Warrington - St Benedict

Rhodes Street, Warrington WA2

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The church is a well-designed and attractively proportioned building with a striking exterior. Its neo-Byzantine design reflects the influence of Westminster Cathedral, completed in 1903.

A temporary church of iron was erected in 1902 following the development of new houses in the area; the first priest was a Fr Baines. By 1912 this was deemed too small and Frs T. O. Swarbreck and G. C. Jackson sought a replacement. Matthew Honan was employed as architect and James Pilkington contractor. The new church, labelled ‘a miniature Westminster Cathedral’ by its worshippers, cost £6,000. It seated 342 in the nave, 92 in each chapel, and 40 in the choir. Opened on 11 July 1915, its plaster ceilings were left to be decorated at a later date. Honan was absent from the occasion, serving as a Captain with the South Lancashire Regiment in Gallipoli. He was killed in action in November 1916.

Church and presbytery built of St Helen’s brick with stone banding, in neo-Byzantine style. The walls are built in common bond with each tenth course consisting of headers. The roof is slate covered. The church is entered through a narthex, and via two internal porches leading into the aisles, or directly into the rectangular nave of six bays. Flanking the sanctuary is the Lady Chapel to the south, and two small rooms. To the north is the Chapel of Blessed Sacrament, of matching size. A door leads to the Sacristy areas; these are set behind the presbytery, completing the rectangular site. Attached to the north of the west front is a five-stage campanile. The presbytery repeats the brick and stonework of the church’s exterior, and is in a simplified neo-Georgian manner, with sash windows. 

The west facades of the main church and Lady Chapel feature diagonally-set brick faces, set above semicircular-arch window openings. The entrance bay has three openings and an internal porch with stone and brick doorways in a Mannerist style. The south façade has four tall round-headed windows to four bays. The Lady Chapel has three upper semicircular and three lower small round-headed windows to three bays, the fourth bay is blind. A twin series of small semicircular stepped arches run around the top of the walls of the main body of the church, and a single series to the chapels’.

The interior has arched vaults, which are cut away around pairs of windows with dropped apron sills. On the lower level are small pairs of contemporary stained glass windows. The east end is marked by an additional structural band ringing the sanctuary. The walls of the nave were originally plastered and painted white, except for the lower level which was of exposed (or rendered as) stone. The present interior is painted in a range of bright colours: the nave in pink, sanctuary in yellow, and the side chapels in purple and blue. The east wall has a mosaic of the crucified Christ and surrounding saints in a shallow recessed arch. Below is a marble alter and reredos; both are of later, probably inter-war, date. The Lady Chapel also has mosaic decoration to the east wall, and stained glass windows of a later 20th century date.

Diocese: Arundel and Brighton

Architect: Matthew Honan

Original Date: 1915

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed