Building » Bolton – Ss Peter and Paul

Bolton – Ss Peter and Paul

Pilkington Street, Bolton BL3

The church occupies the site of the first Catholic place of worship in Bolton. It was built in 1897 to the design of Sinnott, Sinnott & Powell, and is a prominent building with a tall tower and a large presbytery, which forms part of the overall composition. Apart from the tower and the porch, the exterior of the church is plain and austere, faced in harsh red brick and without ornamentation. The interior has an impressive grandeur, with a tall nave, arcades of granite columns, and a sanctuary with monumental Gothic reredos. The detail, however, is heavy and mechanical, and the design is conservative for its date. The most interesting feature is the Lady Chapel, which was remodelled in the 1920s as a War Memorial, and further embellished in 1933.

A brick church was built on the site in 1798-1800, Bolton’s first Catholic church. At the time it was well outside the town, within a churchyard, surrounded by fields. During the nineteenth century, the area was gradually built up with cotton mills, factories and rows of terraced houses. A school was built in 1855.In the 1870s a fund was established for a new church and hall. The old church was demolished, and the hall was built first, opening in 1896, followed by the new church and presbytery which were completed in 1897. The total cost was £20,200, and the debt took thirty years to pay off. Although the church seated 800, such were the numbers attending that a west gallery was installed in 1905. In 1925 the church roof was destroyed by fire and reconstructed, and around the same time the Lady Chapel was remodelled by the parish priest Fr William Leighton as a War Memorial. On the priest’s death in 1933, the rails and brass gate to the chapel were erected in his memory. A new infants’ school was built in 1916, and a girls’ school (which still stands alongside the church) followed in 1936.With post-war housing clearance and re-settlement, the population declined, and by the late 1970s the parish had become one of the smallest in the Deanery. In 1966 a scheme of re-ordering was carried out by Greenhalgh and Williams to simplify the church interior. The west gallery was removed, and replaced by a timber and glass screen to form a narthex. The sanctuary steps were re-modelled. The tiled dado was painted out, and the two statues to each side of the crucifix on the reredos were taken away. Meanwhile the hall fell into disrepair. The link road built in 1979 between Fletcher Street and Pilkington Street left the church and school in a cul-de-sac. In 1980 the tall pyramid roof to the tower was dismantled and replaced with a flat roof. A fire in the hall in 1983 spread into the church and damaged the sanctuary. Although the church was subsequently repaired, the hall was demolished. The church was reordered in 1990, but in 1994 the large presbytery was vacated. In 2010 the church itself was closed, and has not since then been used. Established at the turn of the nineteenth century as the principal Catholic foundation in Bolton, the church was rebuilt in 1897 on an ambitious scale. The nave and chancel are 120 feet long and the tower is 126 feet high (without its missing pyramid roof). The architects were Sinnott, Sinnott & Powell. Its sheer walls are faced in hard glazed red brick, remarkably austere with their almost total absence of ornament or articulation. The windows are tall lancets, and only the top stage of the tower makes a display, with mullioned and transomed belfry openings and angle buttresses with corner gargoyles. The porch, of the same date, is half-timbered and painted black and white, and above it, within stone niches are carved stone statues of Saints Peter and Paul. The interior, which consists of a nave, sanctuary, north transept with Lady Chapel, and organ loft taking the place of the south transept, is tall and spacious. Six-bay arcades of granite columns, each made up of two sections, connected with shaft rings of stone, and surmounted by ponderous capitals, separate the aisles from the nave. The roof is barrel-vaulted and boarded, and the walls are plastered above a dado faced in ceramic tiles manufactured by Edwards of Ruabon. The shallow sanctuary is dominated by an enormous Gothic reredos framing a top lit crucifix, and flanked by statues of St Peter and St Paul sheltering under towering, heavy pinnacles. The high altar, still in its original position, is of marble and sandstone, and the marble altar rails with short, squat columns also survive. The side walls of the sanctuary are faced in marble, possibly dating from the 1930s. The terrazzo floor to the sanctuary dates from the 1930s, but was restored in 1983 following a fire. The Stations of the Cross, large scale groups of figures modelled in plaster and painted, were supplied by Herbert and Goodall of Liverpool. The tabernacle is by Hardman, Powell and Co. In the 1920s the Lady Chapel was adapted to serve as a War Memorial. The work was commissioned by Fr William Leighton, who had served as a chaplain in the war, and won a Military Cross. The chapel is top lit by a glazed lantern, and the walls are faced in blue and gold mosaics manufactured by Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd of Manchester, and probably designed by Eric Newton, the grandson of the founder, who changed his name from Oppenheimer by deed poll. The side walls are decorated with scenes of the Crucifixion and the Annunciation. A statue of Our Lady stands within a niche with concealed lighting, flanked by mosaics of angels and surrounded by gold stars. On the floor of the chapel, which is paved in mosaic, is the motto 1914 PAX 1918. The alabaster altar rails and brass gates were added in 1933. On the north wall of the transept, alongside the Lady Chapel, is the Roll of Honour, surmounted by a pieta, of the same character as the Stations, with a separate stone recording the men of the parish who lost their lives in World War II. Of the same date as the Lady Chapel are the Holy Family and Sacred Heart altars at the east end of the two aisles. These have white marble statues with simple mosaic surrounds. Re-ordering in the 1990s involved the creation of a nave platform, with a new timber altar, made by a parishioner. The marble pulpit was dismantled and re-erected on the platform without its base. The present font is also late twentieth century

Heritage Details


Original Date: 1897

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed