Building » Leigh – Twelve Apostles

Leigh – Twelve Apostles

Nel Pan Lane, Leigh

An interwar brick church with simple Gothic detailing and plain exterior. Attractive interior with some original fittings; reordering has altered the east end. Although relatively plain, the church does have some architectural and historic merit and contributes to the street scene.

The population of West Leigh grew rapidly during the late nineteenth century, with the influx of people to work in coalmining and the cotton mills; many were Irish Catholics. In 1878 Fr James Fanning SJ bought land in West Leigh for the diocese. Soon after this Fr Kavanagh was appointed to establish two new missions; the first to open was the school at Twelve Apostles, opened in 1879 by Bishop O’Reilly. The school was used for Mass at the weekend until a new corrugated iron church could be built in the 1880s. A resident priest was appointed around 1885; the presbytery dates from this time.

The foundation stone for the present building was laid by Bishop Dobson in 1927 and the church opened in 1929. The building has some similarities in scale, style and date with Holy Family, Boothstown and St Richard’s, Atherton, although by a different architect. William Ellis, a Manchester architect, designed other Catholic churches in the region, including some in the more fashionable Romanesque style such as All Souls and St John Vianney, Manchester, 1932.

The school was moved to a new site in the 1970s; its original site is now occupied by a residential home.


The compact church is faced in a drag-wire red brick, laid in English garden wall bond, with Welsh slate gabled roof. The gabled west front has a large four-light pointed window, flanked by gabled entrance porches with pointed doorways.  The six-bay nave has pairs of plain lancet windows with obscure leaded glass. The short sanctuary, under a hipped roof, has a rose window. A southeast entrance is linked to the parish house by a timber framed and glazed covered corridor, apparently dating from the early 1900s.

Internally, the church has a small west timber gallery. The six-bay nave roof has exposed collar trusses and a plastered soffit. The sanctuary has been reordered with an altar platform and all the liturgical furnishings are of late twentieth century date. A photograph in the building shows the church before the reordering, with traceried reredos, communion rail with quatrefoils and high altar, all now removed. Niches flanking the sanctuary no longer contain statues. The nave seating is pine benches and there are pine panelled doors. The carved pine Stations of the Cross are from Sacred Heart, Hindsford, reputedly replacing oil paintings.

Entry amended by AHP 9.1.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: William Ellis

Original Date: 1929

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed