Building » Chorley – St Mary

Chorley – St Mary

Mount Pleasant, Chorley PR7

St Mary’s is a highly visible building which forms a landmark. Despite the  history  of  piecemeal  building it  forms  a  coherent  whole  and  the interior in particular is a rich and satisfying architectural composition incorporating fixtures and fittings of quality.

St Mary’s is a daughter church of St Gregory Weld Bank (q.v.) from which an independent mission to the town centre was established in 1847. The Mount Pleasant site  was  acquired  in  1851  from  the  Catholic  Harrison  family.  Joseph  Hansom designed a building which initially doubled as a school. It was of three storeys and lacked narthex and transepts.  The school moved  to  alternative premises  and  the building was converted for worship. In 1872 the east end was demolished and rebuilt and transepts added by an unknown architect. Renovations were required following a fire in the sanctuary in 1888. The erection of the tower by Pugin & Pugin followed in

1894 at a cost of £2,566. The high altar and reredos were supplied by the same firm at the same time. In 1897 the transepts were enlarged, confessionals replaced and aisles rebuilt. The gallery was altered, roofs replaced and chapel altars introduced.   The architect of these works has not been identified, but in all probability it was Pugin & Pugin. It is doubtful if any significant element  of Hansom’s work survived these alterations.

In 1910 the entrance archway was built by Pugin & Pugin from a design by A.W.N. Pugin.   In 1927 the narthex and baptistery were built by the same firm.   A new presbytery was built in 1985-6.   A reordering took place in 1990 and a new west entrance to the narthex was completed in 1997.

As a consequence of the complex building history it is difficult to unravel all the phases of the building with certainty, and further research might elucidate the story. However, the present appearance of the building seems to be largely owed to a rebuilding which followed the erection of the tower and spire. This work was almost certainly undertaken by the same firm, Pugin & Pugin. In addition to the listed building description the following can be noted.

The interior is a very striking and complex space. The narthex and former baptistery of 1927 forms a prelude, and leads into a secondary narthex formed by a pitch-pine screen extending down from the gallery. The relationship between the top-lit aisles and transepts, the result of expansion on a limited site, is particularly unusual and effective. The arcades are said to be formed from the previous window openings, and the  spaces  are  divided from  the  transepts  by  large  double  columns  giving  views through to the east end. Here the soaring proportions and rich decoration of the sanctuary are most effective, the chancel arch framed by two lesser arches to single bay chapels, each with an ornate altar by Pugin & Pugin, executed by Boulton of Cheltenham (incorporating later alterations). The high altar and reredos is very elaborate and ornate work typical of the firm. A forward altar has been provided and the altar rails removed as part of the 1990s reordering.  The north transept has large windows with good stained glass, the upper window by Hardman was installed in 1947. The lower windows are a fine group showing the Lancashire martyrs, installed in 1926. The south transept has confessionals and a link with the presbytery.

Heritage Details


Original Date: 1853

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II