These churches lie outside of Manchester City Centre in the suburbs, but are considered to be well worth a visit for their architectural and historical qualities.
First Church of Christ Scientist, Rusholme
This fine and most original early 20th century church is located in Daisy Bank Road, Rusholme, and was described by the eminent authority on English architecture, Professor Niklaus Pevsner as “…one of the most original church buildings in England…”. Designed and built in 1903-1904 with later additions by the architect Edgar Wood of Middleton. Wood was closely associated with the English Arts & Crafts Movement and this is an exceptional example of this period style, in stark contrast with the over-elaboration of Victorian Gothic which preceded it.
First Church of Christ Scientist, Daisy Bank Road, Rusholme. Edgar Wood – Architect
The church has a very steep gable and steeply pitched slate roof, a distinctive round turret staircase and tall chimney rising above the line of the roof to one side. Two wings stretch out diagonally on either side at the front – one was a reading room and the other a meeting hall. Another wing projects from the rear of the building, which originally contained a vestry and a boardroom. The simple geometric decoration, devoid of any superfluous decoration is most restrained and pleasant to the eye, both internally and externally. Surface finish is in white render and plain red brickwork. The main front semicircular arched doorway has large bronze handles, and the facade has minimal decoration in the layout of the high windows – these were Wood’s only concessions to decoration. Inside are a notable reredos panel with a cross in bas relief, and opposite the main entrance is an open style organ screen. It has not functioned as a church for many years, and has had several incarnations since its deconsecration.
EDGAR WOOD A local born Middleton and Manchester-based architect, with over 100 buildings in the Middleton-Heywood-Rochdale district. The First Church of Christ Scientist is still his most famous work and is recognised as a building of international significance.
Church of St Francis- Gorton Monastery
This magnificently designed church, one of the most important perhaps in the whole of Greater Manchester, was vacated in 1985 and consequently became derelict and prey to vandals who looted many of its contents and all but destroyed Pugin’s carved altarpiece. In the 1990’s the Gorton Heritage Trust worked to restore the adjoining Gorton Monastery, and in 1998 it was awarded World Heritage Status. The Monastery of St Francis in Gorton is a Grade II listed building of special architectural merit consisting of a Franciscan Monastery and very large church of cathedral proportions.
It is designated by the World Monument Fund as one of the world’s 100 most endangered sites alongside the Taj Mahal and the Temple of Hercules. Planning applications are currently in operation to attempt to restore this local masterpiece to something of its former glory. It is currently fenced off and inaccessible except from pavement level. A great deal of money and effort has already gone into, and is continuing to be spent on restoring it to its former glory.
ABOUT THE PUGINS Edward Pugin was the architect of this fine church, and the son of the better known August Welby Northmore Pugin who became, arguably, one of Britain’s most famous and influential designer/architects in the Victorian era. He is most famously known for the decoration and furnishing of the Houses of Parliament in London, and was a prolific author on the subject of design, particularly the Gothic Revival (or “Gothick”) which he so much favoured. When, in 1834 most of the Old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire, Pugin and Charles Barry were commissioned to design and build a new House of Commons and a House of Lords. A convert to Roman Catholicism, Pugin designed several Catholic churches, including Birmingham Cathedral and St. Osward’s Church in Liverpool. He also designed St Wilfred’s Church in Hulme. Amongst Pugin’s many books are “Contrasts in Architecture” in 1836,”True Principles of Christian Architecture”in 1841 and “Chancel Screens “ in 1851.
Gorton Monastery website The Monastery of St. Francis and Gorton Trust has a new website which features details of its history and plans for its future. Go to www.gortonmonastery.co.uk.
St Benedict Church, Ardwick
Built in 1880 by J S Crowther, St Benedict is in Bennett Street in Ardwick. Unusually, this church has an attached school house and presbytery. It was prosperous local merchant John Marsland Bennett who was largely responsible for the church’s existence, he being almost its sole benefactor, having purchased land, paid for and equipped the church. He and his wife Mary were regular churchgoers and played active roles in the life of the parish.
It was Bennett’s intention from the outset to create a massive imposing building where his beloved Catholic faith could be fully promoted. The foundations were laid and building commenced in January 1877. The project suffered many hold-ups, due in part to Bennett’s insistence of control, against the wishes of the local bishop. After a long stalemate, and on the bishop conceding to Bennett’s wishes, building recommenced in January 1878 and continued until the highest point of the tower was reached in October 1878. Very little if any of the interior of the church has changed since its inception, and the church is virtually intact in its original state, apart from a few minor alterations to the sanctuary. The baldacchino, (a canopy over the altar), was added in the early 1960s to replaced the threadbare and dilapidated original hanging drapes. The original High Altar stands on the wall behind the baldacchino, under the East window. Crowther described his building as of Early Geometric Decorated Perpendicular Gothic of the mid-thirteenth century in style. It is built in brick with terracotta stone dressing. The main East end is dominated by a huge brick wall facade and an enormous Geometric “Rose” window above. Internally, the extremely high hammerbeam wood roof is impressive.
All Souls Church, Ancoats
All Souls Church, Every Street, Ancoats, Manchester, was designed by William Hayley in 1839-40 in an unusual and original Romanesque style – built in red brick with its distinctive tall round arched windows and twin towers marking the East front, with echoed blind towers at the rear and similar towered buttresses on all four corners.
A simple round window sits above the main entrance which is also a Norman arch. Somewhat lost now amongst 1960s residential housing estates, and having lost its original congregation, the building now serves as commercial workshops.
The Church of the Holy Name, Oxford Road, Manchester
A fine dominating edifice, the Holy Name of Jesus RC Church on Oxford Road near Manchester University was designed and built by Joseph Aloysius Hanson from 1869-71 along with his son and partner J.S.Hanson, and is considered to be one of their very finest buildings.
The original plan called for a 73 metre high steeple, based on the one at Amiens Cathedral in France, but this was never added and the resultant octagonal tower top was completed by Adrian Gilbert Scott later in 1928. This large tower was one of the author’s earliest and most abiding memories of Manchester, when he arrived as a student in the city in 1964, at which time it was under pain of demolition – only an impassioned preservation movement, spearheaded by the eminent Professor of Architecture, Niklaus Pevsner, and the resultant application of Grade II Listing saved it from destruction. The spectacular interior is airy, moody and inspirational. Its slender columns and light rib vaulted ceiling make this an experience that should not be missed. The chancel has chapels on either side. Hanson’s son did much of the interior décor, including the Baptistery, Pulpit and High Altar. The stained glass windows are by Hardman & Company, dating from the late 1890s. There are also a large number of life-sized statues around the body of the church, most of plaster by the sculptor Alberti, and dated around 1900.
St Wilfred’s Church , Hulme
Catholics were so numerous in Manchester by the 1840s that a great need was felt for a church in the growing township of Hulme. Pugin was commissioned to design the church in the popular Neo-Gothic style; building began in 1841 and the church was completed and consecrated in 1842 at a cost of around �5,000. St Wilfred’s is a Grade II listed building of special architectural merit.
St. Wilfrid’s parish was later to be incorporated into the diocese of Salford, at which time Irish people tended to be in a majority in Hulme, where plenty of work was to be found for immigrant labour in the new textile mills and factories. By 1920 Hulme’s population had risen to the point where the district had a Member of Parliament and a Town Hall. In 1934 Manchester City Council acquired the ward of Hulme, and a great deal of slum clearance and inner city regeneration projects began. The 1970s finally saw the whole area of Hulme virtually demolished, its resident population moved out of the district and new deck access housing , the infamous “Crescents” replaced them. Thus Hulme lost its predominantly Catholic population and St Wilfred’s struggled to find a congregation. In late 1990 the church was deconsecrated and the smaller congregation was to be served by the former social club of St Wilfrid’s parish which was converted into the modern church of St Wilfred’s & St Laurence. The original Pugin building is now occupied by several commercial companies as part of an enterprise centre, and is externally, at least, a little run down and sadly in need to some refurbishment.
St Nicholas Church, Burnage
Built in 1931-32 by Welch, Cachemaille-Day & Lander, this brick built Church of England building is located on Kingsway in Burnage, some five miles or so south of Manchester city centre, and is a testament to the much overlooked art of brickwork. There was some well-matched additional done later with the addition of the west bay by Anthony Grimshaw of Wigan in 1964.
Described by Professor Nikolaus Pevsner as “a milestone in the history of modern church architecture in England”. Its somewhat high brick German-inspired and rather severe curving walls create a unique and inspiring modern design which has merited its Grade II Listed Building status. Inside, its walls are white and it has a flat ceiling. The Lectern and Pulpit are of simple brick cubes, in keeping with the style of the building, There is a Lady Chapel, and a high apse facing the road and it has tall slender windows between the wall buttresses. Some further restoration work was carried out in 2002.
St. Augustine’s Church, Pendlebury
St Augustine’s Church is on Bolton Road, Pendlebury in Salford. It was described by Professor Niklaus Pevsner, the great authority on English architecture, as one of the most moving of all Victorian churches, he described the interior as being of “breathtaking majesty and purity”. A most impressive interior of high quality, reminiscent of some of the best continental gothic cathedrals.
Designed by G F Bodley and built from 1871-74, it has some splendid, colourful stained glass of both Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic style, by the Burlison & Grylls company, though with close supervision by the architect himself. It was built largely at the expense of local banker, Edward Stanley Heywood, who donated it for the benefit of the local coal mining community. It has a distinctive all brick interior with one long roof and no tower, standing rather starkly, and now a little shabbily in a churchyard and primary school grounds which still display lovingly mown lawns. This is another church which has past its former glory, and externally, at least shows all the signs of the need to protect against vandalism – the proud bank of floodlighting, long since destroyed and wrecked and high walled windows sheathed in shatterproof perspex sheeting and wire cages. Locked and bolted against such havoc the interior still bears itself with all the majesty that Pevsner saw in it.