Portico - Our Lady Help of Christians

Portico Lane, Portico, Prescot L34

title= title= title=

This is a good example of a discreet Catholic chapel built about the time of the Second Relief Act. The church is built as a rear extension to the handsome double-fronted priest’s house, as at St Benet, Netherton. The north wall  of the church faces the road and masquerades as a  farm building. Though altered, the interior still retains something of its late Georgian character.

A Jesuit mission had been established at The Scholes in Scholes Lane by at least 1716. The sixth priest, Fr Nicholas Sewell, built the chapel of Our Lady at about the same time as or soon after Catholic church building was legalised. 

The church is built of dark red brick with roof coverings of slate. It consists of one long  range  with  the  presbytery  and  church  back  to  back.    The  east  end  is  the presbytery with  a polite domestic pedimented double-fronted facade with  round- headed sash windows under relieving arches and a central doorway with side lights and ornamental fan-light. The church comprises the western two thirds of the range, which is lit by three large pointed windows on the south side, away from the road. On the  north  side  the  windows  are  blind  and  face  onto  a  yard,  where  there  were originally screened by a barn.  At the west end of the church the main building has two pointed windows with interlace glazing bars divided by a brick stack. In front of this is a lower fore-building, originally containing the schoolroom, and extending the full width of the front with a pitched roof and a pointed central doorway flanked by two more pointed windows. This may have been the porch or portico from which the church takes its name.

The interior is a simple rectangular space with a flat ceiling, enriched only by the shallow elliptical apse in the east wall set in a frame of fluted pilasters with acanthus- leaf capitals. The pointed arch of the west door is flanked by two partly-blocked openings with pointed heads which suggest that the west front may at first have had two tiers of windows and that the fore-building was a later addition. Apparently there was originally a painting of the ascension above the High Altar, and also a west gallery.

The church was reordered in about 1981 under the direction of William Burrows of the Ellis Williams Partnership, when the altar rails were removed and the Lady altar repositioned on a podium as a nave altar. Both this and the high altar are German work, introduced by exiled German Jesuit priests in the later 19th century. The whole of the interior is carpeted and has late 19th century benches.

In the small garden front of the church is a stone cross dated 1652 which apparently stood on Eccleston Hill until 1822 (Pevsner).

Diocese: Liverpool

Architect: attributed to George Marsh of Liverpool (Pevsner)

Original Date: 1790

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed