Plank Lane, West Leigh
A church typical of many built in the interwar period to serve new housing estates, in an austere Romanesque style. The lofty interior is well-lit and well-proportioned, with furnishings from the 1930s and from the previous church.
West Leigh’s population grew rapidly during the late nineteenth century with an influx of people working in the local coal mines, many of them Irish Catholics. In 1878 Fr James Fanning SJ bought land in West Leigh and soon after this Fr Kavanagh was appointed to establish two new missions. A school-chapel opened in Plank Lane in 1879. The two Leigh missions became separate missions around 1885. The first church of Our Lady was built by Fr Rimmer in the 1880s; a corrugated iron building with aisles, it cost £1,200 and was purchased from Isaac Dixon and Co. A presbytery was built in the early twentieth century.
The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 4 September 1938 by Archbishop Downey. The contractor was George Moss. The architects were J. C. Prestwich & Son, a busy local practice whose buildings include the Grade II listed Leigh Town Hall. James Prestwich began his practice in Leigh in 1875, was joined by his son Harold in 1907 and the practice continued until the 1980s.
The church was redecorated and reordered by Derek Hicks & Thew in 2000.
The building is designed in an austere Romanesque style. It is a tall volume under one roof, with flat-roofed aisles, sacristy and offices. The gabled west front faces the main road, with a single tall recessed arched window over the square-headed doorway. The building is faced in drag-wire brown brick laid in stretcher bond, with a concrete tiled roof. The nave has tall narrow square-headed lancet windows with obscure glazing.
Inside, the building is arranged with a west narthex and gallery and six-bay aisle arcades of semi-circular arches on plain columns. The sanctuary is flanked by chapels with matching brick fittings, to Our Lady of the Rosary to the south and to the Sacred Heart on the north. The sanctuary retains the original 1930s fittings, including a marble altar on a platform. The lofty nave roof has exposed king-post trusses and a plastered soffit, the walls have a brick dado and are plastered above. The pine benches and octagonal stone font (at the west end) were originally in the Victorian church. The 2000 refurbishment retained the 1930s character of the interior, introducing an open screen designed to match existing metalwork at the west end, new lighting and a new oak floor.
Entry amended by AHP 11.01.2021
Architect: J. C. Prestwich & Son
Original Date: 1939
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed