Lytham - St Peter

4 Clifton Street, Lytham FY8 5EP.

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A plain Gothic brick box, late Georgian in style, the significance of which lies perhaps above all in its townscape contribution and the various additions and embellishments which have been made to its interior over the years.

In the C18 the Clifton family maintained a chapel at Clifton Hall (rebuilt by John Carr).  From c1800 Mass was said in a tithe barn fitted out as a chapel, but this ceased with the accession of J.T.Clifton, a keen Protestant, to the estate in 1832.   In 1839 therefore a new church was built in the town, a large brick gothic church costing £3000 and designed to accommodate 700 people. In 1850 a new school was built and a nearby house acquired to serve as a presbytery. In 1878 the tower was added at the expense of Colonel Clifton, who had been reconciled to the Catholic faith. In 1885 Fr Roger Taylor became parish priest, succeeded his brother Roger. He enlarged the sanctuary,  added  the  lych  gate,  and  built  prolifically  elsewhere  in  the  Fylde (Freckleton with Warton, St Annes on the Sea, St Joseph’s Ansdell, Sacred Heart Thornton etc).

As originally built the church was a large but plain brick box, with lancet windows and an internal west gallery, so still late Georgian and pre-ecclesiological in character. Some of the original seating survives in the gallery.

The sacristies and side chapels were added in 1875-6.

The elaborate stone high altar, Lady altar and St Joseph altar were added in 1877. The sanctuary was later extended by Fr Taylor, in Accrington or Ruabon red brick. It bears the hallmark of Sinnett and Powell (Pilling, Wesham). About the same time an entrance  porch  was  added,  abutting  the  street  elevation  of  the  tower,  and  the presbytery was extended, using similar materials.

The church interior is unexpected original in its design and rich in its internal fitting out.   This includes a plaster vaulted ceiling with tie beams carved with acorns and vine scroll. There is late C19 stained glass in all the windows. The walls are lined with decorative oak panelling into which are set C19 paintings and Stations of the Cross.  There are high quality paintings of the 1920s against the W wall below the gallery and more by the same artist in the sacristy (the latter requiring conservation). There is a painting of Our Lady over the chancel arch.

A recent re-ordering has involved the removal of altar rails and the old high altar, although the mensa has been retained as a forward altar.

At the SW end is a projecting sandstone baptistry, internally decorated with C20 mosaics. The font was moved away from here in the recent re-ordering, and the space is now a memorial chapel to former parish priests.

There is an attractive timber framed lych gate, said by the sacristan to be by Pugin. An attribution to Peter Paul Pugin seems credible, given Canon Taylor’s repeated use of that architect for his various building projects.

The presbytery is now occupied by a group of nuns, and the priest lives in a listed late C18 terraced cottage, a relic of old Lytham, beyond.

St Peter’s is clearly a church which has had considerable embellishment over the years, and more research is needed to establish the full significance of this.

Diocese: Lancaster

Architect: Not Known

Original Date: 1839

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1878 (tower), late C19 (chancel extension)

Listed Grade: Not listed