Building » Marple Bridge – St Mary

Marple Bridge – St Mary

Hollins Lane, Marple Bridge, Stockport, Cheshire SK6

An attractive mid-Victorian group of church, presbytery and school, designed in a simple domestic Gothic style and built by the Howard family, major patrons of Catholic building in the area. The interior was considerably embellished by Charles Hadfield in the 1880s. The group makes a positive contribution to the local conservation area. 

From 1848, a mission on Compstall Road in Marple Bridge was served from the church at New Mills, first by Fr Collins and later by Fr Levermore who approached Lord Howard of Glossop’s agent for help to acquire land for a new church. This was built initially as a dual-purpose school-chapel, along with a priest’s house. The architect has not been established, but in view of his long standing association with Lord Howard of Glossop, an attribution to M. E. Hadfield seems likely (Weightman was practising on his own from 1858). Certainly it was Charles Hadfield who oversaw significant enrichment of the building in 1888. The Tablet (26 May 1888) wrote:

‘The sacred building, originally erected by the late Lord Howard of GIossop, to serve the purposes of a school-chapel, was of a comparatively plain and unpretending character, but the improvements, now completed, have imparted to the interior a church-like aspect, and have effected a complete transformation. The plain plaster ceilings have been removed and opened out and replaced by handsome boarding and ribwork of stained and varnished woodwork, with dormer windows, which have improved the lighting considerably. A chancel screen has been constructed of polished alabaster and rich red and green Irish marbles, and in the side bays are pedestals for the statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, with places for lights and flowers, and in the centre communion rails of alabaster and choice marbles with gilded iron gates. Above the central arch is placed a large crucifixion of carved woodwork, richly painted and gilded, with medallions of the Blessed Virgin, St. John, &c., at the terminations, and at each side are half figures painted on a gold ground of King David and the Prophet Jeremiah, bearing scriptural texts. The chancel walls and roof have been handsomely re-decorated in gold and colours, and on the side walls are lovely paintings of the annunciation and assumption of the Blessed Virgin, by Westlake, of London, the artist who executed the beautiful series of stained windows erected by Mr. Ross a few years ago in memory of his late wife. A new font of Derbyshire marble and alabaster, with a carved oak canopied cover and handsome railings, has been placed near the entrance doorway, Around it, in ornamental letters, has been placed an inscription asking for the prayers of the faithful for the good estate of the benefactor, his wife and family, who have so nobly carried out the work. There is also a splendid holy water font of Derbyshire marble and alabaster in the porch at the entrance of the church. The walls in the body of the church have been cleaned and re-decorated, and appropriate texts, chiefly words selected from the Magnificat, placed around the building. The general tone of colour within the building is very pleasing and harmonious. The gallery has been rebuilt, and upon it has been placed a splendid new organ, the woodwork, &c., being in keeping with the character of the building’. 

Some of the furnishings were provided by Edward Ross JP, a local businessman, including the altar rails, decoration, stained glass and the organ. Ross died in 1892 and has an elaborate Gothic memorial in the churchyard. The high altar was erected as a memorial to him, and was consecrated by Bishop Bagshawe.

The church was designated a private chapel until Lord Howard conveyed it to the Diocese of Nottingham in 1921. The parish hall was built in 1935 by Fr du Boulaye, designed by William Ellis of St Helen’s. In 1938 the interior was redecorated by Hardman & Co., when it is likely that much of the polychromy described above was lost. Oak panelling was installed in the sanctuary, carved by Douglas Renwick of Hyde. 


The attractive domestic style sandstone church and presbytery form a T-shaped plan with the house facing the road to the south and the church partly hidden behind, entered via an enlarged porch from the west. The liturgical east end is roughly to the north; conventional orientation will be used in this section rather than compass points. The four-bay nave and one-bay sanctuary are under one roof, laid with blue slates and with gabled dormer windows. A sacristy with gabled bellcote is the only external expression of ecclesiastical use; this projects northeast from the sanctuary. The church windows are plain square headed three-light timber windows with leaded glass. The low remaining part of the former school building is to the southeast, built  parallel to and adjoining the sanctuary with a lean-to porch to the east. Three gabled projections against the north elevation of the church have the appearance of confessionals externally, but are not now connected to the interior and are used as stores.

The compact interior has a warm character, partly due to the pitch pine boarded lining to the roof slope, decorated with geometric ribs. The collar roof trusses on carved stone corbels have curved braces. The key feature of the interior is the tripartite sanctuary arcade with wide central arch and flanking pointed arches on clusters of marble columns with foliated capitals and octagonal marble bases; within each side arch is a small side altar with a statue plinth, also on marble columns. The high altar, now in a forward position, is in the same style and materials with a central relief of the Last Supper. The marble and alabaster font bowl adjoins the south porch. The sanctuary walls have oak dado panelling and wall benches, installed in 1938, and the floor is oak with stepped altar platform. The nave floor is laid with pine boards with central aisle and plain oak open-backed pews. The 1871 east windows depict St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Edward King of England, with plainer nave windows. The pipe organ on the west gallery may be that built by C. H. Whiteley of Chester, described in the 1888 account in The Tablet. The gallery has a panelled front and is on carved stone corbels. The attractive mosaic Stations of the Cross date from the late 1950s, and look to be by Earley & Co of Dublin.

Amended by AHP 29.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: Possibly M. E. Hadfield; C. Hadfield

Original Date: 1859

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed