Building » Portico – Our Lady Help of Christians

Portico – Our Lady Help of Christians

Portico Lane, Portico, Prescot L34

A good example of a discreet Catholic chapel built about the time of the Second Relief Act. The church is built as a rear extension to the handsome double-fronted priest’s house, as at St Benet, Netherton. The north wall of the church faces the road and masquerades as a farm building. The interior retains something of its late Georgian character.

A Jesuit mission had been established at The Scholes in Scholes Lane by at least 1716. The sixth priest, Fr Nicholas Sewell, built the chapel of Our Lady in 1790 or 1791, as soon as Catholic church-building was legalised. The design is attributed by The Buildings of England to George Marsh, joiner and builder of Liverpool.

The church was reordered in about 1981 under the direction of William Burrows of the Ellis Williams Partnership,


The church is built of dark red brick with roof coverings of slate. It consists of one long range with the presbytery and church back-to-back. The east end is linked to the presbytery, which has a polite domestic pedimented double-fronted facade with round-headed sash windows under relieving arches and a central doorway with side lights and ornamental fanlight. The church comprises the western two thirds of the range, which is lit by three large pointed windows on the south side, away from the road. On the north side the windows are blind and face onto a yard, where a barn originally screened the church from view. At the west end of the church the main building has two pointed windows with interlacing glazing bars divided by a brick stack. In front of this is a lower forebuilding, originally containing a schoolroom, and extending the full width of the front with a pitched roof and a pointed central doorway flanked by two more pointed windows. This may have been the porch or portico from which the church takes its name.

The interior is a simple rectangular space with a flat ceiling, enriched only by the shallow elliptical apse in the east wall, set in a frame of fluted pilasters with acanthus leaf capitals. The pointed arch of the west door is flanked by two partly-blocked openings with pointed heads which suggest that the west front may at first have had two tiers of windows and that the forebuilding was a later addition. Apparently there was originally a west gallery and a painting of the Ascension above the high altar. The church was reordered in about 1981, when the altar rails were removed and the Lady altar repositioned on a podium as a nave altar. Both this and the high altar are German work, introduced by exiled German Jesuit priests in the later nineteenth century. The interior is carpeted and has late nineteenth-century benches. There is a neoclassical wall tablet to the Revd John Hughes, d.1828.

In the small garden front of the church is a stone cross dated 1652 which stood on Eccleston Hill until 1822 (Buildings of England).

Entry amended by AHP 11.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: George Marsh (attributed)

Original Date: 1790

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed