Building » Haslingden – Our Lady of Immaculate Conception

Haslingden – Our Lady of Immaculate Conception

Bury Road, Haslingden, Rossendale BB4

A small Early English Gothic Revival church built to serve the largely Irish population of the cotton mill town of Haslingden. The design is very similar to that for St Mary, Bacup (qv), and is probably by the same architect. The church is associated with the Irish nationalist Michael Davitt, who lived and worked in Haslingden. The former school buildings to the rear of the church are now used by a flourishing community centre.

The mission was founded in 1854 from Rawtenstall. Mass was initially said in the attic of a three-storey house in the Back High Street, a former weavers shop. The first mission priest was the Rev. Thomas Martin. A site for a church, presbytery and school was acquired in Bury Road on the outskirts of Haslingden for £17 per annum from John Hoyle. Building work started in May 1859. On 22 July 1859 Bishop Turner laid the foundation stone for the new church, which was opened on 13 November 1859. The architect was William Nicholson of Manchester, who also designed the presbytery. (Nicholson probably also designed the similar church of St Mary, Bacup (qv) of 1857.) The contractors were Messrs P. Farrell of Manchester, and the stonemasons Tomlinson Brothers of Haslingden. The contract was for £1,340. Of the projected nave, chancel, Lady Chapel and vestry, only the nave was initially erected, due to economies. The choice of Early English Gothic style represented a further saving, due to the absence of elaborate ornament. The total cost of church and fittings was around £2,000.

The foundation stone for the school was laid on 6 June 1868 by John Yates of Liverpool. The school was opened on 5 August 1869. The building was also designed by William Nicholson. The contractors were Messrs Rothwell & Collinge. The cost of the T-plan building was about £1,000. In 1880-1, the boundary wall was remodelled, an apse and side chapels were added, as well as a sacristy whose cellar contained the heating apparatus and above which was an additional room for the presbytery. The same year, a west gallery was added in the church, to increase the seating accommodation. The extension of the church was blessed on 11 September 1881. The Lord of the Manor supplied stone for these building works at a reduced rate.

In 1883, an additional classroom was built. The following year, an oak pulpit was installed, as well as a new porch to the presbytery. In 1898 a memorial to Fr Dillon (died 1895) was erected, comprising a new marble high altar, marble communion rails, a marble sanctuary floor, and wooden screens to the side chapels. These were blessed on 24 April 1898 by Bishop Bilsborrow.

In 1900, the plot between the church and Piccadilly Street was acquired and a new boundary wall constructed. The ornate gates and gateposts were moved from the west of the church to the corner of Bury Road and Piccadilly Street. The extra piece of land also meant that the school could now have an independent entrance, instead of through the churchyard.

In 1908, a memorial to the Irish nationalist Michael Davitt (1846-1906) was unveiled, which took the form of a marble wall tablet and a new organ by Henry Ainscough of Preston. Davitt had lived in the Haslingden area from 1850 to about 1870. Working at a spinning machine in a cotton mill in Baxenden at the age of eleven, he had lost his right arm.

In 1913-4, four additional classrooms and an assembly hall were built for the infants’ school, as well as one classroom and cloakroom for the mixed school. They were built on an extra piece of adjoining land, costing £200.

On 13 November 1919, a memorial to the First World War was inaugurated, in the form of a wall tablet and the Sacred Heart altar. In the 1920s, new Stations of the Cross were installed and the church redecorated. A proposal to extend the church lengthways was rejected by the local council.

In 1934-5, a new Lady Altar and a marble pulpit were installed and the marble rails were extended across the side chapels. The new altar was blessed in February 1935. In 1941, dry rot on the west gallery required the dismantling of the organ and timber repairs. In the early 1950s, the interior and exterior of the church were repaired and redecorated. On 17 May 1958, the church was consecrated by Bishop Beck.

In 1990, the sanctuary was reordered to create a free-standing altar. The figures formerly on the rood screen were placed on the east wall.

In 1994, the school moved to a new building in Lime Road. Following the school’s closure, the buildings were mainly used by St Mary’s pre-school playgroup. In 2000, Haslingden Community Link opened which had leased the school buildings from the diocese. It provides a range of facilities for childcare, adult education, health, leisure and social care needs. In 2006, an extension opened for a new Children’s Centre. The Community Link & Children’s Centre have been very successful, winning lottery funding to expand its accommodation and extend its services.


The church faces northeast. This description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

The church was built using local rock-faced ashlar. The rectangular nave was built in 1859 (William Nicholson), and the apse and side chapels were added in 1880-1 (architect not established). The pitched roof is covered in slate and has two stone gable crosses, two copper ventilators, and ridge tiles. The apse roof has decorative wrought-iron cresting. The west elevation has a recessed doorway with two colonettes and face corbels to the hoodmould. It is flanked by two lancet windows and angle buttresses. Above are the five-light west window and a niche in the gable with a statue of the Virgin Mary. There are six lancet windows between buttresses to the north elevation. The side chapels each have a roof light and a pair of cusped lancets to the north. The south elevation has two lancets to the west, a roof light and a lancet to the east. The apse has three multifoils.

The interior has six bays, including two gallery bays. The arch braced roof is boarded above the collar beam. The lack of windows to the south (due to the adjoining presbytery) has been remedied to some effect by a roof light. One south lancet was later blocked up and now contains a statue of St Patrick, beside a marble plaque to Michael Davitt. The timber west gallery and narthex screen appears to be post-war in date – the whole may have been replaced after the discovery of dry rot in 1941. The tall chancel arch and the arches to the side chapels have been cut into the original end wall. The chancel arch has a simple hoodmould with foliage corbels. At the northeast is the stone font dated 1881, with an octagonal bowl and circular stem. The former altar frontal (1898) with a relief in marble of the Visitation is mounted on the north wall nearby. The Lady Chapel has a fine veined marble altar and reredos (1934-5) with mosaic and a statue of the Virgin Mary in a canopied niche. The north window has stained glass of Our Lady and St Joseph. The sanctuary has a panelled ceiling with a roof light to the south. The altar has columns and cusped arches from the former high altar (1898). The walls below the three multifoil windows is boarded and painted in imitation of marble. The statues of the Virgin Mary and St John (on corbels) are those from the rood screen, while the crucifix on the east wall is from a different source. The tabernacle is of post-war design, placed on a plain marble stand.

The Sacred Heart chapel has a marble altar and reredos (1919) with a matching marble statue of the Sacred Heart in a canopied niche above the tabernacle. Beside the entrance to the sacristies at the southeast is the memorial plaque (1919) to the First World War, with a smaller marble plaque to the Second World War. Stained glass in the west window depicts Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception with angels, Marian symbols and related titles (from the Song of Songs). The Stations are painted plaster casts in elaborate Renaissance-style frames. The seating in the nave consists of modern chairs. The pipe organ in the gallery is that erected in 1908 (by Henry Ainscough of Preston), in memory of Michael Davitt.

Heritage Details

Architect: William Nicholson of Manchester

Original Date: 1859

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed