Princess Road, Withington, Manchester M20
© Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.
A large portal framed church by Greenhalgh & Williams, somewhat Brutalist in character, but retaining some original internal furnishings of note, and with a campanile of unusual design which is a local landmark.
This part of the Manchester suburbs, on the border between Withington and Chorlton-cum-Hardy, became the site of the principal municipal cemetery in south Manchester, Southern Cemetery, in 1879. Nearby, Hough End Fields was an aerodrome and now forms green open space used as playing fields. The remainder of the area to the east of the church and Princess Road became built up as a consequence of interwar and post-war housing schemes and St Bernadette’s was built to serve the growing population of these estates. The church was built in 1959-60 from designs by Greenhalgh & Williams.
The sanctuary was subject to a minor reordering after the Second Vatican Council, with the retention of the original high altar, reredos and canopy, but with the removal of the altar rails and introduction of a forward altar. The interior has been redecorated with a scheme incorporating texts of the Saintly Virtues, but the date of this scheme has not been established.
All orientations given are liturgical. The church is a portal-framed structure clad in pale reddish brick laid in stretcher bond, with the main entrance accented by the use of blue-grey brick. It is rectangular in plan, with a southwest campanile style tower with an unusual shallow-curved top. The entrance to the church is just above street level, with, owing to the fall of the land, the entrance to the parish hall beneath the worship space and the presbytery, accessed down a slope. The church is well-lit with very large windows, along each side and at the west end, where a group of small windows add variety. There is a spacious narthex and a west gallery. A group of side chapels on the north side are recessed behind the portal frame. The sanctuary has the original sets of steps and a reredos taking the form of triptych with a Crucifix beneath a suspended octagonal timber canopy. The high altar, of white marble with dark marble bands, appears to be that shown in pictures of the church shortly after opening . The church is decorated with a scheme with texts. There is stained glass at the west end and to the southeast depicting St Bernadette. It is probably by the Manchester firm of Lightfoot.
Architect: Greenhalgh & Williams
Original Date: 1960
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed