39Mulberry Street, Manchester M2
The second Catholic church to be founded in Manchester in modern times, after St Chad Rook Street. Known since the late nineteenth-century as ‘The Hidden Gem’, the present St Mary’s is of special architectural interest for its unusual style for the date, exhibiting Continental influence. The architects were Weightman & Hadfield, who undertook many Catholic commissions, including the Cathedral of St John in Salford. The church has a little-altered and characterful interior, with a spectacular display of reredoses and statuary from the 1870s. More recent furnishings include Stations of the Cross by Norman Adams RA. The presbytery was built or remodelled in the 1870s and is of good architectural quality.
St Mary’s was the second church to be founded in Manchester after St Chad, Rook Street. Fr Rowland Broomhead, rector of St Chad, bought the land for a church in 1794 to extend the ministry in a fast-growing settlement. It was swiftly built to designs by an unknown architect or builder. Archive illustrations show it was a simple, symmetrical classical building externally.
The need for a replacement was prompted by the partial collapse of this church in 1833, forcing the use of alternative premises, and by the great increase in population. Fr Matthias Formby made arrangements for the erection of a new building to designs by Weightman & Hadfield. The partnership had established their reputation with a number of Catholic churches and other buildings, initially for the Duke of Rutland in Glossop, Derbyshire. The building was completed in 1848. The design was published in modified form in 1850 in The Rambler, a Catholic periodical, accompanying an article about affordable town churches. The article was not prescriptive with regard to style, saying: ‘for in this every man must follow his predilections’, although it ‘should look like a church, not a barn’. Part of the interest of the published design was the use of brick, cheaper than stone, but one with historical precedent on the Continent. The article attracted the attention of A. W. N. Pugin who wrote a pamphlet denouncing the design, which failed to conform to the ideals of English Gothic architecture and medieval precedent that he championed. The church therefore enjoyed some notoriety in architectural circles. Although the architects described the design as ‘Byzantine’, it is made clear that it was the style as it filtered through to ‘Rhine churches’ which was used as an inspiration. The choice of Rhenish Romanesque motifs (a ‘detestable … whoring after strange style’ in Pugin’s view), was highly unusual at the time and differed from the classical and Gothic styles hitherto employed by Weightman & Hadfield. The Catholic Annual Register (1850) observed rather apologetically and cryptically that ‘the site had peculiar difficulties, and this style was chosen as the most practicable under the circumstances’. The choice of a helm tower was the first identified revival of this form, known only in England from the medieval church in Sompting, Sussex. The article in The Rambler however makes it clear that that this and the use of polychromatic stone and brickwork were based on Continental examples. This was highly unusual at this date and reflects interest in the same Continental styles later promoted by John Ruskin. Some sources consider that George Goldie, an assistant in the firm who later became a partner, may have been an influence. There can be no doubt that the architects would have been aware of the views of A. W. N. Pugin and the Cambridge Camden (later Ecclesiological) Society, and the decision to adopt the design is an interesting riposte to Pugin’s views.
There seems to have been a major investment in the church during the 1870s. This is the date of a fine scheme of statuary inside, comprising altars and reredoses by the carver Mr Lane of Preston, commissioned by Fr Newton. During the same period the presbytery was newly built, or much remodelled. An oratory was formed in the west gallery over the south aisle, the reredos also probably by Lane. Possibly at a similar time a timber lobby with glass panels was installed at the main entrance. It was at this time that the church first came to be known as the ‘Hidden Gem’, an appellation attributed to Bishop Vaughan, who obtained a medieval font for the church and is said to have introduced the present carved doorway, both items originating in Germany. It is tempting to think that the Byzantine-influenced design of the church may in turn have influenced Vaughan in his later thinking, when commissioning Bentley to design Westminster Cathedral.
A reordering in the late twentieth century involved the introduction of a new lectern and altar, both adopting Romanesque style. The reredos was left intact and the high altar reduced, keeping the carved frontal. An elaborate altar rail and pulpit were removed. Archive photographs show that there was a large painting of Christ and trumpeting angels over the sanctuary reredos, which has since been overpainted. The church was subject to a thorough restoration in 1993-4. Stations of the Cross were commissioned from Norman Adams RA (1927-2005), professor of painting at the Royal Academy and a noted religious artist. They were installed in 1995.
All orientations given are liturgical. The church is fully described in the list entry below, expanded (and the building upgraded to II*) in 2018, after Taking Stock. The key points about the design externally are the use of unusual architectural motifs derived from Continental examples, employing polychromatic effect in contrasting brick and stonework. The presbytery is attached but distinguished from the church by its later date and use of motifs more characteristic of Venetian Gothic architecture. Further research has the potential for elucidating its history. Entering the church, there is a mosaic floor and the words ‘Ave Maria’ and a lobby formed by a timber screen with glazing. The church takes basilican form, with a clerestory with round arched windows placed high up and a large lantern over the nave, the form of lighting in consequence of the proximity and height of neighbouring buildings. The arcades are very tall with round arches and columns rising from high bases, with carved stone Byzantine or Romanesque capitals and shafts painted to resemble marble. The sanctuary is flanked by round-arched openings to side chapels which are separated from it by screens with round arches and marble columns. That on the north side is top-lit, that on the south is lit by a single window with glass showing the Virgin, probably by Hardman, of 1860s or similar date. The reredos and integral high altar form a very elaborate ensemble rising high at the east end, topped by fluttering angels with high quality statuary. Similar elaborate reredoses are set in the side chapels. The south side of the west gallery is occupied by an oratory formed from timber screens with coloured glass. Inside, a painting of 1983 by Harold Riley depicts Our Lady of Manchester. Stations of the Cross paintings by Norman Adams are ranged along the north and south aisles. There is a west gallery with a panelled front. Confessionals and access to the presbytery are ranged along the south side of the south aisle.
List descriptions (2018)
Summary: Roman Catholic church, 1844 to 1848 by Weightman and Hadfield in a Rhenish Romanesque style.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Mary (The Hidden Gem), Mulberry Street, Manchester, of 1844 to 1848 by Weightman and Hadfield is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: Architectural interest: * the church is designed in an unusual Rhenish Romanesque style with a distinctive and eye-catching helm tower and a basilican form which successfully addressed the issues of the densely built-up urban site; * the interior is striking in appearance with notably tall arcades with Byzantine or Romanesque capitals and lit by large clerestory windows and a central, octagonal-domed lantern; * a major investment in embellishing the church in the 1870s resulted in fittings of the highest quality, including a particularly fine and intact scheme of marble and Caen stone reredoses demonstrating a high degree of craftsmanship in their execution, an unusual raised timber oratory, and the ornately-carved main doorway and elaborate font, both brought from Germany by Bishop Vaughan. Historic interest: * the church was designed by the well-known and highly-regarded Sheffield architects’ practice of Weightman and Hadfield, who designed many (now listed) Catholic churches, including the Cathedral Church of St John, Salford (Grade II*); * the Continental styles chosen for St Mary (The Hidden Gem) was an anathema to A W N Pugin the great pro-Gothicist, who published a pamphlet denouncing its design, but while the Gothic Revival was the dominant Catholic style of the C19, the church was the precursor of churches designed in Italianate, early Christian, basilican and Romanesque styles, the most influential being Westminster Cathedral, built in an ‘Italo-Byzantine’ design in 1895 to 1903. * the appellation of ‘The Hidden Gem’ dates from the major 1870s embellishment of the church and was particularly apt after the extensive addition of notably high-quality fittings. Group value: * St Mary (The Hidden Gem) has a functional and visual group value with the attached Venetian Gothic presbytery built in the 1870s.
History: St Mary’s was the second Catholic church to be founded in Manchester replacing St Chad, Rook Street, which was built in 1794 to extend the ministry to a fast-growing settlement. An historic drawing shows a classically detailed building with a triangular pediment, two outer doorways and round-headed windows, with a narrow presbytery on the east side, of two bays and three storeys over a basement with a raised ground-floor doorway with a flight of steps. In 1833 the partial collapse of that church, together with the great increase in population, led Fr Matthias Formby to commission a new church by Weightman & Hadfield of Sheffield. The church was completely rebuilt from the foundations between 1844 and 1848 to a modified design by M E Hadfield which had been published in ‘The Rambler’, a Catholic periodical. That design attracted the attention of A W Pugin, who then wrote a pamphlet denouncing its design and that of other churches which failed to conform to the ideals of English Gothic architecture and the medieval precedent that he championed. The choice of Rhenish Romanesque, including features such as a helm tower, polychromatic stone and brickwork, and a Lombardic frieze, was both anti-Puginian and novel; the helm tower was the first identified revival of this form, known only in England from the medieval church of Sompting, Sussex. More probably, here it reflects the same interest in Continental styles later promoted by John Ruskin, perhaps under the influence of George Goldie, at that time an assistant at the firm who later became a partner and was a noted ecclesiastical architect in his own right. It had few immediate Catholic imitators, though Goldie later developed the style in Ireland. The church was opened on 19 October 1848. It is not known whether the original presbytery remained unaltered. There was a major investment in the church during the 1870s. A fine scheme of marble and Caen stone statuary comprising altars and reredoses by the sculptor Mr Lane of Preston, was commissioned by Fr Newton. The adjacent presbytery was also built or remodelled with a new Venetian Gothic façade (separately listed). An oratory was formed over the end of the south aisle which could be reached from the presbytery. The timber lobby to the main entrance may also have been installed at the same time. It was during this period that the church first became known as the ‘Hidden Gem’, an appellation attributed to Bishop Vaughan, who obtained a medieval font for the church and is said to have added the present main carved doorway, both originating in Germany. After the First World War a large memorial meeting room was constructed above the south aisle of the church accessible by an internal stairwell in the church tower, as well as from the second floor of the presbytery (included in the presbytery List entry). A post-Vatican II reordering of the church led to the introduction of a new lectern and altar. The reredos was left intact and the high altar was reduced, keeping the carved frontal. An elaborate altar rail and pulpit were removed, and a large painting of Christ and trumpeting angels above the sanctuary reredos was overpainted. The church was subject to a thorough restoration between 1993 and 1994. Stations of the Cross were commissioned from Norman Adams RA (1927-2005), professor of painting at the Royal Academy and noted religious artist, which were installed in 1995.
Details: Roman Catholic church, 1844 to 1848 by Weightman and Hadfield in a Rhenish Romanesque style. MATERIALS: red brick with sandstone dressings and a slate roof. PLAN: the church is built north-south with the main entrance on Mulberry Street to the south and the sanctuary facing north, but liturgical compass points are used for the description below. The church has a basilican form with a unified, seven-bay space of a nave and sanctuary with aisles, side chapels at the east end of the aisles and a square tower at the west end of the south aisle. There are clerestory windows above the aisle arcades and a large, octagonal lantern over the nave lighting the interior in its built-up urban setting. At the west end is a gallery with an entrance lobby beneath and an oratory on the south side, within the south aisle, reached either from a staircase in the church tower, or from a doorway in the presbytery attached on the south side (cardinal east side); the staircase also gives access to a large meeting room inserted above the south aisle of the church. The sacristy and internal access to the presbytery, and the confessionals open off the south side of the south aisle.
EXTERIOR: the church is built of red brick in Flemish bond with banded stone and brick heads to all the round-headed windows and arches. The west, front elevation has a stone plinth and stone Lombard friezes to the eaves of the north aisle and nave, and round the top of the second stage of the tower. The nave has a projecting, stone doorcase with four steps, moulded impost band and eaves cornice and a large, round-headed doorway with engaged columns with foliate capitals, enriched voussoirs and an inset, sculptural tympanum with a triangular pediment with Latin inscription surmounted by two kneeling angels holding a roundel containing the Lamb of God. It has timber double doors with highly-decorative ironwork strap hinges. Above the lean-to doorcase roof are three tall, round-headed lancets, with a wheel window with a banded frame to the gable. The aisle to the left has two round-headed windows with a central column shaft and a simple rose window with banded frame above. The square tower to the right is of three stages. The first stage has two tall round-headed arches containing very small lancets. The second stage has a stone niche with a lobed head and engaged side columns, with a foliate corbel supporting a shaped, moulded sill on which a statue of Mary holding the Baby Jesus stands. The belfry stage has coupled round-headed blank arches each containing two round-headed windows with a central column shaft, with cast-iron diamond lattice grills. Above the moulded cornice is a steeply-pitched helm roof with three stepped, round-headed lancets to each gable.
INTERIOR: inside the main, west entrance is a small, timber and glazed lobby with a mosaic floor with the words Ave Maria and a panelled ceiling. The lobby screen walls have a timber frame with a door to each side. Lower panels are set with diagonal planks, above which are bands of glazed panels with decorative leaded and stained glass patterns. The interior has plastered walls with very tall arcades with round arches and columns raised on high, square bases with carved stone Byzantine or Romanesque capitals and shafts painted to resemble marble. The side chapels are each separated from the sanctuary by a stone screen with round arches and marble columns set into the easternmost arcade arch. Beneath the clerestory windows on each side is a moulded cornice and a frieze with a Latin inscription, continued across the east wall of the sanctuary. The high roof has shallow queen-post trusses with king-struts set on corbels with a panelled ceiling. In the centre is a large, octagonal-domed lantern with leaded and stained-glass patterned lights. Windows throughout the interior have similar leaded and stained-glass patterned lights with the exception of a window in the south side chapel, which has stained glass of the Virgin, probably 1860s by Hardman. The sanctuary has an elaborate stone and marble reredos and integral high altar with high-quality statuary of the Sacred Heart and Saints topped by angels. The side chapels have similarly elaborate reredoses. The north side chapel reredos has a Pieta centrepiece. The chapel is lit by two roof lights. The south side chapel reredos has a Madonna and Child in a tall, central tabernacle with flanking scenes of the Birth of Christ and Christ in the Temple. The chapel is lit by two roof lights. The west gallery has a timber, panelled front. The south aisle contains an elaborate, round font with relief-carved Biblical scenes raised on marble columns situated close to the side chapel. There is a round-headed doorway at either end opening into the presbytery and sacristy, with three square-headed confessional doorways between. At the west end of the south aisle is a first-floor level, timber oratory. The oratory has canted sides, with lattice-work timberwork beneath a continuous row of vertical rectangular windows with arched heads, with leaded and painted glass, and a brattished cornice. The staircase in the church tower is closed off with a decorative ironwork screen incorporating a door. The oratory contains a small, but elaborate stone and marble reredos and integral altar with relief-carved scenes and tabernacle with painted door, with a statue tabernacle flanked by carved angels.
Books and journals: Hartwell, C, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Manchester, (2001), 176-178
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford, An Architectural and Historical Review, Architectural History Practice, 2013.
Summary: Presbytery, 1870s in Venetian Gothic style. The 1960s extension is not of special interest and is excluded from the listing.
Reasons for Designation: The presbytery of the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary (The Hidden Gem), Mulberry Street, Manchester, of the 1870s, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: Architectural interest: * an aesthetically pleasing building designed in a Venetian Gothic style which complements the church and was a fashionable style of its date, being used particularly for civic buildings and commercial warehouses in Manchester; the presbytery interior retains qood-quality fittings, such as enriched cornices, stained glass and etched glass panels in the public areas and main reception rooms, and notably, a fine, full-height open well staircase with elaborate balustrade and newel posts. Historic interest: * the presbytery dates from the 1870s when a major investment was made in St Mary (The Hidden Gem), which also included the high-quality embellishment of the church interior and exterior with the addition of the main carved doorway from Germany, resulting in the appellation of ‘The Hidden Gem’; * the presbytery has an attached memorial meeting room built over the south aisle of the church, also accessible from the church, which commemorates those members of the congregation who lost their lives participating in the First World War. Group value: * the presbytery has a functional and visual group value with the attached St Mary (The Hidden Gem).
History: The present St Mary’s was the second Catholic church to be founded in Manchester, being completely rebuilt from the foundations between 1844 and 1848 after the partial collapse of the original church, built in 1794. The new church was designed by Weightman & Hadfield in a Rhenish Romanesque style, including features such as a helm tower, polychromatic stone and brickwork, and a Lombardic frieze. The church was opened on 19 October 1848. It is not known whether the original presbytery remained unaltered. During the 1870s there was a major investment in embellishing the church. Additionally, the adjacent presbytery was built or remodelled with a new Venetian Gothic façade. It is not known who the architect was, but it was a style popular in Manchester during the 1860s and 1870s, used for example by Thomas Worthington for his City Police and Sessions Courts, Minshull Street, of 1867-1873 (now part of the Crown Court), Edward Salomons’ Reform Club, King Street, of 1870-1871, and commercial warehouses such as numbers 66-68 Fountain Street of 1868 by Clegg & Knowles. An oratory was formed over the end of the south aisle of the church, which could be reached from the presbytery. After the First World War a large memorial meeting room was constructed above the south aisle of the church accessible from the second floor of the presbytery, and also an internal stairwell in the church tower.
Details: Presbytery, 1870s in Venetian Gothic style. The 1960s extension is not of special interest and is excluded from the listing. MATERIALS: orange brick with sandstone and coloured stone dressings and slate roof. PLAN: the presbytery is attached to the east side (liturgical south side) of the church with the front elevation facing onto Mulberry Street. It is of three storeys with a basement. A full-height staircase rises through the building, lit by a top lantern, with a doorway off at the first quarter landing level into the oratory in the south aisle of the church. At second-floor level a doorway gives access into the long meeting room inserted above the south aisle of the church.
EXTERIOR: the presbytery is built of orange brick in Flemish bond with yellow and red sandstone and grey stone dressings, and a hipped slate roof. The front elevation is of two bays and three storeys with a basement. It has a high, moulded stone plinth incorporating the round heads of two basement windows, a wide, moulded string band with pennant detail at first-floor level, a plain, narrower band at second-floor level, and an eaves entablature with shaped consoles and bosses. The ground floor has a window to the left and doorway to the right with a single hoodmould rising in an arch over each and terminating to right and left in carved head stops. The window itself is round-headed with two pointed-arch lights with a central, engaged red stone column with foliate capital and stained glass roundel above. There is a foliate-carved impost band and banded red and grey voussoirs with a yellow keystone. The pointed-arch lights have one-over-one pane sashes with etched lower panes. The doorway has flanking, engaged red stone columns with foliate capitals and a shaped stone lintel above which is a plain round-headed overlight with banded red and grey voussoirs and a keystone carved with a relief head. The first floor has an oriel window to the left and a window to the right. The canted oriel window is constructed of yellow sandstone. It has a round-headed window flanked by two smaller, round-headed windows in the returns. The window to the right is round-headed with a pointed-arch hoodmould with carved head stops and banded red and grey voussoirs with a yellow keystone. Both windows have one-over-one pane sashes with leaded-light panes with red glass diamonds. The second floor has two round-headed windows with a central, engaged red stone column with foliate capital to the left and a single round-headed window to the right. There is a moulded hood string with round arches over each of the windows, which have red and grey stone voussoirs and yellow keystones. The windows have one-over-one pane sashes. The 1960s extension incorporating a covered walkway linking Mulberry Street with Tasle Alley to the rear is not included in the listing.
INTERIOR: the small entrance lobby has an enriched cornice and an elaborately panelled inner door with etched glass to the upper half and a rectangular, richly-coloured stained glass overlight. The public areas and main reception rooms on the ground and first floors have enriched cornices and archways opening off the stair hall have elaborate console brackets. The front, ground-floor room has an enriched hoodmould over the window with a stained glass roundel and central, engaged column separating the two pointed-arch lights, which contain etched glass panels. An open well staircase rises full-height and is lit by a circular top lantern. The closed-string stair has a timber balustrade with a moulded, ramped handrail with decorative, pierced baluster panels set between column balusters and varied, enriched column and square newel posts with ball finials. A round-headed doorway opens off the first quarter landing into the oratory in the church. A doorway at second-floor level opens into a large room built as a First World War memorial room over the south aisle of the church. The clerestory windows are visible on the west side. Stone corbels support timber trusses with shaped braces and raised tie-beams, with clerestory windows and a fully-glazed pitched roof.
MAPPING NOTE: the large meeting room built over the south aisle of the church forms part of the listing for the presbytery, although its raised position means that it cannot be mapped.
Books and journals: Hartwell, C, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Manchester, (2001), 176-178
Architect: Weightman & Hadfield
Original Date: 1848
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II*