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 A.W.N. 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 (3,000 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. A.W.N. Pugin was appointed to design a new church, his only church in the Fylde. It was said to have had 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 church was significantly altered by Fr Francis John Gillow, parish priest from 1895-1927. 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.

The cemetery was extended over the road in 1880, and the old chapel demolished c1883. In 1992 the old presbytery was demolished and replaced by the present building, in Voyseyesque arts and crafts style, by Francis Roberts.


Please refer to the list description, below. Additional points:

Pugin’s rood screen, relocated to the West end c1900, is no longer painted brown but a more sympathetic stone colour. The outer arches are timber, and added at the time of relocation. 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.

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

Entry amended by AHP 18.12.2020

List descriptions



Roman Catholic Church 1845 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Dressed sandstone with ashlar dressings, slate roofs with coped gables surmounted by crosses. Nave with clerestory and aisles, chancel with aisles but unaisled sanctuary. Single storey south porch. West tower and spire. Vestry block to north east. The five clerestory windows are pointed quatrefoils under pointed hoodmoulds; aisle windows of 2 lights, mostly with ogee heads under a segmental pointed head, but to west of south porch (which is in the second bay) baptistry window has 3 lights with trefoiled subarches under a pointed trefoil; similar windows under hoodmoulds at east end of chancel aisles. East window in sanctuary has a hoodmould and three lights with pointed trefoil heads surmounted by a pyramid of three pointed trefoils. Fairly plain tower with angle buttresses and a splayed stair turret at SE corner; a 2-light window above the richly moulded west door, then a small ringers’ chamber window below a deep offset; above this on each face is a 2-light belfry-window with reticulated tracery set beneath a continuous hoodmould which runs around the tower. The broach spire has 3 tiers of lucarnes on alternate faces and a sort of coronet of blind lucarnes near the top; it rises to 110 feet. Interior: 5-bay nave with double-chamfered two-centred arches on round piers with tall plinths. (The floor was lowered c.1900). Clerestory and aisle windows have rear arches with segmental pointed heads. Open roof of slender scant:ling: tall wall posts braced to tie beams which carry crown posts braced to collars and collar purlins. Aisles have lean-to roofs. Segmental pointed chancel arch with continuous chamfer. Chancel, which has a wagon roof, is open to side chapels through double chamfered arches. It has a triple sedilia with cusped arches under a square hoodmould. Of the fittings only the Crucifixion, which hangs above the chancel arch, and the former rood screen (now at the west end) were designed by Pugin. The screen (made of Caen stone but painted brown) has a wider central cusped and crocketed ogee arch flanked originally by two (since c.1900, by three) similar but narrower arches on each side with a plain dado and a coved bressumer enriched with little angels and fleurons.

Listing NGR: SD4174132035

Wall and gateway


Churchyard wall and entrance gateway, 1845 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Dressed sandstone. Wall runs along Ribby Road and has copings with a profile like that of a mansard roof. Gateway is surmounted by a stepped coping with a similar profile and has a segmental pointed chamfered arch carried on chamfered jambs which are buttressed behind.

Listing NGR: SD4174531999

Heritage Details

Architect: A.W.N. Pugin

Original Date: 1845

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II