Building » Manchester (Burnage) – St Bernard

Manchester (Burnage) – St Bernard

Burnage Lane, Burnage, Manchester M19 1DR

An impressive design by Reynolds & Scott, with a complex vaulted interior. There has been relatively little alteration and original fixtures and fittings include statuary, marble work and fine stained glass by the Earley Studio of Dublin.

Burnage retained a village atmosphere into the early twentieth century, but much open countryside in the area was taken over by Manchester Corporation for housing schemes following slum clearances in the centre, starting in 1906, with completion in 1939. In the later nineteenth century Burnage was divided between Catholic missions at Withington and Levenshulme. In 1930 a villa called Shawbrook Lodge on Burnage Lane was purchased by the Diocese. It had been built in 1864, and was initially let to the Burnage Garden Society. In 1939 the lease was terminated and Fr McNultey appointed priest in charge. The building was converted, with a church on the ground floor as a chapel-of-ease of St Mary, Levenshulme, and a presbytery above.  The chapel was blessed by Bishop Marshall in May 1941.

Money was raised for a school and a separate church building and in April 1957 Bishop Beck laid the foundation stone of a new church.  The architects were Reynolds & Scott, using the builders Brown of Wilmslow, probably the most respected and skilled of all local firms of that time, noted for their high standards of craftsmanship.  A parish was erected in 1958 and the church was opened and blessed by Bishop Beck in March 1959.  While the church was under construction permission was obtained to build a primary school behind it, which was started in 1959. The old chapel became a parish hall, keeping presbytery accommodation in the upper floors.

The sanctuary was reordered in circa 1990, when the central section of the altar rails was removed and stored in the basement of the parish hall, where it remains. The altar dais was removed and the altar moved forward. At this or another time the font was taken from the baptistery and repositioned near the sanctuary.


All orientations given are liturgical. The church is built of hand-made sand-faced brick in a modern simplified Romanesque basilican style, with two pairs of transepts (as commonly adopted by Reynolds & Scott). The west front is flanked by octagonal turrets and incorporates a deeply recessed central entrance with above it a mosaic showing St Bernard, by Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd. Above this there is a triple lancet window with Romanesque style shafts and round heads. Other windows also have round heads, paired to the nave, with larger single windows to the transepts. The chancel is flanked by chapels and the sanctuary lit by two windows. Inside there is a narthex with a stair up to the gallery. The interior consists of vaulted compartments formed by the transepts at each end of a tunnel vaulted nave, with a tunnel vaulted chancel at the east end and gallery at the west end.  There are narrow aisles between the transepts, the arcades with stilted round-headed arches and columns with block capitals. The northwest transept gives to the baptistery, converted to a piety stall, retaining the original wrought iron gates and stained glass by Earley of Dublin showing the Baptism of Christ. The transept opposite has two wall-mounted statues, one of St Bernard from the old church, the other of St Joseph by Earley of Dublin. The stained glass of the transepts is patterned, with a roundel in the upper part of each light with symbols of the Evangelists. At the west end the gallery above the narthex is lit by triple lancets with fine glass by Earley of Dublin showing the Virgin flanked by St Patrick and St Augustine. The glass is influenced by that produced by the Harry Clarke Studio before the Second World War, and comparable with Earley glass at St Osburg’s Roman Catholic church in Coventry of 1950, where a window showing St Augustine shares the same design.   At the east end of the church the southeast transept gives onto sacristies. The chancel chapels are divided from the chancel by two-bay arcades. They retain sections of the original marble altar rails inlaid with red and green onyx and Alberata and Siena marbles and what seem to be the original altars. The sanctuary keeps the original marble floor, reconfigured, and the original altar containing five marbles and a carved lamb in front. All the marble work is by Earley of Dublin. A Crucifix, which also appears to be the original, hangs on the east wall.

Heritage Details

Architect: Reynolds & Scott

Original Date: 1959

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed