In December 1956 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design St Francis Church in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. The project was part of a large building programme by the Manchester Diocese and was to service the new post-war housing estate at Newall Green. The site housed an existing hall that had been serving a dual-purpose as church and church hall but which reverted to use as a church hall once the new church was opened. The foundation stone was laid by Colin Skinner CBE on 23 April 1960 and the church was consecrated on 25 March 1961 by the Bishop of Manchester, W D L Greer.
The main building is predominantly brick; it is set back from the road by a landscaped courtyard that includes a brick tower and 73ft concrete cross. Another large cross rises from the front wall of the church itself making it highly visible from the surrounding neighborhood.
The church can hold a congregation of 250. A small chapel is separated from the main church by a sliding screen and can be used independently for private prayer and mid week-services. On busy days the screen can be retracted to provide additional seating to the main church. A gallery over the entrance porch houses two organs and the choir.
Embroidery for the Church was designed by Anthony Blee and carried out by Beryl Dean and Associates, and Communion silver was specially designed by Gerald Benney.
An austerely simple deign, saved from bleakness by a few deft touches – Pevsner.
The lettering on the font cover is by Ralph Beyer, the painting on the east wall by William Chattaway, who came specially from Paris to paint.
2010 – John Richards
The church also contains four stones brought from prominent Christian locations across the globe including a rose hued stone from Assisi itself, these are embedded in the walls and floor around the building.
St Francis of Assisi’s Church in Wythenshawe stands testimony to the vigour of its first priest, the Reverend Ronald Pitcher. It was Pitcher who organised a local campaign to raise money for its construction, even before William Greer, Lord Bishop of Manchester, launched a wider appeal to fund churches and vicarages in new housing areas throughout the diocese.
It was probably also Pitcher who chose the architect, since he made initial contact with Basil Spence late in 1956. Drawings and a watercolour perspective were prepared by the beginning of 1958, when the scheme was priced at £17,500, exclusive of professional fees.
Following discussions with the congregation it was modified to provide side-aisles, and the estimate increased to £27,000, including an organ. Although the diocese believed the final cost might be as high as £35,000,the design was accepted and Spence formally commissioned at the end of the year.
A church forced to close three years ago after its congregation dwindled to just two has been reborn – as a community centre.
St Francis of Assisi, in Wythenshawe, was forced to shut its doors when its popularity waned and repairs became too expensive.
Now, thanks to businessman James Munnery and Pastor William Simoes, the former Church of England building is rising again as a beacon of hope for the neighbourhood. The pair have teamed up to re-open the church as the New Life Opportunities Centre. Ambitious plans for the not-for-profit venture include sports pitches, a recording studio, and a hall for events and dancing.
The Roman Catholic Church of St Anthony’s, 1959-60 by Adrian Gilbert Scott, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest: the church has a strong composition and imposing presence derived from its bold design and cathedral-like scale, which is enhanced by the use of elegant building materials, including narrow and very pale buff bricks, Portland stone dressings and copper roofs, and a dramatic west end incorporating a giant camel-vaulted arch containing the recessed west entrance.
Architect: it was designed by the notable architect Adrian Gilbert Scott who trained under Temple Moore and specialised in ecclesiastical commissions for the Roman Catholic Church, and it is one of his major works.
Interior design: the elegant interior maintains stylistic continuity with the exterior through its incorporation of Gilbert Scott’s characteristic soaring camel-vaulted arches, which are derived from ancient Persia and are successfully reinterpreted here in a modern form; rendering the arches and treating them as parabolas. The dignified space is also enhanced by a dado of buff-coloured Hornton stone that contrasts with plastered walls above, and tall windows that serve to maximise light.
Interior quality: the interior decoration is kept to a minimum overall to enable the beauty of the building to be fully expressed, but the furnishings are of a high quality, including inset Stations of the Cross, an unusual carved wall pulpit, and an elaborate marble, gilded and mosaicwork baldacchino.
Prior to the construction of St Anthony’s RC Church in 1959-60 Mass was celebrated first in two green Nissen huts knocked into one
Emmaus South Manchester is gearing up to support vulnerable people in Wythenshawe and surrounding areas.
Our charity aims to support homeless people and those suffering deprivation and social exclusion in the local area. Thanks to generous support from St. Andrews Church, we have set up a workshop in Wythenshawe and are now looking for retail premises to sell handmade items produced by local volunteers.
I got on the 25 bus in Hanley and remained seated on the top deck until I reached Keele.
The chapel was just over the way from the bus stop, behind some trees.
Multi-denominational university chapel. 1964-65 by G.G. Pace. Blue vitrified engineering bricks. Slated pitched roof to eaves. Two copper covered pyramidal roof lights to paired towers and two copper-covered dormers. Rectangular building with paired apses at one end and a gallery along one side, with vestries and entrance below. Main space designed to be flexible, with movable furniture and a hydraulic screen which can be lowered to make two smaller spaces. One of the apses is dedicated to Roman Catholic worship; the other is for Anglicans and Non-conformists.
Exterior is dominated by the paired apses, which rise to form a pair of towers, each with panels of vertical strip windows with square-headed lights of irregular length, separated by brick tracery. Similar windows in irregular patterns to the flanks, which are otherwise unmodelled, and to the asymmetrical gable end. Rectangular leaded lights. Square-headed entrance on flank with concrete beam over. Double timber doors, recessed. Projecting concrete gutter spouts, three to each flank. Interior of exposed pink brick and unpainted board-marked concrete. `Y’ shaped laminated timber uprights and trusses, supporting timber roof, partly with timber rafters with exposed boarding behind, and partly with white acoustic tiles, forming a decorative contrast to the timber panels. Patterned brick screen with exposed, unpainted board-marked concrete frame divides the space at the higher level up to the roof, and a hydraulic screen of rust-stained timber, decorated with a cross motif, can be lowered to complete the division. Two similar, but smaller screens can be lowered to close off the apses.
Below the gallery a brick and concrete wall with groups of vertical windows. Broad, light timber handrail/bookrest, to `chunky’ concrete balustrade. Concrete pulpit of organic form attached to left of the screen wall. Also part of the Pace scheme is the limed timber altar, lectern, priest’s chairs, benches and other furnishings and the altars and furnishings in the semi-circular chapels. Also original are the pendant light fittings in black-painted metal. Floor with panels of parquet and polished concrete flags. Liturgically unusual as a multi-denominational chapel of this period, this impressive building is a fine example of Pace’s work.
The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea was built using reinforced concrete around 1937 and its dedication carries tribute to sailors lost at sea. The roof is designed to resemble the hull of a boat, and the windows in the crypt port holes. These aspects reflecting the maritime heritage of Amlwch.
Designed by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He subsequently married a local woman, and lived and worked in north Wales, specialising in Roman Catholic churches. He also designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele, and Porthmadog.
Around 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner during the First World War, about half in the aftermath of Caporetto. Roughly one Italian soldier in seven was captured, a significantly higher number than in other armies on the Western Front.
About 100,000 Italian prisoners of war never returned home, having succumbed to hardship, hunger, cold and disease – mainly tuberculosis.
Uniquely among the Allied powers, Italy refused to assist its prisoners, and even hindered efforts by soldiers’ families to send them food.
From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.
The main entrance leads into a small vestibule with raking sides; further doorways lead into the end of the main body of the church. The ribbing that is such a prominent feature of the exterior of the church also dominates the design of the interior; the body of the church illuminated by bands of geometrically patterned lights between the ribs. The lateral walls have marble panels which also follow the pattern of the ribs; to the top are paired panels, each with a moulded quatrefoil plaques depicting biblical scenes, plain paired panels below. The marbled panels continue at the far end of the church, raised up over round-headed doorways flanking a recess painted with a depiction of the crucifixion; star shaped lights follow the line of the domed arch.
I think it is worthy of mention how the whole mass of imitation stone frontage was done by one plasterer long gone called Llew – Inja Rock, whose pretty unique style of work is still to be seen elsewhere around town today. He once showed me how it was done, all with a little teaspoon. What patience and what a proven good job to stand the trial of time of 40-plus years without a great deal, if any, remedial work. A sound memorial to a good working man.
For many years I have cycled y on my tours around Anglesey- often stopping to marvel at this concrete anachronism.
This time I stopped to walk around and take some snaps – here they are.
The Pevsner Buildings of Wales guide calls it:
A piece of Italian architectural daring of the 1930s – a soaring reinforced concrete and brick vault formed on six arches, expressed as ribs externally and internally, with a conical apse. Three transverse bands of glazing in geometric trefoils of white and blue.
Five glass stars – made in France, perforate the East wall round the apse.
Rinvolucri’s team of builders constructed the innovative parabolic vault in six months in 1935.
The same guide calls it Futurist, closer to Freyssinet’s 1920s airship hangars at Orly, Paris, than to Catholic Church design, and unlike the conservatism of Anglesey building.
He died in 1962 and is buried in St Agnes Road Cemetery, Conwy with Mina, who died in 1991.
1937-38 by Reynolds and Scott built in buff brick of a Modernist Byzantine style.
The choice of the Apostle of Holland as a patron saint for the parish was that of a Dutch priest, Fr. Sassen, who bought land for the parish from St. Brigid’s in 1905. The new parish was opened in 1906.
Fr. Charles Hanrahan developed the mission in its infancy and was followed by Fr. Richard Mortimer, who laboured here for a long period, devoting most of his priestly life to the parish.
Fr. Patrick Dillon supervised the building of the magnificent new church of unusual design, which was opened in 1938.
I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.
I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.
Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.
The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.
The original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris. Henry Oswald Hill was a promising architect with a clear interest in contemporary church-building trends, as evidenced here and at the nearby RC Church of St Joseph, Heywood, he was tragically killed in action in the First World War.
The church uses concrete to its advantage in the construction of the striking, 20m-wide central dome, surrounded by the delicate touch of several arched stained glass windows at the perimeter.
Illuminating the concave space in a heavenly manner.
The apsed sanctuary contains an encompassing mosaic scheme of powerful emotional intensity designed by leading mosaic designer, Eric Newton of specialist firm Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd.
The mosaic is breathtaking in scale, design and execution – nothing can prepare you for its impact as you enter the church.
The quality of the sanctuary mosaic is further enhanced by the use of high-quality tesserae made of stone, coloured marbles and coloured glass, set off by a shimmering background of gold tesserae.
The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.
The whole building is full of surprising details of the highest quality.
Lit by simplest yet most effective stained glass.
This is an exemplary building, on entering one is filled with both calm and awe, an experience which is never diminished by subsequent visits.
The mosaic work is on local and international significance – it is unthinkable that it may ever be lost to us, or that funding was not forthcoming to secure its future into perpetuity.
I implore you to visit, whensoever that may be possible.
Please take a moment append your comments on this post and play some small part in ensuring the St John’s is preserved for generations to come.
I was on my way to Intake by bus so it’s off on the 66 from the Frenchgate Inetrchange.
An urban environment so anonymous, that it can only just recognise itself. I was helpfully informed by two radio controlled security guards that photography was illegal.
More Interzone than Interchange.
Here are my transgressive snaps, I made my excuses and left – on the next available 66.
Decanting from the single decker I made my way across the way to All Saints, a George Pace church of 1956.
Built on the foundations of an unrealised Neo-Romanesque church of 1940, but reorientated east/west.
I legged it back to catch the bus back, the returning 66, much to the surprise of the surprised driver, making his return journey.
Jumping the 41A to Scawsby, displaying my risible home-printed map to the driver, requesting a shout when we arrived at the indicated destination, which he was unable to discern, and which I had failed illustrate.
I had contrived to arrive at the end of the line, a bit part player in a non-existent Béla Tarr film.
Following a thorough tour inside and out, I returned promptly to the town centre, on the limited stop express X19.
And hotfooted it to the Waterdale Centre, a work in progress, the CGI figures being as yet, a mere figment of the development officer’s fevered dreams.
Doncaster Council documents from the planning application for the demolition say, that while the exact project is not yet fully in place, discussions are taking place with the council on the project and grant funding is being sought to help the future regeneration scheme. But the council has said it supports schemes that would revitalise the Waterdale Centre area for retail, leisure, and tourism uses.
The centre is now owned by the Doncaster-based property firm Lazarus Properties, who bought it from the Birmingham firm St Modwen.
Lazarus director Glyn Smith said his firm had faith in the local economy of Doncaster town centre, even though larger multinationals seemed to be shying away.
The ABC was built by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) as a replacement for their Picture House Cinema which had opened in 1914. It opened on 18th May 1967 with Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago presented in 70mm. Designed with 1,277 seats arranged in a stadium plan by the architectural firm Morgan & Branch, with input by architects C. ‘Jack’ Foster & Alan Morgan. It was decorated in a modern 1960’s style.
Closed in January 1981 for conversion into a triple screen it re-opened on 9th April 1981 with seating in the 3-screens.
The Cannon Group took control in the mid-1980’s and it was re-named Cannon and it closed on 18th June 1992, screening its opening film “Doctor Zhivago”.
The building has stood empty and unused since then, but in 2007, it was bought by Movie World for just £150,000. It is reputedly being re-modeled with extra screens added, however by 2009, only a clean-up of the interior has been achieved. The building sits empty and unused in 2020.
The delayed opening of the new Savoy Complex will no doubt inform the future of the Cannon.
It’s a familiar tale of the local authority, developers, leisure and retail outlets chasing dreams, cash and hopefully pulling in the live now pay later public.
I noted the restrained Modernism of the National Spiritualist Church.
The service begins with a short prayer. The congregation sings three songs during the service using music that most people would recognise. There is usually a short reading or lesson on something to do with spiritualism or events in the world. There is also a talk by the guest medium who use their inspiration or intuition to compose an uplifting address.
Then the business of contacting the spirit world begins.
Along with its curious relief panels.
Back around to the back of the Waterdale and the surviving former bank fascia, civic offices and library.
Back through the Waterdale to discover the saddest of retail archeology.
The long lost tiled café wall and a mysterious porch.
They are all built in his distinctive manner, brick and concrete, steel, wood and glass. Often working within tight budgets, respectful of the Christian Church’s early heritage, expressing mass and volume with simple geometry.
The exterior skin pierced by multiple rectangular windows, the interior revealing an elegant calm space with attendant simple decorative elements and fittings.
The body of the church has two asymmetric orthogonal outriders and a tall bell tower.
The transept chapel
The chancel and apse has a raised roof with a glazed face.
Let’s literally take an anti-clockwise look around the outside.
I was warmly welcomed by The Revd David D’Silva, Curate-in-Charge and kindly given free access to the church’s interior.
The wooden framed roof supported by huge parabolic arches of laminated timber.
There are retrieved pews, temporarily reordered to accommodate Covid requirements.
Pace’s own detailed design work in the altar screen and crucifix.
A Mediaeval font.
Light enters from several sources on three elevations.
And through the glazed area of the raised gable.
A delightful morning’s work visiting this well used and cared for church.
Exactly three months to the day after his flight in Vostok I had ushered in a new age of space exploration, on 12 July 1961, the trim figure of Yuri Gagarin strode down the gangway of a British Viscount airliner and walked briskly out across the runway of Manchester airport towards a sea of expectant faces, and flashing camera bulbs.
A loose approximation of what he may have see on that day in 1961.
We were allowed out of Brownley Green school to line the road as he passed, great memories.
I stood on Chester Road with my mum, I was 4 years old, but still remember it.
At that time, I was a student, working my socks off in the Central Library, I went outside into St. Peter’s Square to watch him pass, he gave everyone a big smile.
Still tell my children, tiny at the time – you saw the first man in space, I remember his smile.
Worked in an office in Albert Square – had a grandstand view of him arriving at the Town Hall.
I can remember a police escort taking Yuri to Albert Square via Princess Parkway through Withington, Fallowfield and Moss side, there were hundreds of people lined up watching a waving at him.
When Gagarin visited Manchester he was given a bronze bust of Lenin made by the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers. Four were made in total and my Dad owns one of them.
My Grandad’s funeral was on the day he came, as we passed down Altrincham Rd onto the Parkway policemen who were holding back the crowds saluted, he would have loved it.
Yeah I seen him stood up in a big car with a green uniform on. It was going down Brownley Rd passing Meliden Crescent heading for the Airport in Wythenshawe, I was about 6 years old.
Working for Manchester Parks as a 20 yr old on Princess Parkway and he came past me as I was mowing the grass, in an open top Rolls or Bentley, he saluted me personally as he passed, of course I stood to attention and returned the salute – Magic Moment
St AmbroseA well-detailed, relatively modest post-war design by Reynolds & Scott, with an impressive and largely unaltered vaulted interior. The dedication relates to St Ambrose Barlow, a Catholic martyr from nearby Barlow Hall.
Barlow Moor Road
The Oaks demolished in the early 1990s following a brief life as the Sports Bar
Imperial Picture Theatre – was opened in 1914. Seating was provided in stalls level only. It had a 5 feet deep stage and two dressing rooms. There was also a café in the cinema. Around 1929 it was equipped with a Western Electric sound system.
Architect W.H. Matley
The Imperial Picture Theatre was closed on 15th January 1976 with Charlotte Rampling in Caravan to Vaccares and Jean-Claude Brialy in A Murder Is a Murder Is a Murder.
When World War II broke out, Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea were considered vulnerable to attacks and invasion from abroad. On the night of Saturday 29 July 1944 a doodlebug was hit over the English Channel. Damaged, it nevertheless continued to fly towards the coastline of St Leonards-on-Sea. It was approaching Marine Court which was hosting a servicemen’s party – but it veered and crashed in front of the doors of St Leonard’s Church, making a deep crater. The tower fell into this, and the rest of the church was brought down as well. Although there were no casualties, the church was completely destroyed. Although the problem of rock falls and subsidence associated with the cliffs had continued throughout the life of the church, the War Damage Commission would only pay for it to be rebuilt on the same site. The architectural partnership of brothers Giles and Adrian Gilbert Scott were commissioned to design the new building.
Patrick Reyntiens stained glass
The unique features were inspired by Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, rector from 1929 to 1961. Following a dream, he went to Israel and had the prow of a Galilean fishing boat constructed to form the pulpit.
Marble work on the floor depicts locally caught skate and herring.
Beyond the communion rail are loaves and fishes set in different marble patterns bordered by scallop shells, a copy of the Byzantine mosaic in the Church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Galilee.
The structure set into shifting cliffs is subject to subsidence.
Procedures have been completed for St Leonard’s Parish Church on Marina to be closed for worship.
The service will be next Saturday August 4 2018 at 3pm.
Because the building cannot be used the service will be at St Ethelburga’s in St Saviour’s Road.
St Leonard’s has been called the church with an inbuilt message. Even the very stones cry out to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand and accept the Good News of the Gospel.