Building » Manchester (Withington) – St Cuthbert

Manchester (Withington) – St Cuthbert

Palatine Road, Withington, Manchester M20 3LH

The west end and nave were built to the designs of the noted Catholic architectural practice Goldie & Child in striking Romanesque/Byzantine style. It is possible that the design of the church influenced the then Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan, in his later choice of Byzantine for the style of Westminster Cathedral.  Additions of 1901-2 by W.T. Gunson & Son are in keeping and almost seamless. The church has lost detail during reordering but retains a fine, impressive interior with monumental volumes. With the presbytery and parish hall, the church is part of a characterful group at the centre of the local conservation area.

Withington is a suburb of Manchester which grew during the nineteenth century and initially attracted middle class settlers. Housing estates built during the interwar period increased the population further. The mission began in 1874 and work began on building the church, originally dedicated to the Holy Ghost and St Cuthbert, in 1880. The nave was completed in 1881. The architect, George Goldie, was educated at St Cuthbert’s College, Ushaw, and trained with Weightman & Hadfield. He took his son Edward into partnership in 1880 and it is possible that the latter had some involvement in the design. A report in The Tablet described the design as ‘Lombardo-Byzantine’ and stated that the proposed design was cruciform in plan. A drawing suggests Byzantine inspiration but with a central European Romanesque flavour to the tower, which resembles the Romanesque towers of Worms or Cologne. It was completed in 1902, when transepts, sanctuary and flanking chapels with polygonal apses were added in closely matching style (but not to the original design and cruciform plan) from designs by W. T. Gunson & Son. In 1891 a parish hall was built, and in 1911 a large presbytery added, the latter also by Gunson & Son.

It is possible that the design of the church influenced the then Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan, in his later choice of Byzantine for the style of Westminster Cathedral.

Reordering involved new sanctuary furnishings, including a forward altar, and removal of the altar rails and pulpit. The archive photograph and contemporary descriptions also show that the interior walls were originally tiled to dado height; at some point the tiles were painted and possibly plastered over. The statues occupying the niches in the nave are not shown on older photographs; the date of their introduction has not been established.


All orientations given are liturgical. The church is of red brick with sandstone dressings and slate roof. The brick is laid in a form of English garden wall bond, with alternating headers and stretchers, probably chosen to suggest a native and traditional finish. The two phases match closely in detail and materials, though the brick used for the later work is slightly darker in shade. Textured brick is used for the gables of the transepts and west end. The style is Romanesque, or Byzantine, with round-arched windows and wheel windows, the openings in the two phases closely matching each other. Entrance is via a gabled porch with sandstone columns and stylised capitals, and with a gilded figure of St Cuthbert attended by angels in the tympanum over the door.

Inside there is a high dado, now plastered and painted below, above which is a stage with large canopied niches, also now plastered and painted. Above, the brickwork is exposed and the walls articulated by wall shafts rising from the canopies, alternating with windows framed by attached shafts. There is an apsidal projection at the west end, formerly used as a baptistery. At the east end a broad round-headed chancel arch is flanked by lesser arches to side chapels, that on the south side now used as a baptistery. The walls of these spaces have also been plastered and painted. Sanctuary furnishings are of marble and are of post-Vatican II date. The canopied niches along each side of the nave contain a set of statues of saints, all of good quality. There are barrel roofs with tie beams. In the south transept an organ gallery is supported by cast iron columns.

Heritage Details

Architect: Goldie & Child

Original Date: 1801

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed