Burlington Street, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6
An early town church by E. W. Pugin in thirteenth century Gothic style, with a wide nave maximising views of the high altar. The external design is quite powerful, despite the lack of the intended tower and spire. The sanctuary has been reordered, but the interior some original fittings, including the reredos.
Ashton-under-Lyne expanded rapidly as a cotton town from the late eighteenth century, due to investment by the Earls of Stamford. The Ashton mission was initially served from Dukinfield, and a school/chapel was first built in 1852, to serve the growing Catholic community, swelled by an influx of Irish workers. The present church was built in 1858-60 with funds raised by local Catholic workers, led by the Rev. William Crombleholme; he is commemorated on a marble memorial tablet, hung in the narthex (photo lower right. The architect was ‘Mr Pugin of London’ and the contractors were Eaton, Burton and Burrows of Ashton (The Tablet, 17 December 1859). The church was originally designed with a southwest tower and spire, shown in an undated view in the collection of Manchester Libraries (figure 1), but never built. The Tablet described the church in glowing terms in 1859: ‘when finished, this church will be one of the most perfect models of a parish church we possess…’. In November 1860, the church was dedicated by the Bishop of Salford, when the new altar and reredos were described as ‘chaste and substantial’ (The Tablet, November 1860). In 1868 the church, school and presbytery were attacked by an anti-Catholic mob when windows, doors and interior fittings were damaged; Fr Crombleholme led an appeal for funds to repair it. In 2003, the parish merged with St Mary’s, and a war memorial from the former is now hung in the narthex.
The church is orientated with the sanctuary roughly to the north, but conventional liturgical compass points will be used in this description. The church consists of a four-bay nave and sanctuary under one roof, with lean-to aisles, gabled northwest porch and west doorway leading into the narthex with gallery above. The base of the unbuilt tower is to the southwest corner, at the junction of Burlington Street and Cavendish Street, and the sacristy is to the northeast. The church is built of coursed local sandstone, rock-faced with smooth ashlar bands and a chamfered plinth. The steeply-pitched roofs are laid with Welsh slate. The style is late thirteenth century Gothic, with plate tracery and lancets. The west end directly fronts the street with a central pointed arched doorway below five cusped lancets and a gable rose window. The doorway and window hoodmould terminals are uncarved. The aisles are lit by cusped lancets and the clerestory by quatrefoils; windows are protected with grilles or polycarbonate sheets. The five-light east window has simple geometric tracery. The flat-roofed confessionals against the north aisle were added in the early twentieth century.
The interior retains its mid-Victorian spatial character, with a wide nave and aisles and timber west gallery. The arcades have painted plaster pointed arches on cylindrical columns. The arch-braced scissor truss roof is carried on stone corbels with exposed purlins and rafters. Internal walls are plain plastered, and doors and joinery are pine, as are the pews which appear to be the originals. The nave floor is covered with carpet tiles and the sanctuary floor with vinyl. The sanctuary and side chapels have flat east walls; the chapels are lit from the east by small rose windows and two-light plate tracery windows to north and south, all with stained glass, the Sacred Heart chapel to the south has glass in memory of the Crombleholme family. The sanctuary, not defined by an arch, has a painted panelled wagon roof ceiling, and retains a Gothic revival reredos, probably by E. W. Pugin and installed in 1860, now minus its attached high altar. The forward altar does not appear to be original, and the communion rails have been removed in post-Vatican II reordering. The west gallery has a timber front with turned balusters; below it, the steel screen separating nave and narthex was inserted in the late twentieth century. Other fittings include a Gothic marble memorial to Fr Crombleholme, died 1884, oil on canvas Stations of the Cross, probably early twentieth century, and an early twentieth century Lady Chapel oak altar and reredos.
Architect: E. W. Pugin
Original Date: 1860
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed