Building » Eccles – St Mary

Eccles – St Mary

Church Street, Eccles, Manchester M30

Built through the patronage of the de Trafford family to designs by W. H. Rawle, and a building of some presence and architectural character, with a little-altered exterior. An intended tower and spire were never built. The interior has been somewhat damagingly reordered, but the volumes are impressive and the building retains some original furnishings and a good scheme of stained glass by Mayer of Munich. 

Eccles is an ancient settlement with a medieval Anglican parish church. It grew quickly during the nineteenth century as a result of rapid industrialisation and now merges with other settlements west of the centre of Salford. A Catholic school was started in 1849, which transferred to premises on a site belonging to Sir Humphrey de Trafford in 1857. Additions were made in 1871 from which time it acted as a temporary chapel served from Barton.

Sir Humphrey de Trafford donated the land for the present church and presbytery, and £3000 towards the building costs.  The architect, W. H. Rawle, was Manchester-based, where he had been in partnership with Charles Heathcote, one of Manchester’s most accomplished architects, designing a number of commercial buildings in the city centre. His early designs for the church show a tall tower and spire. The builders were Messrs Southern & Son of Salford. The foundation stone was laid on 28 August 1897 by the Bishop and the donor; construction was rapid and the church was opened on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, 1898. The cost was £9000. The marble and stone altar was given by Miss Annette de Trafford, and other members of the family gave the side altars and stained glass (some of which was transferred from the chapel in Trafford Hall).

At the time of post-Vatican II reordering the large marble pulpit was cut down and the columns used to make a font, leaving the top acting as a lectern. The reredos was painted and the altar reduced in size. A new forward altar was introduced and altar rails removed. The side chapels also lost their original altars. The baptistery, at the west end, was converted to a piety stall, keeping the original wrought-iron gates, and a new screened narthex was formed at the west end of the nave. A painted and stencilled scheme shown in early photographs has been lost.


All orientations given are liturgical. The building is constructed of red brick laid in header bond with red sandstone dressings. It consists of nave, aisles and chancel flanked by chapels. The west front has on the north side a tower which was left unfinished. It was to have a top with tall bell openings and a spire, shown in a drawing in the Diocesan Archive.  The entrance is framed by a moulded gable with the IHS monogram in the apex and the words Jesus Mary Joseph beneath. This is surmounted by a frieze of blind arches, and above is a large window of five stepped lancets within a blind arch.  Windows are otherwise generally lancets with cusped heads, grouped in threes with continuous hoodmoulds along the sides to the aisles. There is no clerestory. Buttresses between the bays have tall gabled and traceried stone finials. There is a gabled southwest porch, a low sacristy on the south side, and a chancel with five-light Geometrical style east window.

Inside, an inserted screen forms a narthex beneath a west gallery with an organ. A former baptistery on the north side has wrought-iron gates.  The nave arcades are tall and broad with polygonal piers with moulded caps. A shaft rises up from each pier to terminate with a corbel supporting the wall posts of every other bay of a hammerbeam type roof of pitch pine, with tension rods between the hammer beams.  At the east end a tall, broad chancel arch is flanked by lower arches to chapels. A lectern of coloured marbles is polygonal with a traceried arcade and shafts. It is the top of a pulpit, shown in an archive photograph, of which the base of marble columns was adapted to form the supports for a font which stands on the north side of the sanctuary. The floor is of mosaic with steps up to the high altar position in red marble.  An elaborate Gothic style reredos, now painted white, consists of canopies with crocketed pinnacles and a gabled and traceried arcade with statuary topped by piers supporting angels. Archive photographs suggest that it was originally painted and gilded. The central part of the original altar survives, with columns and a carved roundel showing the Pelican in her Piety, made good on each side by plain marble panels.  The forward altar, which appears to be of late twentieth century date, is of marble with a central panel of gold mosaic.  On each side, the Lady Chapel (north) and Sacred Heart chapel have marble statues which could be of nineteenth century date mounted on marble plinths of late twentieth-century date, replacing ornate altars and reredoses.

The church has a notable scheme of high quality stained glass by Mayer of Munich, including glass in the east window dated 1898. A single window in the Lady Chapel showing English Martyrs was executed by Classical Glass of Bolton in 2008. There is an unusual and attractive tile memorial mounted on the south wall to John Cleary ‘Late Headmaster of this School’ killed at Ypres in 1916.

Other furnishings include blue tiled panels showing mainly biblical scenes, including a Last Supper, attached to the exterior of the sacristy and presbytery. They are of Portuguese origin and one is dated 1938.

The presbytery forms a group with the church. It is also of header bond brick with red sandstone dressings. The former front entrance has been converted to a window. Above it there is a carved sandstone panel with the words ‘St Mary’s Presbytery’. One of the bays has been altered, and various other modifications carried out. The link to the sanctuary is an open walkway with cast-iron columns, the tops of which have Art Nouveau detailing, but the walkway has also been modified, probably in the late twentieth-century, and a brick-built lobby formed to shelter the side door to the presbytery.

Heritage Details

Architect: W.H. Rawle

Original Date: 1878

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed