Benson Lane, Catforth, Preston PR4 OHY
Designed by a Catholic architect of some standing. Its chief interest lies in its polychrome decoration, stained glass windows and its evocation of the Catholic martyrs.
A school was built in 1872 to serve the surrounding farming district. The church was added four years later to the designs of James O’Byrne of Liverpool. It contains a collection of relics from penal times, including vestments missals and a skull traditionally said to belong to a martyred priest named Philip Holden but perhaps more likely that of Bl. Miles Gerard (Bamber).
The church is in a simple lancet gothic style, in red brick with stone dressings, buttresses, slate roof, west porch. Like the same architect’s St Joseph’s Preston (grade II) an unprepossessing exterior conceals a surprisingly rich interior.
Internally it is a single vessel under an oak roof with arched braces and collars. The sanctuary area is elaborately stencilled. This and the oak sanctuary fittings and pulpit are c1930.
The church is something of a shrine to the Catholic martyrs of England. In addition to the above-mentioned relics, each of the lancet windows has stained glass of the early C20 depicting English martyrs: on the north side St Alban, St Thomas Becket, St John Fisher, St Thomas More (for these two the lettering changed from ‘Bl’. to ‘St.’, so the windows predate their canonisation in 1935). On the south side Lancashire martyrs are commemorated: Bl. George Haydock of Cottam, Bl. George Beesley of Goosnargh, Bl Richard Hirst of Broughton (see photo bottom right), Bl. Edward Bamber of Poulton le Fylde and Bl William Harcourt of Kirkham. There are also texts on the west wall listing the Lancashire martyrs.
The pews are plain, possibly original, but not of special interest.
There is a forward altar, made from re-used timber from the former altar rails.
Architect: James O’Byrne
Original Date: 1876
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed