Bamber Bridge - St Mary

Brownedge Lane, Bamber Bridge, Preston, Lancs PR5

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A large and well-appointed Gothic Revival church of 1892 by P.P. Pugin, incorporating the tower, spire and outer nave walls of the predecessor church. Inside, the wide aisleless space is oversailed by a hammerbeam roof. The church retains its fine marble high altar with canopied reredos, as well as an early altar in the Lady Chapel. It is set within a large burial ground and forms a good group with the adjacent priory, former convent and parish War Memorial (on the Green).

Benedictines were active in the Bamber Bridge area from the late seventeenth century onwards. A chapel was built on the Cuerden Hall estate in 1746, about the time the owner Robert Parker married into the Catholic Towneley family. There was also a chapel at Little Mosna, Walton-le-Dale. These were replaced when in 1780 Fr Oswald Eaves OSB bought three acres of land at Brownedge, building a chapel there in the same year. As was common at the time (Catholic church building still being illegal), the church was discreetly hidden away behind the priest’s house. This chapel remained in use until 1826, when Fr Anselm Brewer OSB built a new church with a small tower; this survives in part, incorporated into the present church. His successor, Fr Anselm Walker OSB, converted the original chapel into a house.  In 1861 new schools were built and in 1866 a spire added to the 1826 tower, holding six bells. Fr Walker also further embellished the church interior.

In 1891 Fr Bernard Pozzi OSB commissioned Peter Paul Pugin of Pugin & Pugin to draw up plans for the enlargement of the church. The tower and spire were retained and, according to Gorman (p.7), the lower part of the walls of the nave, including the lancet windows. Certainly the tall lancet windows are more 1820s than 1890s in character. However, Pugin raised the height of the nave walls, adding gables incorporating round windows, a new hammerbeam roof, transepts, and an apsidal sanctuary with ambulatory and side chapels. Longridge and Whittle stone from the Thomas Cotton & Co. quarries was used. The church was thus extended in length by some 100ft, and was now able to seat 1200. The work was completed in 1892 at a cost of £13,000.

In December 1907, The Tablet reported that the ‘handsome and commodious’ new presbytery had been recently completed. In 1912 the Lady altar was installed, under Fr Basil Clarkson OSB. Four years later, subsidence caused by poor foundations necessitated the addition of buttresses (including a flying buttress on the south transept) and the creation of a dry perimeter trench around the church. A number of embellishments were carried out under Fr Anselm Turner OSB (1912-28). In 1918, ten stained glass windows were installed in the nave, to the memory of Benedictines who had served the mission. In 1920 five further windows were installed in the clerestory windows of the sanctuary, to the memory of John Wilson and his family. Those in the nave at least are by A. Seward & Co., Lancaster.  In 1919 large framed Stations of the Cross were installed, supplied by C. Ball Ltd of Dublin and paid for by members of the parish. In 1921 a parish War Memorial was unveiled on Brownedge Green, outside the church. In 1927 the ring of six bells was replaced by a new peal of eight; their blessing (and an early view of the sanctuary). In 1935 five stained glass windows depicting English martyrs were unveiled in the ambulatory.

In 1953 an organ from a former Congregational church in Preston was installed, replacing one which is believed to have dated in part from the late seventeenth century. In the following year a new alabaster altar was installed in the Sacred Heart chapel, and in 1958 stained glass added in the chapel (from the choir of the old abbey church at Ampleforth).

Post-Vatican II reordering saw the removal of the steps behind the high altar in 1970, to allow for westward-facing celebration. Other changes included the erection of a partition separating the Sacred Heart chapel from the rest of the church (since removed).  In the 1990s the sanctuary was extended forwards into the nave, bringing the altar forward, and the tabernacle was moved to the ambulatory (it has since returned to its original position). The altar rail was repositioned and modified. A new baptistery and ambo were also formed in the sanctuary, re-using the old font. More recently, the church has been rewired, redecorated and a new heating system installed. The narthex has been remodelled and new glass entrance doors fitted. 

The building is orientated north-south, but this report follows conventional liturgical convention, i.e. is if the high altar was at the east end.

The building is described in the list entry below. This does not bring out the fact that the lower part of the outer walls of the nave, and possibly the tower, date from 1826. This also explains the inaccurate description of the church as ‘Early English’ in style; while this might be true of the 1826 work, the more substantive later work is of hybrid mid-late Gothic character.

The description of the interior can be supplemented by the additional information on furnishings set out above. Further points:

  • The sanctuary and ambulatory retain their fine encaustic tile floors
  • The pulpit was erected as a memorial to Fr Anselm Walker OSB, who served the mission between 1847 and 1883
  • Flanking the sanctuary arch are statues of St Benedict and St Scholastica, in canopied niches
  • The original baptistery gives of the north side of the north transept. It is now a war memorial chapel, with a pieta and Roll of Honour
  • The open-backed pews have shaped ends and probably date from 1892, with some later ones of Byzantine character in the north transept. 

 LIST DESCRIPTION:

II

 

Church, 1892, by Peter Paul Pugin of Pugin and Pugin; steeple 1867-8 (Pevsner). Stone, slate roof. Early English style. South tower with splay-footed spire, nave with double transepts, and polygonal apsidal chancel embraced by a lower ambulatory. Tower of 3 stages, with angle buttresses, arched and moulded south doorway, 2 cusped lancets with cusped tracery in the head and linked hoodmoulds, triple belfry louvres in square recess on each side; single louvre with hoodmould in each splay of spire. Buttressed 4-bay nave with cross gables to 3 bays; 7 tall lancets, and in each gable a round window with 4 quatrefoils and a hoodmould. Buttressed transepts (and a flying buttress to east transept) with double gables, two 3-light windows with curvilinear tracery. Clerestorey of apse has arched windows with cusped lights and mouchettes, linked by hoodmoulds; ambulatory has rectangular windows with 2 cusped lights. Various flat-roofed offices attached to west transepts link with presbytery (which is not included in the item).

 

Interior: hammerbeam roof with tie-rods and arch-braced collars, the wall posts supported on slim shafts; double transept arches, and transverse arches in the transepts, are supported by polygonal columns and have hoodmoulds with figured stops; side chapels open off transepts, (west transept arches now filled by glazed screen). Wide chancel arch flanked by tall narrow arches leading into ambulatory of polished columns with octagonal caps; ribbed tunnel vault roof to chancel. Very ornate canopied reredos to each of 3 altars.

 

Listing NGR: SD5606126218

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Pugin & Pugin (1892 work)

Original Date: 1826

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1866; 1892

Listed Grade: Grade II