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.

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.

WH Smiths – Colwyn Bay

I have been here before.

I’ve been there too – Newton Powys home to the WH Smiths Museum

Now here I am in Colwyn Bay generally minding my own and everybody else’s business, when all of a sudden I noticed a cast iron glazed awning.

Proudly announcing the proprietors – sadly supported by a distressing modern addition – now I’m not one to decry and debunk the rising tide of modernity, I’m all in favour of unisex clothing and central heating.

But the unchecked encroachment of vacuous vinyl really is the limit.

Businesses displayed a degree of dignified permanence unknown to the current high street trader. So here it is writ larger than life in stained glass and Carter’s Tiles.

Loud and proud.

And as an addendum here are the delightful tiles from the Llandudno branch, snapped two years previously.

St Augustine RC Church – Manchester

We have been here before on the west side of Grosvenor Square, between the former Eye Hospital and Registry Office on Lower Ormond Street, sits the solid stolid brick form of St Augustine.

The original St Augustine’s was one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in Manchester, having been established at Granby Row in 1820. This church was sold in 1905 to make way for the Manchester Municipal Technical College, and a new church built on York Street. This church was destroyed in the Manchester Blitz of 1940. The present site previously housed a chapel of ease in a building bought from the Methodists in the 1870s. It had briefly been a separate parish, but in 1908 was amalgamated with St Augustine’s parish. After the War it was the only surviving church in the parish. The new St Augustine’s was built here with the help of a grant from the War Damage Commission, at a cost of £138,000, when it was clear that the original building was inadequate. The new building was opened in 1968 and consecrated in 1970.

Quite rightly listed by Historic England.

Roman Catholic Church 1967-8 by Desmond Williams & Associates. Load-bearing dark brown brick construction with felt roofs supported on Vierendeel girders, with rear range in brick and timber cladding.  

Body of church virtually square, with corridor at rear right leading to cross wing containing offices and accommodation. Windowless façade with floating service projection to the left and four full height brick fins to the right of wide recessed central entrance reached by low flight of steps. On the projection a ceramic plaque with star and mitre and on the inner face of the left hand fin a figure of the Madonna, both by Robert Brumby. Set back returns of 6 bays, divided by pairs of projecting slim brick piers. Openings between the pairs of piers filled with coloured chipped French glass. Secondary entrance beneath large cantilevered canopy in first bay of left hand return. Slender linking block containing sacristy. The rear presbytery range, containing first floor hall, meeting rooms, kitchen, chaplaincy offices and accommodation for four priests. Bell tower rising from parish rooms block. 

A simple box plan with ceiling of steel trusses clad with timber and clerestory north lights. Sanctuary of three stepped platforms with white marble altar set forward. Large ceramic reredos sculpture of Christ in Majesty by Robert Brumby of York. Bays containing either projecting confessionals or chapel recesses are divided by pairs of projecting slim brick piers. Fixed seating in angular U-shape surrounding Sanctuary. Side chapel to left. Narthex. West gallery above originally with seating, now housing organ. Unified scheme of decoration by Brumby including the external plaque and statue, holy water stoups, wall light brackets, circular font with ceramic inset and aluminium lid, altar table with bronze inset and, probably, Stations of the Cross sculptures. Also by Brumby, a memorial plaque fashioned from mangled plate, damaged in the Blitz, commemorating the earlier parish church which this replaced.

Of particular note are the stained glass windows.

The internal atmosphere of the church is modified by the changes in light cast through the stained glass windows. The windows are of a colourful random and abstract design and ascend the full height of the walls between structural bays which themselves form enclosures to confessionals and stores. The pieces of coloured glass are suspended in concrete and were supplied by the now defunct Whitefriars company. The designer was a French artist, Pierre Fourmaintraux, who began working with Whitefriars in 1959, using the ‘dalle de verre’ (slab glass) technique that had been developed in France between the wars. His motif was a small monk variously painted upon, or cast into, the glass. In St. Augustine’s the motif is cast and highly stylised and can be found tucked away at the foot of each of the rear windows.

Mainstream Modern

Church of St Mark – Chadderton

Life is full of little surprises, to turn from Middleton Road into Milne Street in downtown Chadderton and discover a triangular, blue-grey brick tower soaring into the September sky.

So solid geometries pierced by rectangular, triangular and angular gridded windows, deservedly Grade II Listed in 1998, made all the more extraordinary by its seemingly ordinary surroundings.

The interior mixes tradition with modernity, reusing pews and fragments of stained glass. Restrained natural lighting, complemented by slatted wooden, almost oriental boxed light shades. The furniture, fixtures and fittings bringing together a coherent decorative order.

The whole an uplifting and embracing space, punctuated by the curved y-shaped wooden supports, rising to the timber framed roof structure.

It was a pleasure to meet the current incumbent Father Stephen and a privilege to spend some time exploring this altogether delightful and impressive church.

Thank you.

I suggest that you do the same.

Contact details and location.

G.G. Pace 1960-63 – Blue engineering brick; graduated slate to pitched roofs – low pitched to church and entrance and steeply pitched to tower. Concrete dressings around windows. Five sided aisled space, three walls being orthoganal and the liturgical north side being canted outwards to provide room for the choir. Entrance with narthex to west and west also is a small rectangular chapel. Corner site, the corner itself dominated by a low rectangular brick tower with a high gabled roof. Four bay nave, the bays separated by buttresses and with rectangular windows set in varying groups high in the wall. West wall of nave is visible, and secondary glazing has been sensitively installed over the west window between the western buttresses. Thick exposed board-marked concrete beam at eaves. On return elevation, tower is flush with small chapel, with irregular groups of rectangular windows to both. Rectangular leaded lights. Recessed entrance with two doors of timber and leaded-glazing in vertical strips. Liturgical north and south faces of the tower each has a stack of 14 small pointed louvres. Jutting gutter spouts in exposed board-marked concrete.

Internally the bays are divided by three pairs of varnished laminated timber `y’ shaped supports and trusses, supporting timber trussed purlins (with prominent bolts) and timber rafters. Walls are white-painted brick with exposed board-marked concrete bands, which act as bonding strips between brick piers and as lintels for windows. Original altar of limed timber with four pairs of legs, is in original position, set forward from the east wall. Sanctuary raised by two steps. Limed timber pulpit, also chunky and so is altar rail with thick black metal supports and thick limed timber handrail. Priest’s chair to match, against east wall. Black metal crucifix also in characteristic Pace manner. Stone sedilia built into the north and south walls of the sanctuary. East window with stained glass which comprises broken and reset fragments of nineteenth-century glass. Font sited in central aisle towards the west end; this is of tooled cream stone, the bowl comprising a monolithic cylinder, flanked by a smaller cylinder which rises higher and has a prominent spout. Elaborate font cover in roughly textured cast aluminium, rising to flame-like pinnacles. Reused nineteenth-century benches, painted semi-matt black. Narthex and west chapel with limed timber doors, which have decorative nail-heads in rows. West chapel has open truss timber roof, painted white. Sanctuary light and cross are characteristic of Pace’s style.

A fine example of Pace’s idiosyncratic manner, this church shows the influence of the Liturgical Movement, especially in the forward placement of the altar.

British Listed Buildings

A fine companion to Pace’s William Temple Church in Wythenshawe.

P1290252

P1290256

 

P1290258

P1290260

 

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Lady Chapel

P1290321

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St Marks Broomhill – Sheffield

The church was originally built in 1868–1871 to a standard neo-Gothic design by William Henry Crossland. This building was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the “Sheffield Blitz” of 12 December 1940, only the spire and a porch survived (they are now Grade II listed structures). The remnants of the bombed church were used as the basis for a new church designed by George Pace and constructed 1958–1963. This new building is of a Modernist design but is also sympathetic to the Gothic spire and porch. It is a rubble-faced concrete building with striking slit windows of varying numbers and locations around the building. There are also two notable stained glass windows: the Te Deum window by Harry Stammers and the west window by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens.

Wikipedia told me so.

Welcome to St Mark’s – an open, welcoming church for people from all walks of life who wish to learn more about Jesus and Christian faith and seek the freedom to ask the big questions. We have strong engagement with Christian communities and other faith traditions. People come from all over the country to participate in our Centre for Radical Christianity, where a lively climate of debate and learning can be found.
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Their website told me so.
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This a remarkable building staffed by remarkably welcoming people, it’s exterior betraying little of the wonders within. Divine stained glass, brut concrete structures, pale limed wood, sculptural forms – full of light and warmth.
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