Irlam - St Teresa of Avila

Liverpool Road, Irlam, Manchester M44

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A church of some architectural character built through the patronage of the de Trafford family. It is little altered outside, and the interior is largely intact, with an impressive roof structure and a number of original furnishings. 

Irlam was an undeveloped area with a sparse population until the nineteenth century. Expansion came with the arrival of the railway, and later with industry and the Manchester Ship Canal.  The population rose from around 4000 in 1901 to more than 14,000 in 1914.  Canon Kershaw of All Saints, Barton acquired a plot of land and built a school which opened in 1874 and became a chapel-of-ease to Urmston in 1876.  A separate mission started in 1900 and in the same year Miss Belinda de Trafford left £2500 in her will for the building of a church. Other members of the family made generous donations towards the costs of the building. The foundation stone was laid by Mgr Gadd, Vicar-General, in September 1902 and the new church, seating 350, was opened on 26 July 1903. The architect was Oswald Charles Hill, the contractor Mr W. Garner. The estimated cost in 1902 was ‘with furnishing, upwards of £3000’ (The Tablet).

The pre-Vatican II appearance of the sanctuary is shown in the archive photograph at figure 1. The west end bellcote was reduced and simplified, with loss of the bells at unknown date, and the church was reordered, probably between 1967 and 1970, when a narthex was introduced, the rood shown in figure 1 removed and a forward altar installed.  The southwest porch may also have been built at this time, in response to a road widening scheme which remained unrealised. A presbytery and meeting room stood to the east of the church, connected to it by a link, but these buildings were prey to subsidence and were demolished in circa 2002-3, to be replaced by the present low Avila Centre designed by Goth Hibbert. 

All orientations given are liturgical. The church is of pale greyish brick laid in header bond with red brick and red sandstone dressings. It consists of a single volume beneath one roof with a canted apse at the east end and a central entrance and bell cote at the west end. A meeting room in broadly matching materials is attached at the east end, and a red brick porch of late twentieth century date on the southwest side. The sides are articulated by stepped buttresses with red brick dressings between the windows. The building is executed externally in a very simple, restrained style, with plain lancets and a large west window consisting of stepped lancets within a blind arch.  A bellcote extending from the west gable has been truncated. On each side of the west entrance there are stones carved with names of the benefactor, the Bishop of Salford, and other dignitaries.

Inside, there is a narthex beneath a pitch-pine west gallery. The tall chancel arch is flanked by very shallow niches with cusped heads.  The attractive panelled and coved timber roof has arch-braced principals and is treated as vaulting in the apse. Furnishings include an ornate carved and painted timber reredos, shown in archive photographs and perhaps produced by the Stuflesser firm.  It incorporates pinnacles and canopies with a central Crucifix flanked by carvings of saints. An altar to the north of the sanctuary has at the base a carved inscription recording the gift of Annette de Trafford.  The bench seating and geometrical floor tiles are probably original. Stained glass is mainly plain with floral decoration and roundels with sacred symbols. That in the central west window incorporates a depiction of St Teresa. 

Diocese: Salford

Architect: O. C. Hill

Original Date: 1900

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed