Building » Padiham – St John the Baptist

Padiham – St John the Baptist

St John’s Road, Padiham, Burnley, Lancs BB12

A large Gothic Revival church of 1880-1 by Edward Simpson, doubled in length in the 1930s. It has panelling from three former cruise liners. The main feature of the sanctuary is a large Calvary scene. Adjacent to the church are the former school-chapel by E. W. Pugin and the presbytery, both of the 1860s.

The mission was established in 1863 in a room above Job Pollard’s plumbing workshop and warehouse. On 11 May 1863, Canon Rimmer of Chipping laid the foundation stone for a small school-chapel designed by E.W. Pugin. The building, which seated 300 people opened in 1864. In 1867, Padiham was established as an independent mission, although still served from St Mary, Burnley (qv). The first resident priest, Fr McDermott Roe, arrived in 1868 and a presbytery was built.

On 1 August 1880 Mgr Provost Croskell laid the foundation stone for a new church, beside the old chapel. It was opened on 27 March 1881 by the Bishop of Salford. The old chapel was subsequently used as a school. The architect was Edward Simpson of Bradford. (The E.W. Pugin Gazetteer on the Pugin Society website attributes the design to Warrington & Son.) The plastering was done by J.H. Harrison of Padiham; W.J. Crowder of Brighouse was the mason; and Messrs J. & S. Copley of Bradford the joinery contractors. The overall cost of the church was £3,600 (Kelly: £2,100).

A new school was built on the other side of the church in 1889. In 1920, a new pulpit was installed as a memorial to the former parish priest Fr Hart and the parishioners who died in the First World War. Said to have been modelled on a pulpit designed by A. W. N. Pugin, it was dedicated on 22 February 1920 (since dismantled). In 1925, a new brass tabernacle and monstrance throne were presented to the church.

Plans for the eastward extension were made in 1933, with the financial support of Colonel Le Gendre Starkie. The extension, which doubled the length of the church, was built using stone from demolished cotton mills (mostly from Lowerhouse Mills). Timber panelling came from the former ocean liners RMS Mauretania (final journey 1934), RMS Olympic (final journey 1935), and RMS Empress of France (final journey 1931, scrapped 1934). The architect for the extension has not been established but Charles Simpson, son of the original architect, is a possibility. A new choir gallery was built and an organ by Driver & Haigh of Bradford installed in 1937. The extension was opened by Bishop Henshaw in September 1937.

Second World War memorial altar rails were erected in 1953, for which oak was given by Colonel Le Gendre Starkie. During the post-war years, the school was extended behind the 1889 building. The school-chapel of 1863-4 is now used as the parish community centre.


The nine bays to the west were built in 1880-1 to a design by Edward Simpson. Three further nave bays, the chancel, the side chapels and the sacristy were added in c.1933-37. The materials are rock-faced coursed stone with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. The nave and the chancel are under one pitched roof, with the side chapels under separate pitched roofs. The plan is cruciform, with a long nave, side chapels and a straight-ended chancel.

The projecting central section of the west elevation is framed by tall, gabled buttresses. Between is a gabled arch above a stone crucifix and two lancet windows. Above this is a double-bellcote with a stone cross. The south elevation has a gabled porch, six lancet windows, a single-storey sacristy to the south of the south chapel which has five south windows and a lean-to confessional block to the west. The north elevation has nine lancet windows. The west elevation of the north chapel has a central round-arched doorway and lancets flanking a Tudor-arched window. The axis of the door and windows is not quite aligned with the apex of the chapel’s gable. The chapel has six lancets to the north. Both chapels also have a single lancet in the canted northeast and southeast corners, respectively. The chancel is lit by rooflights and single lancets to the north and south, just beside the corners with the east wall.

Three tall pointed arches on square pillars lead to the side chapels. The north chapel is the Resurrection Chapel, with panelling from former cruise liners on two walls and timber altar rails. The western part of the chapel has modern panelling, pews and a panelled canted ceiling. The Lady Chapel at the south also has re-used panelling from cruise liners, as well as a canted altar with a carving of the Agnus Dei and a statue of the Virgin Mary. The chapel’s timber altar rails have Marian monograms and carved tracery. The western part of the chapel has further re-used panelling and cupboards, as well as a Tudor-arched door. The adjacent sacristy is now the weekday chapel. It also has panelling from the former cruise ships, as well as some decorative plasterwork.

The sanctuary is dominated by a large Calvary scene in a shallow niche with hidden lighting. Below it is a timber and stone high altar with the combined brass tabernacle and throne of 1925. On either side are stone archways with Art Deco-style panelling with statues of St John the Baptist and St Joseph in shallow niches above. The sanctuary ceiling is panelled, with several rooflights and one metal truss. Pointed arches lead to the side chapels. The modern forward altar is of marble.

Four stained glass windows on the south side of the nave depict St Henry (in memory of Dean Henry Jones who died 1891), a female saint (in the style of Harry Clarke), another female saint (in memory of Daniel Snape (died 1905) and his wife Frances (died 1911)), and St Emilius (in memory of Fr Emile Charles Goetgeluck (mission priest 1892-1902)). In the north chapel is a modern stained glass window of the Baptism of Christ (2000). The two west lancets have 1960s stained glass with central red crosses. There is a large modern stained glass panel of the Baptism of Christ in the former sacristy which came from a closed church. The Stations of the Cross are painted reliefs in Gothic-style frames. The central aisle has modern tiles.

The earlier nine nave bays have an arch-braced scissor roof of red deal wood. Three further bays have metal trusses. The underside of the roof is panelled in timber, as well as above the collar beam. The narthex under the organ gallery (1937) is screened from the nave by a timber and glass screen. The raked gallery is supported on two timber-faced pillars. In the narthex is a marble and mosaic memorial plaque to Harriet Mary O’Shaughnessy (died 1923), headmistress of the parochial school in 1902-6. At the west is the octagonal stone font, as well as statues of St Teresa, St Anthony, St Patrick and the Sacred Heart. The confessional is behind two small arches on the south side.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson of Bradford

Original Date: 1881

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed