Building » Clayton-le-Moors – St Mary

Clayton-le-Moors – St Mary

Devonshire Drive, Clayton-le-Moors, Lancs BB5

A post-war church built to replace a small chapel of 1819, which itself was the successor to a chapel in Dunkenhalgh House. Only the graveyard remains on the site of the old chapel. The historic holy water stoups were given to the church in 1997. The current church with its bell tower has strong townscape value. 

A chapel at Dunkenhalgh House (built c.1600 by Judge Thomas Walmsley) is first recorded in 1701 as served by a Jesuit priest but may have been in existence long before then. Dunkenhalgh was later the seat of the Petre family. Services at the house continued until c.1816, when part of Dunkenhalgh was rebuilt and it was decided to build a separate chapel.  Between 1816 and 1819, when the chapel was completed, Mass was said by Jesuits from Stonyhurst at Sparth House. St Mary’s, Enfield, as the chapel became known, was built on land given by R. G. Lomax of Clayton Hall. It was opened on 11 July 1819. The first mission priest was Fr Charles Brooke SJ. The site comprised the chapel, an attached presbytery and a school, as well as a graveyard. Inside, a painting over the altar was reputed to be by one of the Carracci or Domenichino. The high altar was framed by two fluted Ionic columns. There was a font of black and white marble, and marble tablets with the arms of the Petre and Lomax families. The Petre family had a family vault in the church, over which knelt two figures representing Prayer and Resignation.

In 1873, care of the mission was transferred to the diocese. The chapel was consecrated on 23 June 1948. By the mid-twentieth century, the chapel was apparently in poor condition. It was decided to build a new church in a more central location. The old church, house and school were demolished in 1959 but the graveyard was retained.

The foundation stone for the new church was laid by Bishop Beck on 12 July 1958. He returned to bless the completed church on 29 September 1959. The architect was Richard Byrom of Bury, and the contractors were Messrs James Greenwood Ltd, Bury. The church was consecrated on 23 June 1998, fifty years after the old chapel was consecrated.


The church is in a modern Italian Romanesque style. It was built using red brick in stretcher bond, with a slate roof and tiled window heads. Cills, string courses and door architraves are of concrete or reconstituted stone. The plan is rectangular, with a northwest tower. The church has a ‘plinth’ of two (to the north) and three (to the south) projecting courses of stretchers.

The west elevation consists of the projecting gabled west end of the nave, flanked by the west terminations of the aisles under cross roofs, and the tower. The central portion has a round-headed west window and entrance under a recessed giant round-headed arch. Above smaller round-headed windows at ground-floor level are tall thin crosses in brick. There is a plain west gable cross. The west elevations of the aisles have pairs of round-headed windows below with a longer round-headed window above. The north cross-roof abuts the tower while that to the south terminates in a gabled elevation similar to that to the west, only with three windows to the ground floor. The tower has four stages: at ground floor is another entrance to the north, and a window above the foundation stone to the west. The two middle stages have single round-headed windows to the west and east, and slit windows to the north. The top stage has three straight-headed louvred openings to west, east and south. The pyramidal tower roof is topped by a metal cross in a circle.

The western narthex is a functional space with a low ceiling and concrete lintels. At the southwest is the former baptistery, now used as a children’s chapel, with the metal gates still in place. There are four oblong windows to the nave with leaded glass. Inside the nave are two free-standing holy water stoups, brought here in 1997: one of 1774 used in Dunkenhalgh House and the Enfield chapel, the other a replica of 1819, made for the Enfield chapel (figure 4). Both have square stone bowls with canted corners on modern stone pedestals. They are carved with the IHS monogram, a cross, an angel’s head and a crucifix on the main face.

The roof of the seven-bay nave is panelled above the tie beam, with two decorative bands with small golden crosses. The nave windows are framed by a tall arcade of bare brick with plain capitals. There is an oblong opening to the organ gallery with round-headed openings at a slightly lower level on either side, both with iron grilles. Over the door from the nave into the narthex is a statue of St Teresa.

The tile voussoirs of the chancel arch are now painted but were originally unpainted. A crucifix is suspended in front of the arch, and statues of the Sacred Heart and The Virgin Mary are set against the wall on either side with arched timber back panels. In front of the sanctuary steps are the remains of much shortened marble altar rails. At the northeast are the circular marble font and a statue of St Antony, with a statue of St Joseph at the southeast. The sanctuary is narrower than the nave and is lit by three round-headed windows to the north and south. The walls are timber panelled up to the height of the tabernacle niche. The pulpit and the lectern are of timber, and the altar and tabernacle of white marble, both of a tapering design. Above the domed brass tabernacle in a round-headed niche hangs a copy of the painting of the Presentation which used to hang over the altar in the Enfield chapel. This copy, painted by John MacKay of London, was presented to the church in 1998 to commemorate the 300th
anniversary of the birth in 1698 of Catherine Walmsley, Lady Petre. The original is variously attributed to one of the Carracci or Domenichino; its present location is unknown. Above hangs a timber baldacchino painted blue with the IHS monogram in the centre.

The carved Stations of the Cross are unframed. The west window has a cross in coloured glass. It commemorates a parishioner who died in 1952 and was transferred from the old chapel. The nave windows have small stained glass panels with ecclesiastical symbols. There is a marble war memorial tablet on the north side of the nave.

Heritage Details

Architect: Richard Byrom

Original Date: 1959

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed