Building » Eccles – Holy Cross

Eccles – Holy Cross

Liverpool Road, Patricroft, Eccles, Manchester M30

An early 1960s church with interesting original glass, carvings and mural painting. The church is of striking appearance, forming a local landmark. Although the building design is conventional in some respects, the building and its artworks represent a worthwhile ensemble of strong local interest.

The Catholic community in the area worshipped at All Saints, Barton (qv) for many years, but the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Swing Bridge in 1894 made All Saints more difficult of access. For this reason, and because of the increase in population, a mission was established in Patricroft and a church built as a chapel-of-ease to Barton. The mission became independent in 1917, when it came under the title of St Gilbert of Winton, led by Fr George Callaway.

Part of the original building was retained for general purposes when the present building and attached presbytery was built in 1959-61 from designs by A. F. Ratcliff of Walter Stirrup & Son. The church was opened on 9 March 1961 by Archbishop Beck. It is notable for the number and quality of its newly-commissioned artworks, described below and illustrated in figure 1. The old church was retained as a youth club and for use by the church operatic society.

The church was consecrated on 31 August 1986 by Bishop Geoffrey Burke.  There was a sanctuary reordering  to mark the occasion, when the high altar was moved and a new altar, tabernacle plinth and twin lecterns were installed, the gift of the Myladoor family.  At the same time relics of St Oliver Plunkett and St Paul of the Cross were sealed within the altar. The font was moved from the baptistery and the space turned into a piety stall in the late 1990s.  A new church hall was built to the rear of the church in 1990-1, and opened on the 21 April 1991 by Bishop Patrick Kelly.  

All orientations given are liturgical. The church consists of a reinforced concrete frame clad in brick with stone dressings, with Westmorland slate cladding beneath the entrance canopy.  The main entrance is on the west side. There is a Crucifixion in the wall above the entrance carved in low relief by E. Peskitt.  A covered porch, where there is a Pietà statue on a brick plinth, leads to a side entrance.  The south side has tall windows, the frieze above with relief carvings of sacramental symbols by E. Blackwell, who also did the relief of the Last Supper in the sanctuary frieze. An attached square-plan bell tower marks the junction between nave and sanctuary. It has an openwork top with a prominent cross. Beside it are full-height panels of dalle-de-verre glazing to the sanctuary. The east end is windowless, and the presbytery is attached at the northeast corner. The north side has a low, narrow aisle of painted concrete and small clerestory lights above.

The interior is tall, with the columns of the aisle clad in black mosaic. The upper wall on this side is finished in dull purple brick and fitted with relief carvings of the Stations of the Cross by E. Blackwell. The upper part of the west wall is painted black with a very large mural of the Risen Christ with saints painted in white by A. Henderson.  This adopts post-war style something in the manner of Henry Moore or John Piper. The dalle-de-verre glazing in abstract designs is by Whitefriars. All these elements are original to the church and described in the Souvenir of the Opening reproduced in the church guide book. Original furnishings were designed by architects. The bench seating and some other furnishings seem to be theirs, but the altar, pulpit and font are of green and white marble and date from 1986. The floor slopes gently from west to east. There is a former baptistery on the north side, where there is stained glass showing the Baptism of Christ, possibly by Lightfoot.  Beside it the Lady Chapel has abstract stained glass perhaps by the same firm and similar to glass by Lightfoot elsewhere in the diocese, for example  in the Immaculate Conception, Failsworth. A shrine against the south wall has a canopy over it enclosing stained glass with a design of the moon and stars. 

Heritage Details

Architect:

Original Date: 1961

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed