Haigh Road, Aspull, Wigan WN12
An attractive mid-nineteenth century church in a village setting on the edge of the Lancashire Plain. Its strong and simple Neo-Gothic design gives it a distinctive presence within the Haigh Conservation Area. Although it survives relatively unaltered from its original state, the unfinished sanctuary and its recent re-facing, as well as the demolition of the original presbytery, have reduced its coherence as an architectural ensemble, and the loss of furnishings has affected the quality of the interior.
Although situated within the Diocese of Salford, a mission was founded at Aspull from St Mary’s Wigan in 1854. The community first met in a three storey building at the rear of the Foresters’ Arms. In March 1857 the foundation stone of the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was laid by the Right Rev. Dr. Turner, first Bishop of Salford. ‘The ceremony took place in the presence of about one thousand persons, mostly miners, the ground being cut and prepared by a body of Irish labourers’ (Kelly, 58). The church was opened by Bishop Turner on 25 April 1858. The architect is given as J. Goodwin in The Buildings of England, whereas the parish centenary brochure quotes an account of the opening of the church crediting Thomas Goodman with the design. This is more likely to be correct, and is probably the Thomas Goodman of Southend who was responsible for the church of Our Lady Help of Christians at Westcliffe-on-Sea (1869, Diocese of Brentwood).
In 1861 additional land was acquired for a new school which was erected alongside, and in 1862 a presbytery was built, connected to the church on the north side by a sacristy. The sanctuary, however, was never completed and the church had a temporary east wall until it was remodelled in 1991-96, when a rose window from Peter Paul Pugin’s demolished church of St Edmund, Collyhurst was incorporated in the new gable end.
In the 1970s a new school was built a quarter of a mile away to replace the earlier one, and around the same time the presbytery was demolished and a new house erected on the south side of the church. A rear extension was built to provide a meeting room in 1994.
The church was built in 1857-58, probably from the designs of Thomas Goodman. It is a simple thirteenth century Gothic design, built of coursed rubble stone with a nave, aisles and northwest porch. The west front faces the road and consists of a central doorway with a blank arched head, flanked by buttresses, and surmounted by a circular window with seven quatrefoils. Smaller quatrefoil windows light the clerestory.
The historic photographs also show the unfinished east end before the demolition of the presbytery. The works carried out in the 1990s involved the replacement of the temporary east wall with a permanent wall in coursed rubble, maintaining the small sanctuary with a lower lean-to boiler house. A rose window from P. P. Pugin’s demolished church of St Edmund, Collyhurst, Manchester of 1894 was incorporated in the gable end. The original sacristy that was attached to the presbytery survives.
The interior of the church consists of a four-bay arcaded nave with aisles and a west choir gallery. While the architectural form has been little changed, the furnishings underwent a radical reordering in the 1980s. The carved timber high altar and reredos by F. Stufflesser and Sons of Austria was dismantled and some sections were used for the tabernacle and other altars. The altar rails were removed, and the large crucifix was lost. More recently other items have been brought in, including the presidential chair from Aspull Town Council Chamber, and the font and altar from another church in Manchester. There are a number of new stained glass windows including three commissioned from Linda Walton of Design Lights featuring Our Lady, the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Knock.
Architect: T. Goodman
Original Date: 1858
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed