Manchester (Levenshulme) - St Mary of the Angels and St Clare

Elbow Street, Levenshulme, Manchester M19

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An interesting and ambitious design of the early 1970s. There is a debt to Frederick Gibberd’s Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (1962-7) in the use of a lantern, but the design is carefully thought out and illustrates how the search for plan forms appropriate to the new liturgy continued to develop during the 1970s. The exterior is of striking form, and the interior is visually impressive as a space and for the extensive use of stained glass in the sanctuary. 

Levenshulme was essentially a rural area before industrial expansion in the nineteenth century. Partly as a consequence of its position on important transport routes, the A6 London Road and the railway, now the West Coast Mainline, it grew to merge with neighbouring settlements during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Industry has largely disappeared, but the area remains a thriving local centre with a residential hinterland.

 

The Catholic mission started when land was given in 1853 by Samuel Grimshawe, a Levenshulme resident and industrialist who built Errwood Hall, near Buxton for himself in the 1840s.  He also gave an endowment of £25 per annum. The area covered by the mission was initially quite large, encompassing Reddish, Heaton Norris, Longsight, Fallowfield and Withington.  The first rector was Rev. Thomas Unsworth. A community of Good Shepherd Sisters became resident, followed by Sisters of the Cross and Passion, before a convent of Belgian Poor Clares was established in 1863 on a site just off Errwood Road. The thoroughfare between Errwood Road and Stockport Road was called Nunnery Lane, later changed to Clare Road.  In 1877 the Rt Rev. Mgr Robert Croskell became rector and built a presbytery on the site. The foundation stone of a church there was laid by Bishop Vaughan in July 1882. The architect was H. E. Tijou (information from list entry for the chapel at Loreto College, Manchester). 

In 1957 the schools and church had become too small to meet demand, and Fr Hulme purchased the Grand Cinema on Stockport Road, and an extensive plot of land behind it at a cost of £8,500. The cinema was converted for use as a church

In 1974 plans for a new church on land behind the cinema were developed by Tadeusz Lesisz of the Greenhalgh & Williams partnership, in collaboration with Fr Occleston. They visited a number of recently built churches in the diocese and in western Ireland to explore the best forms for the new liturgy. It was decided that a circular plan created distractions and lack of direction, so a fan shape was settled upon. Fr Occleson stipulated that the church should be modern in style, but must look like a church and create the right atmosphere for prayer and devotion. It should be of monumental size to dominate the local area, with a plan allowing uninterrupted views of the altar. Finally, it had to be finished in stone inside and to adjoin a presbytery. Work started in July 1974 and the church was opened by Bishop Holland in December 1975. It was consecrated in May 1983.  

by Mather & Nutter in the same year and blessed by Bishop Beck at an inaugural service in August of that year. The old church and presbytery were converted for school use. New schools were built on the site in 1961-73, and in 1980 the Poor Clare sisters left the site and the church and convent were demolished. 

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Greenhalgh & Williams

Original Date: 1975

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed