Chester Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
For some years the pro-cathedral of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, St Alban’s is an important early work by A. W. N. Pugin. The lofty, well-lit interior retains many nineteenth century fittings and features, notably the rood screen designed by Pugin (his first), and reordering has not harmed the qualities of the interior. Although the church tower was not completed, the building is a landmark on the west side of Macclesfield.
Catholicism was kept alive in the Macclesfield area by the patronage of the Davenport and Belasyne families of Sutton Hall; the chapel was used until 1716. Later in the century, Catholics were served by priests from the Manchester and Stockport missions who said Mass in various locations, including rooms at the Castle on Backwallgate. In 1811 a chapel dedicated to St Michael was built on Chester Road, and a presbytery built adjacent in 1812 but as the Catholic community grew with the influx of mill workers, a larger church was needed. The project was the initiative of Fr (Dr) John Hall, the town’s first resident priest, and a site opposite St Michael’s was bought for £600 in 1835. Initial discussions were held with the architect M. E. Hadfield, before A. W. Pugin was recommended by the Earl of Shrewsbury, who provided substantial funds. The plans were produced in 1838 and William Smith appointed as contractor in 1839. The church was opened on 25 May 1841, but the tower was not built to its intended height and the top stage was omitted. St Michael’s chapel became the school. For some years, St Alban’s was the pro-cathedral of the diocese. Consecration took place in 1931. The church was reordered in 1982, under the direction of Richard O’Mahony. A forward altar was introduced in front of the rood screen, and the original sanctuary retained as the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
The presbytery is also by Pugin, and dates from c1850.
The list description (below) records the main features of the church, but few fittings are noted. In addition it is known that the reredos and pulpit were designed by E. W. Pugin and made by Richard Hassell of Macclesfield, who also supplied statues for the tower, the porch and the ends of the aisles. The stained glass in the east window is probably by William Wailes, a gift of the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Lady Chapel south window is by Hardman, designed by A. W. Pugin. The rood screen is significant as the first to have been designed by A. W. Pugin and incorporates fifteenth century German or Flemish figures, imported from Louvain. The pipe organ was installed in 1888, relocated from the Anglican parish church and first built in 1803; it was rebuilt in 1924. The Sacred Heart altar was installed in 1891. The war memorial statue is from Alberti’s of Moston, Manchester, 1930. The polychrome terracotta Stations of the Cross date from 1922. The woodblock floor in the church was laid in 1930. Canon Chris Dwyer led the 1982 reordering, when a nave altar was installed to a design by architect Richard O’Mahony; at the same time the altar rails and gates were removed and re-used in furnishings. Recent light fittings were installed in 2008, to a design by McQuillans based on earlier lighting recorded in photographs.
Roman Catholic church. Designed 1838; built 1839-41. By Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Coursed and squared rubble with ashlar dressings and Welsh slate roof. PLAN: unfinished west tower, nave with high clerestorey and 2 aisles, chancel. Perpendicular style. West tower unfinished. EXTERIOR: deeply moulded west doorway with 5-light window above, stilted arched light in upper stage flanked by statues in niches. Clasping buttresses and stair turret in SE angle. Nave with steep roof over clerestorey. Lean-to aisles, the south aisle divided by buttresses, and with gabled porch with shafts to deeply moulded archway. North aisle and projecting confessional booths concealed behind presbytery. Statue in niche over south doorway. Angel corbels across the western angles of the aisles carry statues in traceried niches clasped between buttresses. Shallow chancel with 4-light windows north and south, and 7-light east window. All gables coped with cross finials. Single storey vestry in NE angle.
INTERIOR: 5-bay arcade, with very slender and lofty clustered shafts carrying Perpendicular arches. 10-window clerestorey, each window of 2-lights. King post and collar roof with arched braces and wind braces. Tall Perpendicular arches to west tower and chancel, painted. Choir gallery and organ loft in tower. Open-work chancel screen carrying rood. High chancel has coloured tiled floor and ornate altar piece with advanced central statue in aedicule over tabernacle, forming centre piece of altar with 12 figures of saints each side. Traceried sedilia to south. Stained glass in east window, a central figure, the rest emblematic. Chapel to SE with painted Perpendicular arch and wall painted with stencilled monograms and emblems to dado height. Altar piece with statue in niche flanked by high relief panels depicting scenes from the Life of Mary. Stained glass in window above, also dedicated to the Life of Mary. Painted text as hoodmould to window. Altar recessed at east end of N aisle, with 3 statues in traceried niches set beneath a small high window with stained glass. Pulpit added 1850 by Edward Welby Pugin, square in plan with traceried panels and statues in niches at angles.
A church of exceptional interest among the works of this major architect.
(Buildings of England: Hubbard E: Cheshire: Harmondsworth). Listing NGR: SJ9116073662
Presbytery. c1850. To designs of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Coursed and squared rubble with Welsh slate roof. Gothic style. 2-storeyed, asymmetrically planned with gable facing street and canted full-height bay in inner return to right. Doorway in lean-to porch providing link with Church of St Alban to right (qv). 2-light mullioned and transomed window on each floor in gable with steep gable over first floor with trefoiled dormer. Canted bay with half-pyramidal roof and 2-light mullioned window on each floor with foiled dormer window above. Axial stack, and gathered chimney against right-hand return. Listing NGR: SJ9117473672
Architect: A. W. N. Pugin
Original Date: 1841
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II*