Building » Chorley – St Mary

Chorley – St Mary

Mount Pleasant, Chorley PR7

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St Mary’s is a highly visible building which forms a local 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 (qv), 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 that 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 list description, which is below, 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.

List description


Church, 1853-4, by Joseph A. Hansom, with north-east tower 1894 by Pugin and Pugin, apparently enlarged in early C20. Sandstone, with slate roof. Nave (now embraced by flat-roofed aisles and long pitched-roof porch at west end) with transepts and 3-sided apse. Most windows of nave and transepts are of 2 cusped lights with a quatrefoil in the head, but west window is 3 lights with elongated trefoil tracery, and north transept has a large 5-light window with unusual slim Perpendicular tracery containing elongated trefoils; apse has 3 groups of 3 small cusped lancets. Four-stage tower attached in north-east angle has angle buttresses, diagonal stair turret at north east corner which is polygonal in the upper half and topped by a large pinnacle; in east side at 2nd level is an ornate niche with traceried canopy continued as a demi-spire in the wall above; belfry has 3-light openings with Perpendicular tracery; traceried parapet, pinnacles. Interior nave has broad piers and depressed arches giving onto aisles, no transept or chancel arch, but side chapels flanking sanctuary have moulded 2-centred arches opening into transepts and sanctuary; nave has ribbed wagon roof supported by hammerbeams and struts, sanctuary roof has cusped braces and ribs.

Listing NGR: SD5823617513

Heritage Details

Architect: J. A. Hansom; Pugin & Pugin

Original Date: 1853

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II