Building » Accrington – St Anne

Accrington – St Anne

Cobham Road, Accrington, Lancs BB5

An interwar church in the Norman Revival style, built to replace a school-chapel of 1899 (demolished). The most important furnishings are the high altar (1928) and Lady Altar (1936-7) by Giles Gilbert Scott. 

The first Catholic mission in Accrington was established in 1851 by the Jesuits. A first church dedicated to St Oswald was built in Hyndburn Road, on land given by Henry Petre of Dunkenhalgh. A second church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was built in a more central position in Blackburn Road and opened on 5 August 1869. The architects were Willson and Nicholl. Its high altar was paid for by James Lomax of Clayton Hall, designed by Cuthbert Pugin, and made by Earley and Powell of Dublin. Due to structural problems the church closed in 2003 and was demolished.

The mission which developed into the parish of St Anne was founded in 1897 by Fr (later Canon) Robert Holmes. Initially, the mission was dedicated to St Augustine and Mass was said in a rented room at the Gospel Temperance Hall, Abbey Street. A site in Cobham Road was bought for £1,500. In 1899, the local builder Hannibal Ramsbottom erected a school-chapel (cost: £3,300). The foundation stone was laid on 22 April 1899 and the church was first used for Mass on Christmas Eve the same year. Around the same time, a presbytery was built north of the school-chapel, leaving space at the north of the site for a future church. Until 1902, a temporary altar was used. By May 1902, a number of new furnishings were installed, including a new high altar, Lady Altar, St Joseph’s altar, tabernacle, pulpit, altar rails and Stations of the Cross.

By the early 1920s, the school-chapel had become inadequate and it was decided to erect a new church, as a memorial to those who died in the First World War. On 11 October 1924, the Rt Revd John Stephen Vaughan, Bishop of Sebastopolis, laid the foundation stone. He also opened the finished church on 24 May 1925. The name of the architect has not been established. A hand-written parish history records that the builders’ firm Messrs Mullen and Durkin of Manchester erected the boundary wall to the church site for free. It seems likely that they were also involved in the construction of the church.

In 1928, Bishop Henshaw dedicated a new high altar, by Giles Gilbert Scott. In October 1929, new panelling and new Stations were dedicated. In 1936-7, a new Lady Altar, also by Giles Gilbert Scott, was installed. It was unveiled in April 1937 and consecrated in September that year. The benefactor was Fr Philip Ryan, who donated the money as a thanksgiving gift. The church was consecrated on 26 July 1944 by Bishop Marshall. In 1952, new marble altar rails and a pulpit were installed and a marble sanctuary floor laid. In June 1952, the interior was redecorated, the church roof repaired and the exterior painted. In March 1954, a new organ was installed by Jardine & Co of Manchester, costing £2,200.  In October 1961, the church was redecorated. In July 1962, a new Sacred Heart altar was installed. In 1969-70, a new meeting room was created with a toilet, which could be accessed from the presbytery. Around the same time, a timber forward altar was installed. There were further repairs to the church in 1979-80 and in 1989. The school-chapel was demolished in 1987.

Some years before 2006, an additional flat-roofed sacristy was constructed to link the church and the presbytery. About six years ago, a major reordering took place (architect: Peter Woods), which included the removal of the marble altar rails and the pulpit. Marble from the latter was used for the new forward altar, lectern and font. At the west end a new community room was created, divided from the remainder of the nave by a timber screen which replicates the wall panelling.


The church is built of brick, faced with rubble-faced coursed sandstone with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. The style is neo-Norman. The plan is cruciform, consisting of a nave under a pitched roof, a lower chancel and transepts with hipped roofs. There are flat-roofed sacristies in the angles of the transepts and the chancel, as well as a flat-roofed link to the presbytery.

The west elevation has a small gabled projecting porch with a round-headed recessed doorway. On either side are small windows, round-headed like most of the windows. They are framed by a shallow giant arch which encompasses in its apex a wheel window. Under the gable cross is a simple cross in ashlar. The side bays also have shallow giant arches which contain a pair of lower windows and a larger upper window. These giant arches themselves are set in shallow straight-headed recesses with corbel tables. The north and south nave elevations continue the theme with five round-arched windows under giant arches between thin wall strips and a corbel table under the eaves. The north transept has a doorway in a giant arch to the west, two windows in giant arches to the north, and a window to the east. This is largely mirrored in the south transept, whose west elevation is partly obscured by sacristy additions. The corbel table can also be found on the east nave gable and the chancel gable, which both have gable crosses. The east wall of the chancel has a cross in ashlar, like on the west elevation. It has two round-headed windows in the outer ones of three shallow recessed bays with corbel tables. The chancel has single windows to north and south. The flat-roofed sacristies between transepts and chancel have two (north) and three (south) small round-arched windows to the east.

The five-bay interior has a segmental-curved timber boarded ceiling. There are round arches to the sanctuary and the transepts. The projecting organ gallery is supported on two plain columns. The community room at the west (with toilets and kitchenette) is divided by a finely carved timber screen which replicates the older panelling on the nave walls. At the centre of the screen are two glazed doors.

The sanctuary floor has been slightly extended westwards during the most recent reordering, which also saw the installation of the matching marble font, altar and lectern. The mosaic floor of 1952 has roundels with ecclesiastical symbols. The high altar (1928) was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. The round-arched reredos has two lower registers of figurative carving on either side of the canopied monstrance throne – of six saints and panels of the Presentation and Christ and the children. The tympanum has angels on either side of the Trinity. The original altar and altar steps remain in situ. On either side of the reredos is panelling with vertical gilded lines.

The north transept has the Lady Altar (1936-7), by Giles Gilbert Scott. This is more classical in flavour than the high altar. Three niches are divided by pilasters. The central pedimented niche holds a (later) statue of the Virgin Mary, while the outer niches have reliefs of the Holy Family with St John the Baptist, and the Nativity. The marble work was executed by Whitehead & Sons of London, the carving was done by Ferdinand Stuflesser of Ortisei, and the gilding was done by Watts & Co. of London. Compared to early photos, the reredos has been slightly altered: The swags have been removed from the central niche, the statue of the Virgin has been replaced, and the cresting of angels has been removed.

Also in the north transept is a pieta and a statue of St Anne. The south transept has an altar dedicated to St Joseph, consisting of a statue in front of a plain marble reredos, as well as a statue of St Patrick.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1925

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed