Building » Leigh – Twelve Apostles

Leigh – Twelve Apostles

Nel Pan Lane, Leigh

Inter-war brick church with simple Gothic detailing and plain exterior. Attractive interior with some original fittings; the re-ordering 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 19th century due to the influx of people to work in coal mining 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. The mission was established as a parish with its own priest around 1885; the presbytery dates from this time. The old church was replaced by the present building in 1929; the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Dobson in 1927. The school was moved to a new site in the 1970s; its original site is now occupied by a residential home.  Since 1995, the two West Leigh churches of Twelve Apostles and Our Lady of the Rosary (qv) have shared a priest.

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 4-light pointed window, flanked by gabled entrance porches with pointed doorways.  The 6-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 6-bay nave roof has exposed collar trusses and a plastered soffit. The sanctuary has been re-ordered with an altar platform and all the liturgical furnishings are of late 20th century date. A photograph in the building shows the church before the re-ordering, 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 whose whereabouts is not known.

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 RC churches in the region, including some in the more fashionable Romanesque style such as All Souls and St John Vianney, Manchester, 1932.

Heritage Details

Architect: William Ellis

Original Date: 1929

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed