Longridge - St Wilfrid

Derby Road, Longridge, Preston, Lancs PR3

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A large Gothic Revival town church of the 1880s, by a little-known Preston architect. The church is of significance above all for its contribution to the townscape in the conservation area, made not least by the tower and spire, additions of the early twentieth century.

Longridge developed as an industrial town from the mid-nineteenth century. A school-chapel was built in Pitt Street (now St Wilfrid’s Terrace) in 1867-9.  In 1871 the Rev. (Dr) Charles Boardman SJ was put in charge of the mission, moving into the new presbytery in 1873 (this was extended at the side, with a bay window, in 1883). In 1878 plans were prepared by William Withnell, architect of Preston, for a new church, accommodating 500 people. The sacristies were built first, to serve as a temporary school. The church was opened by the Bishop of Salford in July 1886. The cost of the church completed thus far was £3000. Early furnishings included the distinctive oak pulpit (1881-8), the Stations of the Cross (1895) and the high altar and reredos (1900), the latter made by a firm in Rotterdam for £500 for the then parish priest Fr J. A. Wissink (who was Dutch). 

On 15 February 1908 Bishop Casartelli laid the foundation stone for the tower and spire. Two bells were cast by Taylor’s of Loughborough, and the tower clock was made by Smith & Son of Derby. Other additions at this time were the west porch, narthex, organ loft and baptistery (now Lady Chapel). The building work was completed in May 1909, at a cost of £3,700.  William Withnell had died at the end of 1908, and the work was completed under the direction of Mr Seward, a Longridge architect.

In 1920 a white marble war memorial was unveiled outside the church. This was sculpted by Messrs Albertini and built by W. Almond. It is virtually identical in design to that at Sacred Heart, Darwen (qv).

In 1976 the altar was separated from the reredos to allow for westward-facing celebration of the Mass.

In 1986, the font was moved from the baptistery to the sanctuary area. The old baptistery became a Lady Chapel in 1990. Also in the early 1990s the altar mensa was returned to the east end, as a place of reservation for the Blessed Sacrament (the tabernacle was replaced by one obtained from St Thomas of Canterbury, Higher Broughton). The sanctuary was extended forward (the altar rails had been removed) and new oak sanctuary furniture installed. A new baptistery was created in the former Lady Chapel. The nave seating was also adapted, with the benches cut down to form a central alley (compare with figure 1), and new benches were acquired from St Alban, Blackburn (qv). The entire nave floor was carpeted. The altar and church were dedicated by Bishop Kelly on 1 May 1991.

In 1999, wall paintings which had been overpainted in the 1950s were partially uncovered, and subsequently exposed and restored under the direction of Michael Hartley of Cassidy & Ashton (architect) and Bernard Watson (ecclesiastical decorator). They also designed a new artwork for the baptistery (2001).

The original school-chapel lay behind the church and at right angles to it. It was demolished in 1985, and the site redeveloped in 2001 as the Longridge Community Hospital. In 1999 a new parish room was built on the south side of the church, stone-built and of contextual design.

The parish history mentions a statue of St Wilfrid in the high niche on the west front of the church as by Meyer & Co. of Munich, in poor condition. HCC approval was given for the removal of this in 2007, and its replacement with a new carved stone statue. The Mayer statue has gone but the new statue had not arrived at the time of the visit.

The exterior is described in the list entry, below. This dates the church to the 1880s, whereas it was built in two distinct phases, 1880-6 and 1908-9. The list entry does not describe the interior in any detail, saying it is of little architectural interest. Information about the fitting out of the church and its various reorderings is contained above. The chief features of note are the high altar and reredos of 1900 and the robustly naïve pulpit, supported on three eagles and with carvings of martyrs. This was made out of solid oak by Francis Gillet of Pitt Street, Longridge, the work apparently taking seven years. There is stained glass in the sanctuary and in the former baptistery, the latter by Abbott & Co. of Lancaster, 1920s. The wall paintings in the nave are a c2000 restoration of a scheme painted over in the 1950s.

LIST DESCRIPTION:

II

 

Roman Catholic. Church, 1880s, by Withnell of Preston (Pevsner). Snecked sandstone rubble with slate roof. Comprises a nave with clearstorey, lower chancel at the west end with polygonal apse, east porch and north-east tower. The tower has an octagonal stone spire, angle buttresses, 2 lancet bell openings on each face, lancet windows, and a moulded doorway in the north wall. The aisle windows are chamfered lancets. Those to the clearstorey have plate tracery, the west windows and those to the apse having geometric tracery. Interior of little architectural interest, having 7-bay arcades with round columns and 2-centred arches, and an open timber roof with arch-braced collars.

 

Listing NGR: SD6009537453

Diocese: Salford

Architect: William E. Withnell

Original Date: 1886

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1908-9

Listed Grade: Grade II