Liverpool Road, Ashton-in-Makerfield WN4
A highly accomplished exercise in historicism, St Oswald’s is the culmination of a series of church designs by J. Sydney Brocklesby, including St George Derby (1920) and St Augustine Nottingham (1923) inspired by the Romanesque churches of the south of France. The quality of the stone carving is very good, and there is excellent Arts & Crafts stained glass by Harry Clarke of Dublin. The church houses the shrine containing the Holy Hand of the martyr St Edmund Arrowsmith.
The first Catholic chapel was built here in 1822, and both the cast-iron entrance gates to the churchyard and the substantial presbytery date from that time. The present church was built on the site of the old in the 1920s. The foundation stone was laid in 1925, and the church was opened in September 1930. It is said that the church was built using local labour to provide relief during the Depression.
The church houses the shrine of the Holy Hand of St Edmund Arrowsmith, who was from Haydock and was martyred at Lancaster in 1628. After he had been hanged, drawn and quartered, a Catholic managed to cut off one of the martyr’s hands, which is now preserved in a silver casket in the church. The Holy Hand has been the object of veneration for over two centuries.
Catholic Church. 1930. By J. K. Brocklesby. Stone. Romanesque style. Nave, chancel and ambulatory, south west tower, north west turret and north and south chapels (ritual west is actual north). West front has corbel table; giant arch of 3 orders enclosing round-headed window and entrance of 3 orders; relief in tympanum of coronation of Virgin, and sliding doors. Statue of St. Oswald on corbel table. To-left a round turret with round-headed window on sill course; corbel table and conical roof of diminishing courses of pointed stones. Tower to right has angle buttresses.
Windows to west and south have shafts and hood moulds with head stops; tall slots to 2nd stage and paired round-headed bell openings, corbel table and pyramidal roof. Nave of 7 bays has clerestory with corbel table and pinnacles flanking central and end bays; 2 triplets of window. 2 south chapels of 3 bays flank entrance bay, with Lombard frieze and sill course. Windows to eastern chapel have shafts and enriched archivolts. Round-headed entrance is flanked by weathered buttresses, as is eastern bay. East end of chapel has round apse with stone roof and 2 windows on sill course. Chancel has rounded end, Lombard frieze and shafted windows with enriched archivolts; weathered buttresses and end small round apse with window. Clerestory has 7 windows. North side similar to south; connection to presbytery and 3 lower bays of confessionals to west Interior: Nave has 3-bay units with arcades on quatrefoil piers, enriched transverse arches and saucer domes, small intermediate bay. West gallery on 3 arches, the outer ones stilted, on enriched clustered shafts; arcading to gallery front. Ambulatory has transverse arches on corbels. Chancel has 5 stilted arches to ambulatory. Vaulted roof is stencilled. To north and south are 5-bay blind interlaced arcades with 3 recesses. North chapel has west screen of 3 stilted enriched arches, 3 bays to ambulatory. Round-headed recess to east with reredos painting over marble altar; to east a vestry with iron gates. East apse to ambulatory has shrine and iron gates. Chapels to south have 3-bay arcades to ambulatory, eastern chapel has apse with shrine and screen to west. Stained glass in expressionist style by Harry Clarke 1930-7 with some similar glass dated 1970. 2 holy water stoups, free-standing blocks at west end of nave with reliefs to fronts. Bow-fronted pulpit has-peacock emblem. Chancel has arcaded rail and marble altar, with wood altar in cyma form from former chapel (1822) to front. The church is noted for its excellent carving of corbels, arches etc. by the Howe Brothers, and as the shrine of the hand of the Martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
Architect: J. S. Brocklesby
Original Date: 1925
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II