Marple Bridge - St Mary

Hollins Lane, Marple Bridge, Stockport, Cheshire SK6

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An  attractive  mid-Victorian group  of  church,  presbytery  and  school, designed in a simple domestic Gothic style and built by  the Howard family, major patrons of Catholic building in the area. The group makes a positive contribution to the local conservation area. Internally, the most notable features are the triple arcade of the sanctuary and some good furnishings of the 1870s and later.

From 1848, a mission on Compstall Road in Marple Bridge was served from the church at New Mills, first by Fr Collins and later by Fr Levermore who approached Lord Howard of Glossop’s agent  for help to  acquire land  for a new  church.  The church, presbytery and school were built by Lord Edward, 1st  Baron of Glossop. The architects have not been established, but in view of his long standing association with Lord Howard of Glossop, an attribution to M. E. Hadfield seems likely (Weightman was practising on his own from 1858). However, there is no information in the Diocesan, County or Norfolk archives.

The church was defined as a private chapel until Lord Howard conveyed it to the Diocese in 1921. Some of the fittings were provided by Edward Ross J.P., a local businessman, including altar rails, decoration, stained glass and organ between 1873 and 1887. Ross died in 1892 and has an elaborate Gothic memorial in the churchyard.

The high altar was erected as a memorial to Ross, and was consecrated by Bishop Bagshawe.

The parish hall was built in 1935 by Fr du Boulaye, designed by William Ellis of St Helen’s.

In 1938 the interior was redecorated by Hardman & Co. and oak panelling installed in the sanctuary, carved by Douglas Renwick of Hyde.

The attractive domestic style sandstone church and presbytery form a T-shaped plan with the house facing the road to the south and the church partly hidden behind, entered via an enlarged porch from the west. The liturgical east end is roughly to the north;  conventional  orientation  will be  used  in  this  section rather  than  compass points. The four-bay nave and one-bay sanctuary are under one roof, laid with blue slates and with gabled dormer windows. A sacristy with gabled bellcote is the only external expression of ecclesiastical use; this projects northeast from the sanctuary. The church windows are plain square headed three-light timber windows with leaded glass.  The  low  former  school  building  is  to  the  southeast,  built  parallel  to  and adjoining the sanctuary with a lean-to porch to the east. Three gabled projections against the north elevation of the church have the appearance of confessionals externally, but are not now connected to the interior and are used as stores.

The compact interior has a warm character, partly due to the pitch pine boarded lining to the roof slope, decorated with geometric ribs. The collar roof trusses on carved  stone  corbels  have  curved  braces.  The  key  feature  of  the  interior  is  the tripartite sanctuary arcade with wide central arch and flanking pointed arches on clusters of marble columns with foliated capitals and octagonal marble bases; within each side arch is a small side altar with a statue plinth, also on marble columns. The long altar, now in a forward position is in the same style and materials with a central relief of the Last Supper. The carved alabaster font bowl adjoins the south porch.  The designer of these lavish late 19th century fittings has not been established.   The sanctuary walls have oak dado panelling and wall benches, installed in 1938, and the floor is oak with stepped altar platform. The nave floor is laid with pine boards with central aisle and plain oak open-backed pews. The 1871 east windows depict St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Edward King of England, with plainer nave windows. The pipe organ is on the west gallery, probably a later 19th  century addition, with panelled front on carved stone corbels. The attractive mosaic Stations of the Cross date from the late 1950s, and look to be by Earley & Co of Dublin.

Diocese: Nottingham

Architect: Not established, possibly M. E. Hadfield

Original Date: 1859

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not listed