Blackburn - St Anne

Paradise Street, Blackburn, Lancs BB2

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A well-detailed church of the 1920s in Lombard Romanesque style. The building was significantly reduced in size after a fire in 2002, but the original design of the west front was faithfully recreated. The interior combines scale and intimacy, with a king-post roof and abundant use of marble.

The mission was established from St Alban, Blackburn in 1848-9, when a small church (75 ft x 30 ft) and school were built in Paradise Street from designs by Weightman & Hadfield, opening in August 1849. The first rector was the Revd Joseph Vincent Meany. He rebuilt the chapel in 1852, to seat 500.  This chapel was extended with a new apsidal sanctuary, mortuary chapel, aisle and baptistery in about 1869, from designs by a Mr Bertwhistle.

The present church, in Lombard Romanesque style, was built on the site of the 1849 school in 1925-6 (estimated cost £20,000) from designs by Hill, Sandy & Norris of Manchester. Early designs had allowed for a freestanding northwest campanile, but this was never realised. The foundation stone was laid by the Revd William Shine, but he died only a few days afterwards. His successor, the Revd Thomas Henshaw, was at St Anne’s for only a few months before becoming fifth Bishop of Salford and it fell to his successor, the Revd Thomas Singleton, to see the building project through. The completed church opened at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1926. Sixteen imported Italian marble pillars supported the nave arcading. In the next year or two the interior was furnished with altars to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart, altar rails, a sanctuary lamp, marble pulpit, organ and font, from various donors, the Sacred Heart altar being a parish war memorial.  The high altar dates from 1932 (brought forward after the Second Vatican Council).  

In 1947 the old church was converted to a parish hall, and in 1966 the 1850 rectory was replaced by the present presbytery, built from designs by Desmond Williams & Associates, Manchester.

Depopulation of the city centre and the general decline in congregations meant that a church seating 800 in this location was no longer sustainable, and in 2000 plans were advanced for the reduction of the church, with the addition of new facilities. Drawings for the rebuilding at the Diocesan Offices are in the name of E. C. Harris, Capital Project and Facilities Consultants, Manchester. Planning permission was granted, but in December 2002 the church was gutted in an arson attack. At first demolition was considered the only option, but this generated opposition, and instead £600,000 was raised for its refurbishment. Rebuilding involved a reduction of the seating capacity to 200 and the reconstruction in facsimile of the west front. The area in front of the church was landscaped. The reconstructed church was opened by Bishop Brain on 13 June 2004.  Today it is served from Sacred Heart, Blackburn (qv).

A red brick church in Lombard Romanesque style, with stone dressings and a slate roof. The church consists of a nave, aisles and apsidal sanctuary, with sacristies etc giving off the north aisle.  An intended northwestern campanile was never built. As rebuilt after the fire in 2002, the church is about half its original length, the former western bays of the nave now a landscaped area in front of the church. The main frontage was rebuilt in replica, using salvaged materials. It has arched corbel tables in the gable and in the lean-to aisles, and stone kneelers and cornices to the gable parapet. A round-arched central entrance has a central mosaic medallion bearing a figure of St Anne with attendant angels. Above this is a large stone pierced oculus, with carved panels alongside this in the flanking piers. At the sides, the clerestory is of six bays, with corbel tables and one window in each recessed bay, while the aisles are of five bays. There is a secondary entrance from the street in the south aisle. The semicircular apse has an open loggia at clerestory level.

A western narthex of modern character (but incorporating original marble columns) leads into the main body of the church, now much reduced, with four monolithic marble (alternating Siena and Briscia) pillars on either side, each with unornamented marble cushion capitals supporting the nave arcading. The two western bays of each aisle are now enclosed behind the line of the arcading, for confessionals and other uses, leaving aisles of just two bays. The walls are plastered and painted white, and there are open timber king-post roofs in the nave and aisles. Side altars remain at the east end of the aisles, where the walls are lined with marble. The sanctuary apse is also lined with marble up to the springing of the semi-dome, which is painted lapis blue. There are three marble altars, those in the side chapels of 1927 and the main altar from 1932. The latter has been brought forward; it has a carved and gilded representation of the Last Supper in its frontal. 

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Hill, Sandy & Norris

Original Date: 1926

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed