Building » Fernyhalgh – St Mary

Fernyhalgh – St Mary

Fernyhalgh Lane, Fernyhalgh, Preston PR2 5RR.

An early post-Relief Act church built close to a significant local shrine, richly embellished by Fr Richard Gillow.

This is one of the oldest sites of continuous Catholic devotion in Lancashire. The shrine at Ladyewell was established in the mid-fourteenth century, and the present shrine is in a building, Ladyewell House, which was built in 1686. This is about a quarter of a mile from the church of St Mary, and is now the Diocesan Shrine to Our Lady of Fernyhalgh and the Lancashire Martyrs.

The church was built soon after the Relief Act, in 1795, by Revd Dr Lund. Lund also built the Hermitage, the linked priest’s house. The church was much altered by the Revd Richard Gillow, who took charge in 1823; he also paid for the handsome school building, erected in 1835.

In the southwest corner of the churchyard is the grave of the Revd James Finch, last of the English Carthusian monks (d 1821).


The church is in the simple and unassertive ‘chapel’ style of churches built in the years immediately after the passing of the Second Catholic Relief Act 1791. However, it is larger than others such as Goosnargh and Cottam, with two-bay transept arcades giving it a cruciform plan. In common with other early chapels, it has a west organ gallery, here supported on Doric columns.

The chancel was elaborately and colourfully redecorated with wall paintings under the direction of Fr Gillow in the second quarter of the nineteenth century (not late nineteenth century as stated in list description). Above the altar is an elaborate dome, painted in deep blue, and ornamented with gold stars with a dove at the centre. The altar painting is by Andrew Carter of Preston, brother-in-law of Fr Gillow. The altar, now brought forward, is similarly coloured and embellished. Fr  Gillow also commissioned the Rosary windows, 1854. There is a marble altar rail around the sanctuary. The pews are handsome, with short columnar supports to the bench ends.

The attached presbytery, which is included in the listing, is of similar brick with stone dressings. Unfortunately the windows have been  unsympathetically replaced, but a number of original features survive inside.

The handsome stone school building erected at Fr Gillows expense is located outside the churchyard. It was closed in 1979 and is now a nursery school.

List description


Roman Catholic church with attached presbytery under one roof. 1790s; presbytery altered. Red brick with sandstone plinth and quoins, slate roof with stone gable copings. Single range with presbytery at east end. Church, in vernacular style, is 5 bays, cruciform, with full-height transeptal wings to the 3rd and 4th bays; each bay has one very large round-headed window with simple sandstone archivolt, most have many small panes supported by a light wooden transom and mullions making 3 lights, all the verticals carried up to make intersecting tracery in the head; windows to 1st bay are 2-stage, broken at gallery level, and those to the 5th bay (the sanctuary) are of stained glass protected by outer glazing lacking glazing bars. West gable wall, which is rendered and painted white, and carries a gable bellcote, has a semicircular Tuscan porch to the entrance. At the other end the 2-bay 2-storey presbytery has an added 2-storey canted bay window to the projecting 2nd bay, and a re-set doorway to a C20 lean-to extension. Brick stack in front slope of roof. Interior of church; gallery at west end; round-headed 2-bay transept arcade with painted soffits, flat ceiling divided at the sanctuary by a depressed elliptical arch; reredos of 4 Corinthian pilasters to a blind arcade, the whole decorated with gilded and coloured painting (foliated and geometrical) with large figured roundels and a central lozenge portraying the Virgin (probably later C19).

Listing NGR: SD5544134077

Heritage Details

Architect: Unknown

Original Date: 1795

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II