Building » Bury – St Marie

Bury – St Marie

Manchester Road, Bury BL9

A Perpendicular Gothic design of the 1840s by the short-lived architect John Harper, who was based in York; the lantern tower of St Helen’s church in that city is a clear influence, but Harper’s lantern is larger and grander, and a prominent element in the townscape. Inside, there is a spacious, aisleless nave, with large east and west windows. The interior is much altered and the furnishings are of lesser interest, although there is stained glass of note, by Wailes and others.

Before 1825 the Catholics of Bury were served by the priest at Rochdale. The first resident priest was Fr Peacock who looked after Bury, Heywood, Ratcliffe, Elton and Tottington. A design for a new church and presbytery was obtained in 1841 from the architect John Harper and the church was opened in 1842.  Harper came originally from Blackburn and trained in the offices of Benjamin and Philip Wyatt. He also designed St Paul’s Anglican church in Bury (1838, gutted by fire in 2004) and the neo-Norman Anglican church at Elton near Bury, erected in 1841-3. Harper was later based in York, and the design of the lantern tower at the west end of St Marie’s appears to be derived from St Helen Stonegate in that city, on which church Harper had worked.  His antiquarian interests were reflected in the original fitting out of the church, with a rood screen and poppy head benches, all since removed. The adoption of late medieval English precedent, the rood screen and even the dedication to St Marie (as opposed to St Mary) all suggest the influence of A. W. N. Pugin.

Bury’s large Catholic parish was subdivided during the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but in 2009 St Marie’s was twinned with St Joseph’s parish.


St Marie’s is in a version of the Perpendicular Gothic style. The walls are faced with gritstone ashlar and the roof is covered with Welsh slate. On plan, the building is a single space with narrower projections at either end containing the narthex and sanctuary. The design for the principal front to Silver Street derives from the mediaeval church of St Helen in York and consists of a tall frontispiece, narrower than the body of the church and of better masonry, with a pointed arch under an open pediment surmounted by an openwork octagonal stone lantern. Under the arch is a large pointed window of five lights in two tiers with tracery in the head. Below the window is the main entrance set in a decorative porch-screen. The side walls of the church are much plainer, with three tall windows on each side between plain buttresses at the west end and blind walls at the east end. The church is flanked on the north side by the original stone presbytery (now the parish hall) and on the south side by the larger present presbytery, a red brick building of the 1960s.  The sanctuary, narrower than the body of the church, has a tall pointed six-light window with Perpendicular tracery.

The interior has a west organ gallery of timber on iron columns with a modern organ under the tower arch by Jardine & Co., installed in 1967. It does not appear that the gallery ever extended eastwards. The body of the interior is plain plastered, with a handsome dado of green-glazed ceramic tiles.  The windows of the side walls have stained glass by A. Ferdinand Ltd. of Didsbury. In the east walls flanking the sanctuary are four-centred arched openings for side altars with a small window above each. The sanctuary itself has a pointed rib-vaulted ceiling, with a sedilia on the south side.  The stained glass in the east window is by William Wailes and presumably dates from the 1840s. Old photographs show the interior with a timber rood screen and poppy-headed benches.  These have all been removed.  The benches are modern and the sanctuary has been re-ordered, most recently perhaps in the 1990s, with a modern marble altar, altar rails and pulpit. The octagonal stone font has been set under the timber tester of the original tall pulpit.

List description:


Catholic church of 1841 by J Harper of York. In perpendicular style. Ashlar. Aisle- less and rectangular. Elaborate west gable front with battlemented porch and 5-light deeply-recessed window flanked by buttresses. The gable is surmounted by octagonal lantern tower with traceried openings and enriched battlemented parapet, after the manner of St Helen’s, York. 2-light windows to sides. Stained glass at east end possibly original.

Listing NGR: SD8028910553

Heritage Details

Architect: John Harper of York

Original Date: 1841

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II