Plodder Lane, Farnworth, Bolton BL4
A distinctive church with a tall tower and an unusual plan form, set in a twentieth century residential district. It has a calm and friendly interior, with interesting features including the window walls of lozenge-shaped coloured glass panes that flank the sanctuary and the original timber furnishings. The building is one of the more progressive designs of the prolific mid twentieth-century church architects Greenhalgh and Williams, who were based in Bolton.
A new parish was formed in 1931, centred on the Highfield District, a large post-war housing estate northwest of Farnsworth town centre. A temporary church and hall were erected, and just three weeks after building work started, the first Mass was said. The cost of the temporary church was £653.19.3½d. Fr. T Butler was the first parish priest.
In 1953 the appointment was made of Fr. J Melvin, who made plans for the new church. This was designed by local architects Greenhalgh & Williams (job architect Geoffrey Williams), and was constructed in 1956-57. The parish centre was built in 1964. In 2003 the parish was joined with that of St Gregory the Great, Farnworth.
The church has what is accurately described by Richard Pollard (The Buildings of England) as a coffin-shaped plan, with a tower linked to the feet end. The head end is the sanctuary, where the splayed flanking window walls are filled with lozenge-shaped panes of red, blue and clear glass. The ‘coffin lid’ is a pitched slate-covered roof, which slopes down to a point at each side. It is constructed of load-bearing brown brick with a steel roof, and is founded on a reinforced concrete raft to counter the possibility of subsidence from mine shafts below.
The former baptistery leads off the narthex, and has been converted to a repository. The tower is also slightly splayed on plan, and contains a staircase leading to a bridge that gives access to the choir gallery at the west end of the nave. The nave ceiling is shallow-pitched, and slopes in two directions, giving the interior a tent-like appearance. Natural light comes from five tall windows in the north wall, and the lozenge-shaped glazed panels focus attention on the high altar. Five square stained glass high level windows in the south wall date from 2000 and commemorate the Millennium.
The original furnishings, constructed in mahogany and other hardwoods, are of considerable quality. These include the high altar, which has the inscription ‘Altare Privilegiatum in Perpetuam’, and its canopy with a crucifix suspended below; the sanctuary chairs and side tables; the pews; and the glazed entrance doors with a full height carved door pull in an Arts and Crafts manner.
Architect: Greenhalgh & Williams
Original Date: 1957
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed