clad roof. The main rear wall is flat and blind, with a parapet, and extends across the building at full height. From this wall the main body of the church radiates, three facetted bays to either side, with a saw tooth eaves line, then a projecting square block which houses the narthex and west gallery. The saw tooth eaves continue just above the entrance block to complete the fan shape. Attached to the other side of the main wall are the low, square projections of the side chapels and sacristies and a concrete framed bell tower with shallow pitched roof. The entrance block is clad is artificial stone, has a wide, glazed screen with central doors and a thin flat canopy.
We had arrived some twenty five strong as part of Manchester Modernist’s Hull Mooch – we were very warmly welcomed and left more than satisfied by the riches both within and without.
My thanks to Deacon Rev. Robert Shakesby
Above this an inset panel of decorative mosaic by Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltdof Manchester -the firm ceased trading in 1965. The facetted elevations have large glazed areas set in a bold concrete grid of mullions and transoms, tripartite in the centre with a border of smaller divisions. The bell tower is placed in the centre of the east wall and has a port cullis-like bell-opening facing west.
The mosaic is surrounded by decorative abstract panels in light relief
Let’s take a look inside.
The interior is a light and spacious essentially single cell, with the shallow canted projection of the sanctuary – top lit by a row of seven small circular skylights, the low side chapels and the organ gallery. The concrete portal frame provides a dramatic grid radiating from the centre of the east wall. Sanctuary fittings in contrasting marbles, by Toffolo & Son of Hull, designed as a piece. Similar marble altar in the northeast side chapel. The chapels have subtle shallow-pitched arches. West gallery also with circular skylights. Organ pipes at either end arranged within a striking double-curve enclosure, like a grand piano in plan. Open-backed pews and original light fittings. Stained glass by Leo Earley of Earley & Co. of Dublin. Stations of the Cross, wooden relief panels set within integral frames, somewhat stark.
It has a canted front which is triangular in shape which has a large white cross at its apex.
The interior features full height stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary and St John by John Baker Ltd.
Born in 1916, John aka Jack studied at the Central School in London and worked under James Hogan at the Whitefriars stained-glass studios before joining Samuel Caldwell junior at Canterbury Cathedral in 1948 to help reinstate the medieval glass removed for safekeeping during the Second World War.
He subsequently authored English Stained Glass; the revised edition of this work, English Stained glass of the Medieval Period , which was to become one of the most popular soft back books on English medieval glass ever published.
Apart from his conservation skills, John was also an inspired teacher at Kingston College of Art. He produced windows for a number of churches, including eleven windows for the church of the Holy Name, Bow Common Lane, Mile End; two windows and a brick sculpture for the church of Little St Peter, Cricklewood; eighteen windows for St Anne’s church, East Wittering, Sussex; two large abstract windows for Broomfield Chapel, Abbots Langley; ten large concrete and glass windows for the new parish church, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield; and twenty-two glass windows for the Convent Chapel, St Michaels, Finchley. He also created a huge Jesse window for the church at Farnham Royal. The church was demolished in 2004, but the glass is now in storage, and some of the panes will be installed in the welcome are of the new church.
His favourite works were the windows he produced for Auckland Cathedral, New Zealand – as seen above.
John Baker, born Birmingham, 11 March 1916, died Hastings, 20 December 2007.
One fine sunny Monday morning I set out cycling to Ashton-under-Lyne to buy an enamel pie dish. Almost inevitably I was pushed and pulled in a variety of unforeseen directions, incautiously distracted and diverted serendipitously – towards Droylsden.
Idly pedalling down Greenside Lane looking this way and that I was drawn magnetically to a pitched roof tower, towering over the red brick semis. Rounding the corner I discovered the delightful St Stephen’s RC church, stood high and proud on a grassy corner, glowing golden in the March sunlight.
I leaned my bike against the presbytery wall and with the kindly bidding of a passing parishioner, I went inside.
Thanks to Father Tierney for his time and permission to snap the interior. It was a calm space, the large open volume side lit by high octagonal honeycomb modular windows. The elegant plain pitched concrete gambrel roof beams a simple engineered solution.
The church and attached presbytery were built from designs by Greenhalgh & Williams in 1958-9, the church being consecrated on 12 May 1960. A reordering took place, probably in the 1960s or 70s, when the altar rails were removed and the altar moved forward. Probably at the same time, the font was brought into the church from the baptistery.
The altar and apse beautifully restrained in colour form and choice of materials. The design and detailing on the pews so warm and understated.
I was loathe to leave.
The exterior does not disappoint, the repetition of modular window shapes, the integration of doors, brick and mixed stone facing.This is a building of elegant grandeur, well proportioned, happily at home in its setting.
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’.
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.