Blackburn - Sacred Heart

Preston New Road, Blackburn, Lancs BB2

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A large brick Basilican Romanesque design by Norris & Reynolds, typical of many Catholic churches built in the 1930s by this firm and others. It takes full advantage of its prominent position in the townscape, with a tall northwestern campanile and tall west front incorporating figurative sculpture. The interior is stately, but does not contain furnishings of particular note.

Witnessing the western expansion of the town at the end of the nineteenth century, Fr Edward Woods of St Anne’s, Blackburn acquired a site at the corner of St Silas’s Road and Leamington Road, upon which a school-chapel was built, opening in 1901. In 1905, Sacred Heart was separated from St Anne’s, and a house was acquired in St Silas’s Road for the first priest, Fr John Bousfield.

The foundation stone for the present church, on a newly-acquired corner site in Preston New Road, was laid by Bishop Henshaw on 15 October 1937, and the church opened on 25 September 1938. It is in Basilican Romanesque style, with a tall campanile; the architects for both church and adjoining presbytery were E. Bower Norris and F. M. Reynolds of Stafford and Manchester. The church seated 500 and cost about £12,000. Early photographs (e.g. figure 1) show the original appearance of the interior, with a baldacchino over the high altar; this and the altar rails were removed in post-Vatican II reordering. 

In 2001 a new parish room was built, to mark the Millennium and the parish centenary.

A large brick church in Basilican Romanesque style, built of brick laid in Flemish bond, with stone dressings and Roman pantile roofs. It consists of a nave and transepts, narrow circulation aisles, sanctuary with semicircular apse, and northwestern campanile.  The west front has a tall bluff gabled façade, with a circular window, central entrance with carved Agnus Dei in the semicircular tympanum and a low relief statue of the Sacred Heart above. The adjoining campanile is of four stages, with paired arched openings to the belfry stage and a pyramidal roof.  At the sides, the transepts are full height but barely project beyond the low aisles, which have flat roofs hidden by parapets. There is a secondary entrance, with carved tympanum, in the north transept. The semi-circular apse at the east end is windowless. The parish room extension lies on the south side, and is a single storey building or large footprint but respectfully contextual in its design.

A western narthex bay leads into the interior, which is dominated by the wide and lofty nave, the aisles serving as circulation passages. Tall plain round arches separate this space from the sanctuary and transepts. The walls are painted and plastered, and there is a king-post roof over the nave. Three low wide arches without capitals separate the nave from the aisles, with a dado to the piers, continuing around the aisles. Above the arcades, the clerestory consists of tall narrow paired lights, with some coloured glass.  The taller arches to the transepts and sanctuary have trim of Art Deco character. Side chapels give off either side of the sanctuary, with paired arched openings divided by a central column with cushion capitals (there are similar openings in the western narthex bay).  The church retains its original benches but there are no furnishings of particular note; the baldacchino over the high altar, original pulpit and altar rails were all removed in post-Vatican II reordering.

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Norris & Reynolds

Original Date: 1938

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed