Lancaster - St Joseph

Slyne Road, Skerton, Lancaster LA1 2HU.

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A major building by Peter Paul Pugin, erected out of the munificence of Miss Margaret Coulston. Externally a local landmark and notable for the quality of its fitting out by (amongst others), Hardman and the Gillows. 

The principal donor was Miss Margaret Coulston, who gave £10,000 and is buried and commemorated with a memorial outside the west door. Plans were prepared by Peter Paul Pugin, this being the last of several churches he built in the future diocese. Relations between Pugin and the parish priest were not always easy; the latter wrote in correspondence: ‘The plans he has now sent show a very beautiful  church  but  he  sent  no  estimate  and  I  fear  that  the  estimate  will be…something like £10,000…Pugin seems to have a habit of not paying any attention to the directions he receives’.  In the event the cost was £8,431 before fitting out.

The presbytery was built first, in 1898, and was occupied by Miss Coulston until her death in 1909, after which it passed to the parish. The school followed in 1899, and the church last of all (completed and consecrated 1901).

LIST DESCRIPTION:

Roman Catholic church. 1900. By Pugin and Pugin. Coursed rock- faced sandstone with slate roofs. Perpendicular Revival style. PLAN: nave with clerestory, north and south aisles, a north-west tower, south-west  aptistery, chancel, north and south chapels, and a south vestry linking to the presbytery.

EXTERIOR: the tower has, on the west side, a 2-light window with reticulated tracery in the pointed head. On the north side is a doorway with moulded Tudor arch. The bell openings are Tudor-arched, of 3 lights with Perpendicular tracery below a parapet with traceried openings and with corner gargoyles. The west nave window is of 5 lights, and the outer order of the jambs is carried down to ground level to enclose a recessed panel which contains a central doorway with pointed arch flanked by one-light windows. The nave clerestory and north aisle are each of 5 bays and have 3-light windows with segmental heads, the central lights trefoiled and the outer ones pointed. The north chapel has a pitched roof and a 3-light east window. The chancel has north and south windows each of 3 lights, and an east window of 5 lights. The south chapel has a circular traceried east window. The octagonal baptistery is linked to the south aisle, which is of 4 bays.

INTERIOR: the west gallery has a traceried timber front and contains an organ. The nave arcades are of 5 bays with moulded pointed arches springing from octagonal columns with moulded caps. The tall pointed chancel arch is also moulded. The nave roof has arch-braced collar trusses with wall posts carried on corbels, and with tracery infill above the collar. The chancel, chapels, and baptistery have timber ribbed roofs with painted panels. The chapels and chancel have carved reredoses, the latter having one which is particularly elaborate with green marble shafts and canopied niches. The communion rails, the north and south chancel screens, and the pulpit are of oak with carved tracery decoration. The baptistery contains a plain octagonal font.

This bald narrative fails to capture the unexpected quality and richness of the fitting out, and does not attribute any of this work.

 Many  of  the  early  parishioners  worked  for  the  Lancaster  woodworking  firm  of Gillows, who made the fine pulpit, the altar rails and the nave pews (anecdotal evidence provided on site by a knowledgeable church cleaner is that the aisle pews are early c1920, copies of the originals).

Hardman glass includes the five-light East window (Our Lady and St Joseph before the Throne) and the Lady Chapel East window (Nativity).

The baptistery has attractive iron gates, a nicely painted and stencilled timber ceiling with gilded roundels and texts, and a simple octagonal font.

The presbytery is attached to the SE side of the church and is in matching sandstone, with a full-height bay to the front, and paired arched windows. The house is said to contain much of its original fixtures and furniture, including Miss Coulston’s library.

The boundary wall is in matching stone, with octagonal gatepiers decorated with the Maria monogram.

The memorial to Margaret Coulston (d.1909) is a stone crucifix on a stepped base.

Diocese: Lancaster

Original Date: 1901

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: Peter Paul Pugin

Listed Grade: Grade II