Lostock Hall - Our Lady of Lourdes and St Gerard Majella

Brownedge Road, Lostock Hall, Preston, Lancs PR5

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A Gothic Revival church built by the Ampleforth Benedictines, starting in 1912-13 and finishing in a plainer but complementary style in 1963. The later work took place shortly after Giles Gilbert Scott’s completion of the abbey church at Ampleforth, and has similarly bold massing. The interior volume is seamless, and impresses rather more than the exterior design. It contains a number of furnishings of note, particularly the Stuflesser furnishings in the sanctuary.

In the late nineteenth century Lostock Hall or Tardy Gate grew as a railway and cotton town. Catholics in the area were served from Brindle and Brownedge (Bamber Bridge, qv) until 1890, when a school-chapel was built, opening for services in 1891. The church was dedicated to St Paulinus. This building survives today, now in use as a dance studio. In 1903, the Rev. Ambrose Turner OSB became the first resident priest. He, like all the priests who have subsequently served the parish, was an Ampleforth Benedictine. A presbytery was built in 1906.  Under the Rev. Peter Cuthbert Mercer OSB a church building fund was established in 1908, and in 1910 the Abbot of Ampleforth granted permission for a church to be built, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes and St Gerard Majella (St Gerard was a Redemptorist priest canonised in 1904, to whom Fr Mercer had a special devotion).  The site was given by Sir James de Hoghton and the chosen architects were Daniel Powell and Michael Worthy of Liverpool, both Old Amplefordians. The foundation stone was laid by Abbot Smith on 7 July 1912 and the church opened on 12 October 1913 by Bishop Casartelli. It was designed to seat 400, and cost about £4500. The intention was to build the church in two stages, and a temporary wall was built across the west end.

In 1923 a churchyard memorial to the parish dead of the First World War was unveiled by Abbot Smith. The Crucifix, with a figure of a soldier at the feet of Christ, was originally flanked on either side by plinths bearing angels (photos in Diocesan Archive). The account of the unveiling in The Tablet recorded Abbot Smith’s comments that ‘while that monument was very beautiful, the ultimate monument would be a high altar which would eventually be erected in the church. Dom Cuthbert Mercer, OSB... said, in addition to the proposed new high altar, it was intended to flank the sanctuary with new side chapels’. The precise date of the fine reredos, panelling and pulpit (figure 3) has not been established, but the account in the parish history suggests that this was sometime between 1923 and the death of Fr Mercer in 1929. They appear to be the work of the Ferdinand Stuflesser studio.

The completion of the church had to wait until the 1960s. This was executed in modern Gothic style by W. C. Mangan at a cost of about £45,000, and was blessed by the Rt Rev. Basil Hume OSB, Abbot of Ampleforth, on 26 May 1963. The extensions involved two further bays to the nave and aisles, a baptistery, shrine to Our Lady and a 70ft tower. It is likely that the east end was slightly remodelled and simplified at the same time.  The solid proportions and bold massing of this later work echo Giles Gilbert Scott’s design for the completion of the abbey church at Ampleforth, completed in 1961.

In 1974 the high altar was brought forward to allow for westward celebration.

On 26 June 1995 Basil Hume OSB returned, this time as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, to consecrate the church.

A tall church in Decorated Gothic style, built in two stages, as described above. Both the original work and the 1960s additions are built of red brick with Rainhill stone (red sandstone) dressings. The roofs are of slate. The square west tower has corner buttresses and is of three stages, with a large Decorated window lighting an organ-choir chamber, and shorter Dec windows at belfry stage; it is topped with a parapet. The main entrance to the church is via the west face of the tower, and flat-roofed projections give off either side, that to the north housing a repository and that to the south a secondary entrance. The two western bays of the nave and aisles belong to the 1960s work, and include a baptistery with canted walls on the south side. The bays of the aisles are marked by tall lancet windows and buttresses, leading to shallow transepts, of two gabled bays with Decorated window tracery.  Tall Decorated windows also light each side of the sanctuary, while the east wall is canted, and incorporates a carved stone niche for a statue; the design of this part of the building has been simplified, probably in c1963, when the raised bellcote was also removed.

The interior is high and wide, the tall arcades giving the impression of a hall church. Transverse arches of equal height mark the aisle bay divisions. The six-bay arcade of the nave has stone octagonal piers, with the transepts giving off the two eastern bays. The nave has a timber arch-braced roof.  A choir and organ gallery is placed in the tower arch at the west end of the nave, and the 1960s baptistery gives off the south aisle. Although no longer used (a statue of St Benedict is placed over the font), this retains its wrought iron gates, Westmorland stone floor and ruggedly-hewn granite font. The chief feature of the interior however is the fine carved Gothic timberwork in the sanctuary, comprising reredos, altar (now brought forward), panelling and pulpit, dating from the late 1920s, and probably by the Stuflesser studio. These incorporate polychrome relief sculptures. Above the reredos, a good stained glass window depicting Christ attended by angels in the small vesica window, in the manner of Kempe.  The side chapels on either side include statues by Stuflesser.

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Powell & Worthy; W. C. Mangan

Original Date: 1913

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1963

Listed Grade: Not listed