Building » Kirkham – St John the Evangelist

Kirkham – St John the Evangelist

The Willows, Ribby Lane, Kirkham PR4 2BE.

The church is a local landmark, designed by AWN Pugin, leading architect and advocate of the Gothic Revival in England. Significant embellishments instigated by Fr Francis Gillow.

The first chapel at Kirkham was built in 1809 by Fr William Irving. Irving was the last priest at nearby Mowbreck Hall, home of the Westbys, a significant family in the history of recusancy in the Fylde. The house is now demolished. Dedicated to the Holy Cross, the chapel became known as The Willows on account of the trees that grew around it, and the name survives to this day with the present church.   A presbytery was built alongside it at the same time, and this survived until its replacement by the present building in 1992.

In the 1840s Kirkham was the largest town in the Fylde. The railway arrived in 1840, and the population (3000 in 1841) was later further boosted by Irish immigrants escaping the famine and coming to work in the flax mill and later the cotton mills. AWN Pugin was appointed to design a new church, his only church in the Fylde. It was said to be have the first peal of bells to ring out from a Catholic church since the Reformation. The new church was consecrated by Bishop Brown of Liverpool on April 22 1845.

The old chapel was demolished c1883.

The cemetery was extended over the road in 1880.

In 1992 the old presbytery was demolished and replaced by the present building.

The list description states that the rood screen and the (now hanging) rood figures are the only Pugin fittings. However Singleton states that a few Pugin items such as a credence table, prie-dieu and candlesticks are still in use. The gilt house- shrine/reliquary in the Lady chapel and the font also may be by Pugin.

The church was significantly altered by Fr Francis John Gillow, parish priest from1895-1927. Francis Gillow was the youngest son of Richard Gillow of Leighton Hall.  He had the floor of the church lowered by about two feet, and the entrance steps at the west door removed. He moved the rood screen to the back of the church, and altered, extended and refurnished the sacristy. About 1906 he installed the present pulpit, altar rails and high altar in Carrara marble. The old high altar was placed in the Sacred Heart chapel and he added a reredos, tabernacle and statue to the Lady altar. New benches and Stations were also provided, leaving the church much as it appears today.

A holy water stoup from the old chapel is set into the wall of the sacristy.

The contemporary boundary wall is built in the same Longridge stone as the church, similarly the entrance gateway.

The new (1992) presbytery is an attractive arts and crafts/Voysey design by Francis Roberts.

Heritage Details

Architect: AWN Pugin

Original Date: 1845

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II