Bentinck Road, Altrincham, Cheshire WA14
A fine building designed by Edmund Kirby, incorporating Early English and Decorated motifs and Continental Gothic forms and displaying the architect’s trademark interest in texture and decorative brickwork. The interior is little altered and retains early twentieth century furnishings of note, including the high altar and side altars. The church makes a positive contribution to the Devisdale Conservation Area.
Mass was said in private houses in Altrincham from 1847 and in the 1850s a pair of cottages was bought and converted. A school was later added. The facilities became inadequate to meet the needs of the Catholic population and were replaced in 1904-05 by the present church, designed by Edmund Kirby. A presbytery was completed a little later. Sanctuary furnishings of marble were installed in 1910 and a pulpit in 1911.The Lady Chapel altar followed in 1912. The sanctuary was reordered in 1985, when the floor level was raised and the furnishings reset. Other work undertaken at the same time included new floors, decoration and lighting.
See also list description, below. Built in 1904-05 to the design of the noted Liverpool architect Edmund Kirby, the church is executed in red brick and red terracotta and in its design incorporates Early English and Decorated motifs as well as Continental Gothic forms. The west front displays raised brick decoration favoured by the architect. The plan consists of an aisled nave with clerestory, canted apse and short transepts. The west front incorporates a wide, heavily moulded entrance arch, tall lancets, flanking pinnacles and gable with vesica opening. Windows are generally lancets, the clerestory with pairs of lancets. The east end, which has Decorated style windows, is arranged in a picturesque manner, with counterpoint between the differing roof shapes and vertical elements. This end was apparently not finished as intended owing to lack of funds. A modest red brick presbytery is attached.
The interior has arcades of alternating circular and octagonal columns of red sandstone, except the two in the sanctuary which are of polished granite. There is an ornate hammer beam roof over the nave. The two-bay transepts have confessionals. The high altar and reredos are ornately executed in alabaster and marble with carved scenes. The forward altar is a modification of the original high altar. The side altars also have ornate alabaster and marble altars and reredoses, as well as rails of alabaster with metalwork gates. Other similar furnishings include a pulpit and font. There is good stained glass, probably of early twentieth century date, in the sanctuary and chapels. The south chapel also has glass of mid-1960s date, in traditional style. At the west end is a pitch pine gallery with an open stair on the south side.
List description (church and presbytery)
Roman Catholic church, 1903-5, by Edmund Kirby of Liverpool, Ruabon brick with terracotta dressings, slate roof, Early English style, attached vernacular-style presbytery in same materials also by Kirby. PLAN: Set on large triangular plot surrounded by gardens. Church aligned north-east – south-west. Nave and side aisles under separate roofs, polygonal apsidal chancel, transepts, porch to north-east (ritual west) end, presbytery attached to south corner.
EXTERIOR: Church: leaded and stained glass to all windows, stringcourses, and moulded brickwork, including door and window surrounds. Tripartite north-east (ritual west) elevation with gabled porch to centre surmounted by Cercelee cross finial, contains recessed main entrance set within scalloped-arched, moulded-brick surround, three steps lead up to plain panelled double doors with tympanum above incorporating cinquefoil flanked by small trefoils. Tall gabled nave above and behind with slender, part-corbelled and gableted-buttressed turrets surmounted by pinnacles. Slender lancets flank porch, three tall lancets (west window) above separated by narrower blind lancets form 7-bay arcade, relief quatrefoil frieze above, slender recessed elliptical light to gable apex. Side aisles lit by triple-light lancet windows to north-east ends with cusped heads and raised centre lights, rose window to south-west end of south aisle, octofoil window to south-west end of north aisle. Lancet windows arranged in groups of four and separated by low buttresses to each aisle’s side elevation. Clerestory lit by paired lancet windows. Two low transepts lit by triple-light lancet windows with raised centre lights, north transept also incorporates doorway to left return with tall arched surround and recessed segmental-headed panelled door. Chancel with hipped roof, lit by three large traceried windows (that to south-east end is wider), raised gables above side aisles containing triple-light lancet windows with cusped heads and raised centre lights. Low, enclosed ambulatory with tall chimneystack attached to south transept, wraps around to south-west rear of south side aisle to incorporate sacristy and links church to presbytery. Ambulatory lit by short, paired lancet windows, segmental-headed, panelled door incorporating two small, square leaded lights to south-west elevation.
Presbytery: two storeys, hipped roof, 6-over-1 sash windows with segmental arched heads to all elevations (those to ground floor are slightly taller), tall ridge and wall stacks. North-east elevation: two stringcourses between ground and first floor (lower stringcourse incorporates dentil band below) containing raised, diapered brickwork frieze set in diamond pattern. Diapering in similar style to left bay on both floors. Main entrance to ground floor right with Tudor-arched doorway containing recessed 9-panel door. Two windows to left of doorway, five windows to first floor above. South-east elevation: wide three bays, facing Bentinck Road. Stringcourses and diapered brickwork to ground floor and frieze in same style as that to north-east elevation. Single window to each floor of left bay, square bay window with hipped roof to ground floor centre right and paired windows above, similarly styled canted bay window to far right of ground floor with three windows above. South-west elevation: four bays, ground floor windows to bays 2 & 4, first floor windows to bays 1, 2 & 4, former stair window to bay 3, tall wall stack between bays 3 & 4. North-west rear elevation: eight bays. Doorways to each end of ground floor; that to left has Tudor-arched head and surround and six-panel door incorporating tripartite leaded light to top, that to right has segmental arched head in same style as windows with tripartite overlight. Windows to ground floor (one with a replaced casement insert) and bays 2, 4, 5 & 7 of first floor.
INTERIOR: Church: narthex with two marble piscinae flanking main entrance, later glazed panels and doors to south-west wall. Two original panelled side doors with leaded glazing to upper panels lead into main body of church. Corbelled hammerbeam roof covers nave and sanctuary, supported by full-height pink marble wall-shafts in sanctuary. Parquet floor. Arcaded side aisles incorporate alternating octagonal and circular piers of pink sandstone with Tuscan-style carved bases and capitals, plaster garlands to top part of nave side walls below clerestory windows. Probable later pews. Oak organ and choir gallery above narthex with panelled front incorporating pierced detailing, replaced organ of c1960s/70s, gallery accessed by stair in north side aisle with pierced geometric balustrade. Sanctuary set upon octagonal stepped platform with ornate marble altar (originally located in north side aisle’s chapel), altar rails removed. Top section of marble pulpit incorporating carved figurines of Sir Thomas More and John Fisher to left of altar, original pierced sections now infilled with marble, lower section now removed. Highly decorative marble reredos below south-west (ritual east) window. Further marble reredoses to side aisles’ south-west chapels (that to north aisle with later inserted panel to bottom centre), along with marble altar rails and decorative metal gates. Alabaster and marble font set in front of south side aisle’s chapel. Timber panelled confessionals to each transept with doors incorporating leaded glazing. Sacristy with built-in cupboards and doors leading into sanctuary, ambulatory and exterior. Ambulatory with later built-in cupboards and chimneybreast (fireplace removed).
Presbytery: stair hall to centre containing pitch-pine stair with thick, painted stick balusters and wide half-landing lit by a square skylight. Roll and plain moulded cornicing throughout, original 5-panel doors (some with later glazing inserted to top panel) and door architraves. Most original marble and timber fire surrounds survive. Later en-suite bathroom inserted to one first-floor bedroom. Some original quarry tiled flooring to rear service area, rear stair now removed and a toilet inserted into ground floor space with void above. Former housekeeper’s room now used as an office.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Entire site, including gardens and small parking area to north-west corner, enclosed by a low, pink sandstone wall (stepped in places) with square gate piers incorporating chevron and diagonal carvings and plain metal gates.
HISTORY: The parish of St Vincent’s in Altrincham was originally instituted in the mid-late C19 from a community of Irish immigrants who had come to escape the famine of 1845-52 and to work on the Manchester Ship Canal and farms in Cheshire. The Church of St Vincent de Paul and its presbytery were constructed in 1903-5 to the designs of Edmund Kirby of Liverpool at a cost of approximately £6000. The church was built to replace an earlier church on New Street, Altrincham and was opened on 1 October 1905 by the Bishop of Shrewsbury. It was designed to accommodate 500 people. The sanctuary was re-ordered, and the altar rails removed, approximately 20 years ago, and the organ was replaced in the c1960s/70s. The rear service accommodation in the presbytery was also altered in the 1970s/80s.
SOURCES: Parish of St Vincent de Paul. Parish History. Available on HTTP: http://www.stvincentsaltrincham.org.uk Accessed 19/7/10. N Pevsner & E Hubbard, The Buildings of England: Cheshire (2003), 60.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The Church of St Vincent de Paul and Presbytery, constructed in 1903-5 to the designs of Edmund Kirby, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:* Architectural quality: together they form a well-detailed and imposing composition of an Early English-style church with an attached vernacular-style presbytery; the latter complementing rather than competing with the bold styling of the church * Architect: they were designed by the notable ecclesiastical architect, Edmund Kirby, a former pupil of E W Pugin, and incorporate key features of his work, such as extensive moulded brickwork * Intactness: both buildings are little altered overall and retain much of their original historic character and features * Interior quality: the well-proportioned and expansive church interior contains high quality features and fittings, including a corbelled hammerbeam roof, alternating circular and octagonal nave piers of pink sandstone, a panelled organ gallery, marble reredoses and altar, and an alabaster and marble font.
Architect: Edmund Kirby
Original Date: 1905
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II