Larkhill, Blackburn, Lancs BB1
An ambitious design in a free Decorated Gothic style by Edward Goldie. The church is the fourth on or near the site, replacing buildings of the 1820s, 1780s and 1770s. Goldie’s design for a tower and spire was not realised, but a tower was built in 1960 from designs by Arthur Farebrother & Partners. The interior is little altered, retaining three fine altars and reredoses, communion rails, nave pulpit, baptistery and pews. The nineteenth century Gothic school buildings and early nineteenth century cast iron gate piers add to the interest of the group.
Mass was said in Blackburn from 1773 in a chapel converted from a pair of cottages in Chapel Street. In 1780 a Mrs Mary Hodgson left £400 for the building of a purpose-built chapel alongside the improvised one. This opened in 1781, ten years before the building of public places of Catholic worship was legalised; its design was therefore reticent. The first resident priest was the Rev. William Dunn. In 1819 the Rev. William Sharples (later Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of Lancashire District) was appointed to the mission, and he acquired a site for a larger church, at Larkhill, in 1823. This was built in 1824-6 and was a large plain brick church of late Georgian type, capable of seating 1,000. chools were built to the northwest (1862) and south (1866) by the Very Rev. Canon Irving (mission priest 1856-67). The 1866 schools are a red brick Gothic Revival design by Bintley & McCall, architects of Blackburn (Tablet, 14 April 1866). A tower of sub-Romanesque design was added to the church in 1882-3, along with other alterations to provide additional seatings, from designs by William S. Varley FRIBA of Richmond Terrace, Blackburn (Tablet, 8 July 1882).
Dean John Newton, appointed to the mission in 1884, resolved to make St Alban’s one of the finest churches in the diocese (according to Bolton, it had been thought that this would one day become the cathedral church of a new diocese). Dean Newton died in 1896, and it fell to his successor, Canon Peter Lonsdale, to put into effect this ambition. Plans were prepared by Edward Goldie of London for an ambitious design with a tower and spire and an interior of Cathedral-like proportions. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Vaughan on 13 October 1898 and the new church was opened on 8 December 1901. The builder was John Boland of Blackburn, and the cost £20,000 (excluding the tower and spire, which in the absence of a benefactor, were not realised, apart from the foundations).
The date and authorship of the high altar have not been established, but it looks like a somewhat scaled-down version of that shown in Goldie’s perspective drawing. In 1903 a marble altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart and designed by E. J. Pippet of Birmingham was unveiled. It was the gift of a Mrs Wharton of Blackburn, and cost £400 (Tablet, 10 October 1903). In 1917 a pulpit was erected, to the memory of Canon Lonsdale, builder of the church (inscription on pulpit).
Plans to complete the church were revived in the late 1950s by the Very Rev. Canon McEnery. Arthur Farebrother & Partners prepared designs for a tower and spire, a simplified version of Goldie’s original design, but this proved too costly and the spire was dispensed with. The tower was built in stone matching the original building, on new reinforced concrete piles, the original foundations having proved inadequate. It was completed at the end of 1960. The presbytery is of more recent date.
The church was built from designs by Edward Goldie in 1898-1901, replacing a church of 1824-6 (from which the cast iron gate piers survive on the street frontage). It is a large town church in a free Decorated Gothic style, consisting of an aisled nave with western narthex/gallery, north and south transepts, and eastern aisled sanctuary with flanking chapels. The southwest tower was added in 1960. Both the original church and the tower addition are built of Yorkshire sandstone, with dressings from the Longridge quarry. The tower is of four stages, with stepped buttresses and pinnacles at the corners, Decorated tracery in the window and belfry openings, and a side entrance in the bottom stage. The main entrance is on the west front, the deep and richly modelled doorway with arches springing from three shafts and intermediate arches. On either side, paired traceried windows light the western narthex. Above this is a huge west window, with Geometrical tracery and crocketed hoodmould rising to a niche in the gable. On the north side, a canted and buttressed baptistery projects on the north side in the western bay of the aisle. The bay divisions of the nave are marked by deep and high gabled buttresses, breaking through the eaves. Between these, the nave is lit by high three-light clerestory windows. On both sides, short lean-to projections give off the aisles, housing confessionals; their gables break also through the eaves. The transepts have large windows (seven lights) with Geometrical tracery.
The west door leads into a narthex area. A small war memorial area in a railed off canted bay contains a marble and alabaster pieta and marble plaques to the parish dead of the First World War. In the northwest corner is the baptistery, now disused and curtained off, but retaining its original font, gates, sunken floor and rib vaulting.
The main interior is an impressive space, with an arcade, triforium and clerestory to the nave, narrow circulation aisles with plain pointed transverse arches, high wide and light transepts, and an aisled sanctuary with flanking chapels beyond. Confessionals with Gothic traceried panelling and doors give off each aisle. The sanctuary aisles and side chapels are rib vaulted, while the sanctuary has a pointed barrel vault and the crossing, transepts and nave timber barrel vaults. The nave arcades are plainly treated, with chamfered arches appearing to be cut into the solid wall. Above, the triforium is richly carved with blind tracery and brattishing. Wall shafts rise from this point, continuing up as transverse arches. Below these, in the spandrels, are integral high relief Stations of the Cross, which continue into the transepts. At the crossing on the north side, the large nave pulpit dates from 1917, and was installed in memory of Canon Peter Lonsdale. It is of stone, with high relief carvings of angels and saints (rather crudely overpainted). Above it hangs a timber tester. The pews have shaped ends with inset carved quatrefoils, and are probably original. At the west end of the nave, the organ gallery is carried on three arches, and the gallery front has a projecting central bay. This organ loft is reached from a stone staircase in the 1960 tower. The large organ pipes are arranged on either side of the great west window.
In the sanctuary the detail is even richer than the nave, with tall arcades of clustered piers and quatrefoils in the arcade spandrels. This treatment continues around the east wall as blind arcading on either side of the high altar reredos, the quatrefoils in the spandrels containing painted figures of the Four Evangelists. The high altar itself appears to remain in situ, with a marble arcaded frontal, and a tall pinnacled reredos, enriched with polychrome carving and gilding. On either side of the central crowned tabernacle throne are depictions of the martyrdom of St Alban while above is a large crucifixion panel, flanked on either side by statues of a martyr (St Alban again?) and St Patrick. In front of this, the forward altar is also highly enriched with marble arcading and mosaic panels of the Agnus Dei flanked by a chalice and the Hand of God; this altar appears to date from about 1930, and a plaque on the back says it was re-erected here (coming from the chapel of Notre Dame) in 1989 in memory of members of the Whipp family. The sanctuary retains its fine marble altar rails and metal gates, which look early twentieth century in date. The altars in the side chapels are also very fine; that to the north in the Lady Chapel in white marble, with the detail picked out in gold, while that in the Sacred Heart chapel to the south (1903, by E. J. Pippet) is more richly polychromatic, of Sicilian white and red marble, with highly coloured figures of saints etc.
List description (the church was listed in 2017, following Taking Stock)
Summary of Building: Roman Catholic Church, 1898-1901 by Edward Goldie of London. Free Decorated Gothic Revival style. The attached presbytery is not included in the listing.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Alban of 1910-11 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: Architectural interest: * An accomplished church design by the well-regarded ecclesiastical architect Edward Goldie, planned at a time when it might one day become the cathedral church of a new diocese; * An ambitious and little-altered Decorated Gothic Revival design utilising good quality materials with a later scaled-down version of Goldie’s south-west tower; * An intact and well-proportioned interior that is impressive in both scale and quality with richly carved detailing and an aisled sanctuary; * Fixtures and fittings: St Alban’s retains a suite of original good quality fittings to the nave, sanctuary and side chapels.
History: In 1773 mass in Blackburn was said in a small chapel converted from a pair of cottages, which was replaced in 1780 by a purpose-built chapel. Between 1824-1826 a larger, Georgian-style church was constructed on the present site, which was replaced in 1898 by the present church. The church is an ambitious design by Edward Goldie at a time when it was believed a new church would become the cathedral church of a new diocese. The foundation stone was laid on 13 October 1898 and the church opened on 8 December 1901. The builder was John Boland of Blackburn who completed it at a cost of £20,000 excluding the tower and spire which were un-built. The high altar is considered to be a scaled-down version of an Edward Goldie drawing, and in 1903 a marble altar costing £400 was dedicated to the Sacred Heart and designed by E J Pippit of Birmingham. The nave pulpit was added in 1917. During the 1950s, plans to complete the church were revived and Arthur Farebrother & Partners prepared a design for a spire and tower which was a simplified version of Goldie’s original design. In the event the spire was abandoned but the tower was built in matching stonework on reinforced concrete piles and completed by the end of 1960. In 1989 a forward altar dating from 1930 was erected, brought from the chapel of Notre Dame, Blackburn. Edward Goldie (1856-1921) was the son of architect George Goldie. Like his father, he was educated at Ushaw College. He was articled to his father’s practice, Goldie & Child, in 1875, and was taken into partnership shortly after the end of his apprenticeship in 1880. He did not seek admittance to the RIBA until 1904. He is notable for the building of Roman Catholic churches, many of them in the Gothic Revival style.
Details: Roman Catholic church, 1898-1901 by Edward Goldie of London. Free Decorated Gothic Revival style. MATERIALS: Yorkshire sandstone with ashlar dressings from the Longridge Quarry; slate roof. PLAN: aisled nave and aisled sanctuary with flanking chapels, a west narthex and baptistery, north and south transepts and west tower. EXTERIOR: a large town church set back from the road on a rising site reached by a drive from the west. The buttressed west front contains the main entrance, a deep and richly moulded doorway with arches springing from three shafts and intermediate arches. It has a gabled roof and gabled flanking paired windows lighting the narthex. Above rises the huge west window with Geometrical tracery and a crocketed hood mould which rises to an ornate niche in the gable apex. Attached to the right is the four-stage tower with stepped buttresses and a three-sided stair turret. It has a ground floor gabled side entrance of three orders with a carved tympanum depicting the Crucifixion. There is a decorated window to the two intermediate stages and decorated belfry openings to the upper stage with triangular hood moulds, the whole finished by a parapet and stout corner pinnacles. The windows to the aisles have hood moulds with label stops and the westernmost bay of the north aisle has a projecting, canted and buttressed baptistery with a conical roof. There are two short lean-to projections to each aisle, housing confessionals, whose gables also break through the eaves. The nave rises above, and its bay divisions are marked by deep and high gabled buttresses which break through the eaves and are finished by triangular coping. Each bay has a high three-light clerestory windows set within a pointed arch. The transepts have large windows of seven lights with Geometrical tracery, and the south transept has a low, canted porch with a high opening. The east end is blind with a low, rectangular projection with sides pierced by paired windows. The attached presbytery is not included in the listing. INTERIOR: the sanctuary aisles and side chapels are rib vaulted while the sanctuary has a prominent pointed barrel vault. The sanctuary is richly detailed with tall arcades of clustered piers and quatrefoils in the spandrels, which continue around the side walls as blind arcading on either side of the reredos; the quatrefoils in the spandrels contain painted figures of the Four Evangelists. The original high altar is in its original location and has an arcaded, marble frontal and a high, pinnacled reredos enriched with polychrome carving and gilding. On either side of the crowned tabernacle throne are depictions of the martyrdom of St Alban and above a large crucifixion panel is flanked on either side by statues of a Martyr (possibly St Alban) and St Patrick. The forward altar is also highly enriched with marble arcading and mosaic panels of the Agnus Dei flanked by a chalice and the Hand of God. Good quality marble altar rails and early-C20 ornate metal gates also remain. Fine altars also remain to the side chapels: the Lady Chapel to the north is of white marble with gold detailing and the Sacred Heart to the south is richly polychromatic of Sicilian white and red marble with highly coloured figures. The six-bay nave has a terrazzo floor and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The arcade is plainly treated with chamfered arches appearing to be cut into the solid wall. The triforium is richly carved with blind tracery and brattishing. Wall shafts rise from this point and continue upwards as transverse arches. Below these in the spandrels are integral high relief Stations of the Cross which continue into the transepts. The stone pulpit is situated in the north side of the crossing with high relief carvings of angels and saints and above a timber tester. The pews have shaped ends with inset carved quatrefoils and are considered to be original. Confessionals with Gothic traceried panelling and doors give off each aisle. The west gallery is carried on three arches and the front has a central projecting bay. The organ loft is reached from a stone staircase within the tower, and the organ pipes are arranged either side of the west window. The narthex has a railed off canted bay with a marble and alabaster pieta and marble plaques to the parish Fallen of the First World War. In the north west corner the rib-vaulted baptistery retains its original font, gates and sunken floor.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: slender and ornate cast-iron gate piers to a central carriage opening and to flanking pedestrian openings remain from the previous C18 church on the site. They have inset Gothic panels and ball finials.
Architect: Edward Goldie
Original Date: 1901
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II