Building » Clayton – St Willibrord

Clayton – St Willibrord

North Road, Clayton, Manchester M11 4WQ

A fine church of unusual design which exhibits strong character in the external massing and internal volumes. The interior incorporates extensive mosaic work by the Ludwig Oppenheimer firm.

Clayton was a small settlement around the moated medieval Clayton Hall. The area became built up during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and is now part of the Manchester suburbs. The mission was established in 1906 and the choice of St Willibrord, the first bishop of Utrecht, as patron was made by the Dutch priest, Fr Sassen, who had acquired land for the church in 1905. The present church was built in 1937-8. Its design is attributed in the list entry and in The Buildings of England to Reynolds & Scott, but that partnership did not in fact begin until 1946. The church is similar in date and architectural character to St Dunstan, Moston (qv), a documented work by Norris & Reynolds, who were in partnership from the mid-1930s until 1946. St Willibrord can therefore safely be attributed to Norris & Reynolds.  

Archive photographs in Manchester Central Library image collection include one showing the apse in 1968, before reordering. Since that time the altar rails have partly removed and the original altar moved forward. The west end of the church was divided off by a screen to form a social and meeting area in circa 2006. 

All orientations given are liturgical. For a description, see the list entry below. St Willibrord is similar in many ways to St Dunstan, Moston (qv), which was designed by Reynolds & Norris. The attribution to Reynolds & Scott in the list entry for St Willibrord is considered to be incorrect.

Both churches are of brick adopting Byzantine style with complex domed interiors, and both have mosaic schemes by the firm of Ludwig Oppenheimer, which also undertook mosaic work for St Patrick, Collyhurst (qv). Nikolaus Pevsner suggests that the churches may have been inspired by an Anglican church in nearby Gorton, Our Lady with St Thomas of Canterbury which was built to the designs of Walter Tapper in 1927. That church is also domed and similar in plan, but was never completed.  Like St Dunstan, St Willibrord is notable for the power of the external massing and the impressive character of its internal volumes. Mosaic includes work in the apse with a dove, similar to the scheme at St Dunstan, panels over the northeast and southeast chapels, and other work.  A narthex incorporates a sunken baptistery at the north end, now disused. There is coloured textured glass in yellow shades in many of the windows, the panels arranged in the form of a cross in the larger openings. Fixtures and fittings include an original altar with elaborate mosaic front and Stations of the Cross in mosaic panels. Part of the west end has been screened off to form a meeting area. The screen is of high quality and the glazing has been chosen to harmonise with existing glazing in the church. The architects responsible for the work were Bate & Taylor.

Heritage Details

Architect:

Original Date: 1938

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II