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.
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.
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.
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.
One fine day – whilst walking back to and/or from happiness, in the general direction of Blackburn town centre, I happened to chance upon three towers.
Whilst not in any sense Tolkienesque – for me they held a certain mystique, wandering unclad amongst swathes of trees and grass.
Trinity, St Alban and St Michaels Courts – three thirteen storey towers each containing sixty one dwellings.
Three thirteen-storey slab blocks built as public housing using the Sectra industrialised building system. The blocks contain 183 dwellings in total, consisting of 72 one-bedroom flats and 111 two-bedroom flats. The blocks are of storiform construction clad with precast concrete panels. The panels are faced with exposed white Cornish aggregate. Spandrel panels set with black Shap granite aggregate are used under the gable kitchen windows. The blocks were designed by the Borough architect in association with Sydney Greenwood. Construction was approved by committee in 1966.
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.
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.