Building » Horwich – St Mary

Horwich – St Mary

Chorley New Road, Horwich BL6

An imposing design of 1905-6, built for this burgeoning railway town by architects Randolph & Holt. The church is set back from the road, with the presbytery, which is a part of the original design, largely concealing the sanctuary. The north transept, also partly hidden, is marked by a bellcote on the gable end, and the grouping of elements gives it a picturesque appeal. The overall composition is in the manner of E. W. Pugin and his pupil Edmund Kirby, but has a general awkwardness of proportion and flatness of surface. Many of the furnishings are original to the church, although the elaborate altars and reredos by Ferdinand Stuflesser date from the mid-1930s.

A mission was established at Horwich in 1884 from Sacred Heart Westhoughton. Before this the Catholics of Horwich village attended Mass at Anderton Hall, where the squire was on friendly terms with Bishop Vaughan. A church/school, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, opened in 1886 at a cost of £1,511, 5s 7d.

Horwich expanded rapidly after the London & Midland Railway Company developed a Locomotive Works in 1884-7, effectively creating a railway town, and a second school, dedicated to the Holy Family, was opened in 1895 on land leased from the company. The original church soon became too small, and in 1905-6 the present church and presbytery were constructed to the design of Randolph & Holt of Manchester. They were opened on 7 May 1906 by Dr Louis Casartelli, Bishop of Salford.

With the construction of the M61, Horwich was opened up to further development, and in 1972, St Anthony’s chapel was built alongside St Joseph’s High School to serve the Catholics of the eastern part of Horwich. The chapel was designed by Desmond Williams & Associates on an interesting diamond-shaped plan with a mono-pitched roof and tall sanctuary. It closed in 2011 and was handed over to the school, which renamed it the St Anthony’s Centre, retaining the sanctuary for worship but converting the remainder for school and community use.

In 1996, the two primary schools were amalgamated; then in 2002 moved to a new building on Victoria Road to became St Mary’s School. The old school of Our Lady of the Rosary was partly demolished, with the retention of the ‘Rosary Room’ as a parish facility.


The church was built in 1905-6 to the design of Randolph & Holt, and seated 650. It is set back from Chorley New Road with the presbytery largely concealing the sanctuary and north transept. It has a cruciform plan with lower side aisles, and what can be seen of the north transept is marked by a bellcote on the end gable. The building is faced in coursed rock-faced sandstone with ashlar dressings and is in the Early English style with steep roofs and pairs of lancets with plate tracery. The entrance is through the southwest porch.

The interior has a three-bay nave with the transepts set back behind tall pairs of narrow arches. These and the nave arcades rest on octagonal stone piers. The timber wagon roof of the nave is ribbed and coffered. The pulpit, which has been cut down and moved onto the sanctuary dais, is by Charles Beyaert, the Stations of the Cross by de Beule, and the rood screen from the Della Robbia Pottery and Marble Company. The font from Brady Brothers has been moved to the edge of the dais, but the altar rails have been lost.  The reredos has high relief carvings of the Annunciation and the Nativity, and the high altar, which has been moved forward, depicts the Last Supper. These and the Lady Chapel altar are carved by Ferdinand Stuflesser of Ortisei in northern Italy, and date from the mid-1930s. At the west end is a choir gallery, which has been screened off below to form a narthex. On the gallery is an organ brought from an Anglican church in Haslingden. The sacristies wrap around the east end of the church.

The large presbytery was built at the same time as the church, and is an integral element of the overall design. It is of two storeys, with a symmetrical elevation to New Chorley Road and a cartouche within the central gable prominently displaying the date of construction. The spacious interior is well preserved with marble fireplaces, original doors and a pine staircase with carved newels and balusters.

Heritage Details

Architect: Randolph & Holt

Original Date: 1906

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed