Building » Neston – St Winefride

Neston – St Winefride

Burton Road, Neston, Cheshire CH64

St Winefride’s is one of the two oldest post-Reformation Catholic churches in Wirral, the other being St Werburgh’s, Birkenhead. Originally Neston had been included in the area served by the chaplain of the Massey family of Puddington Hall, but with an increasing population, it was decided to establish a mission. In 1840 a school was erected to the design of A. W. N. Pugin with funds from the Earl of Shrewsbury, the principal landowner in the area. In 1843, a small cottage which stood alongside the school was enlarged as a house for the priest, whilst the school was adapted by Pugin, to serve as a church. In 1851 the cemetery was laid out, and in the following year the chapel was extended and the choir gallery constructed. In 1854 further alterations were made to the house. A school and school house were built on the other side of the cemetery in 1857. A parish hall was erected in 1902, and in 1910 the sanctuary was enlarged.

In 1962 the supposed grave of St John Plessington in the nearby graveyard of St Nicholas, Burton was opened. A vault and shrine had been created outside the east end of St Winefride’s to receive the Saint’s body, but no remains could convincingly be associated with the saint, and in time the shrine was removed.

In the early 1990s the growth of the parish led to proposals to extend the church in accordance with a scheme by David Ireland. The church and presbytery had become grade II listed buildings, and the planning application, which was opposed by English Heritage, was granted by the Secretary of State only after a Public Inquiry. Following construction of the extension in 1994, the church was delisted, though the presbytery remains a grade II listed building.

In its original form, St Winefride’s was one of a number of simple churches designed by A. W. N. Pugin consisting of a nave without aisles, a chancel with a lower roof than the nave, and a bellcote placed either above the chancel arch or over the main door. It is built of local red sandstone with a slate roof. The alterations of 1852 (the year of Pugin’s death, and therefore unlikely to be by him) consisted of removing the original chancel and extending the building by two bays, one being the new chancel. The extensions are indistinguishable from the earlier work. The extensions of 1994 were more extensive and involved the removal of most of the north wall of the nave to create an arcade, giving access to two parallel and interlinked transepts. The new work  too  is  clad  in  red sandstone  and  follows  the  general  character  of  Pugin’s building. As a result, only the front wall with its porch and bellcote, together with the roof, survive of the original church.

The interior of the church too is the product of several changes, although its simple character remains in the primitive stick-like trusses and plain white-painted walls. The small choir gallery, a mid-nineteenth century insertion of which Pugin would not have approved, survives, though a 1930s re-ordering of the sanctuary and the introduction of stencil decorations do not. The present arrangement of the sanctuary, created to serve the enlarged worship area, is the product of the 1994 re-ordering. The east window with full length figures of St Winefride and Our Lady is by Hardman and was restored in 1985. Two other windows, also probably by Hardman, and dating from the 1850s, depict St Charles Borromeo with a kneeling figure of the donor, and the martyrdom of St James. A Stella Maris window of 1997 by David Hillhouse, commissioned for the extension, shows Our Lady outlined against a seascape surrounded by creatures of the oceans. The Limoges enamelled Stations are late- nineteenth century, supplied by Hardmans. The Rood Cross dates from the 1939 re- ordering of the sanctuary. The early twentieth century Arts and Crafts benches are from the demolished church of St Laurence, Birkenhead. In a display case below the gallery is a rose-coloured vestment with silver thread which is believed to have been worn by St John Plessington.

Heritage Details

Architect: A. W. N. Pugin 1840 and 1843; David Ireland of Hulme Upright

Original Date: 1840

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed