Building » Nelson – Christ Church

Nelson – Christ Church

Carr Road, Nelson, Lancs BB9

A modern ecumenical church in the centre of Nelson, whose ownership is shared by Catholics and Methodists. It is the successor to St Joseph’s, the first Catholic mission in Nelson, whose third church was closed in 1992. The church is built of local materials, to blend with the conservation area. 

This church is the successor to the first mission in Nelson, dedicated to St Joseph, which had three successive church buildings. In 1880, a Sunday school was founded over the Newton Co-operative in Every Street, Nelson, with the help of Martin Collins. In 1883, a school-chapel was built which was opened on 16 December 1883 by the Bishop of Salford. At that point, the mission priest for Colne came to live at Nelson, making Colne briefly a chapel-of-ease to Nelson. In 1887, a vestry was added and a presbytery built.

In 1896-7, a new larger school-chapel was built by the mission priest, Fr Robert Smith. The foundation stone was laid on 24 October 1896, and it was opened on 4 July the following year by Bishop Bilsborrow. This second building was more elaborate than the first, with Gothic tracery west windows and a bellcote. Fr Robert Smith also founded four new missions: Brierfield; Barrowford (qv); Holy Saviour, Nelson (qv); St George, Nelson (now St John Southworth, qv); and a short-lived chapel at Red Syke, Pendle Forest. (The first Mass was said at the mission in Brierfield in 1895. In 1899-1901, a school-chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built. The church closed in 2003 and was demolished in 2004.)

In March 1960, the second St Joseph’s church at Nelson burnt down; the fire also damaged the sacristy and the infant school. In October 1962 work started on a new church (the third), which was opened by Bishop Holland on 20 December 1964. It was designed by B. Martin working for Peter R. Nuttall. It cost £80,000 and contained a reredos carved by Brother Cuthbert.

In 1986, the parishes of St George and St Joseph were amalgamated. In February 1992, the closure of St Joseph’s church was announced, partly due to structural problems. The final Mass was said on 27 February 1992. St Joseph’s church was demolished in 2004. A chapel called Samlesbury Chapel was opened in the parish hall in the former Infants’ School, served from St John Southworth (the former St George). The demolition of the shell of St Joseph’s presbytery was agreed in May 2011.

An ecumenical project with the Methodists was started in 2001. The two congregations initially used the former parish hall of St Joseph’s until this burnt down in November 2002. They then used St John Southworth School. In September 2001, planning permission was granted for a new shared church on the site of a Methodist Church (1864-5) and its adjacent Sunday School in Carr Road. In August 2002, a building control application for the new church was granted permission. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 31 August 2002 by four people from both faiths, in the presence of Bishop Brain and Rev. Chris Cheeseman, the deputy chairman of the North Lancashire Methodist District. It was opened on 6 June 2004 by Bishop Brain and Rev. Stephen Poxon, chairman of the North Lancashire Methodist District. The architects were Grimshaw & Townsend of Accrington and the total cost was £850,000. The ownership of the new building is shared between the Roman Catholics and the Methodists. The church is also a community centre for the centre of Nelson, with a café, and several community rooms. It initially also provided office space for the Nelson Community Credit Union who have since moved out. In February 2012, a safe containing the tabernacle and other religious items was stolen from the church’s meditation room.


The church is built with a steel frame and concrete blocks, faced in local stone and with a slate roof. The plan and elevations invert the conventions of church architecture: The oblong ‘nave’ is in fact the church, the narrower ‘chancel’ contains smaller ancillary rooms, while the polygonal ‘apse’ is the café. The east elevation is almost entirely blind, apart from a door with fanlight leading to an ancillary block at the southeast. The north elevation to Carr Road has three tall windows with angular patterns. The entrance below the gabled porch leads into the narrow connecting bay between worship space and café. Beside the porch are three oblong windows. The ‘apse’ has a continuous window band above a stone dado.

Above the doors from the entrance lobby to the worship space hang three stained glass panels from a Methodist church in Nelson. The worship space itself is divided into five bays by timber kingpost roof trusses. The chairs and furnishings are all modern. The wall hanging behind the altar symbolically depicts two streams leading to one cross. The sanctuary furnishings all incorporate a bifurcate motif.

Heritage Details

Architect: Grimshaw & Townsend of Accrington

Original Date: 2004

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed