Ashton Old Road, Higher Openshaw, Manchester M11 1GR
A striking church of some quality, and a local landmark. The west end is a simpler version of that of E. W. Pugin’s St Francis Gorton, possibly reflecting both churches’ common Franciscan history. The interior has been altered at various times, but retains much of its original character.
Openshaw was an isolated settlement until the advent of industry in the nineteenth century, after which time it underwent swift expansion. A Sunday school was opened in 1846 and a mission was established three years later, served by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate until 1856. The Franciscans served the mission from Gorton after 1861. The work of raising money and building the church, schools and presbytery was begun by Fr Richard Power in 1874 and the building of the church was started ten years later. The architect was Edward Simpson of Bradford, who designed other Catholic churches in the diocese and elsewhere. The church was originally part of a group with a school behind and presbytery attached to the north side, but these buildings were demolished, probably in the later twentieth century. The present presbytery is the former head teacher’s house. The sanctuary was reordered probably in the late 1960s or 1970s when the high altar was removed and a forward altar substituted. A parish hall was built in 1997.
All orientations given are liturgical. The church is built of red brick laid in header bond with some moulded brick and stone dressings, most of which are painted. It consists of a nave and a chancel flanked by chapels, with a projecting single-storey west narthex. A low late twentieth century office and toilet block is attached to the north east side. The architectural form of the west end owes a debt, in simplified form, to that of St Francis Gorton (E.W. Pugin 1866-72, now in secular use), possibly as a reflection of the role played by the Gorton Franciscans in serving the mission at Openshaw. Two buttresses rise through a projecting narthex to frame paired windows. Above, the gable extends upwards with a Crucifix sculpture surmounted by an open gabled bell cote. There are plain lancets along each side of the nave, and windows with Decorated style tracery to the chancel and chancel chapels. On the north side of the nave blocked openings relate to a former presbytery, demolished in the twentieth century. An inserted stone is carved with the date 1889.
Inside, there is a west gallery and open timber scissor-braced roof, the underside and top of which was panelled in during the later twentieth century. At the east end there are two-bay arcades to the chapels. There is a forward altar and ambo of late twentieth century date and a large carved reredos which was given to the church in the later twentieth century but may have earlier origins. Stations of the Cross introduced in 2008 came from a demolished church outside the diocese. A memorial on the north wall of the nave takes the form of a bas-relief portrait medallion in a green marble surround with relief lettering on a gold ground. It commemorates the Rev. R. A. Power, rector 1872-1900, ‘Who built this Church Presby & School’.
Architect: Edward Simpson
Original Date: 1888
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed