Building » Preston – St Ignatius (Cathedral of St Alphonsa)

Preston – St Ignatius (Cathedral of St Alphonsa)

St Ignatius Square, Preston PR1 1TT

An early, archaeologically correct Gothic Revival church with significant later adaptations, all by major nineteenth century Catholic architects. The church and its spire form a major landmark in the town, and are at the heart of a designated conservation area.

The old faith clung on tenaciously in Preston. In 1582 the Lord President of the North wrote to the Bishop of Chester: ‘In your like countries there is plenty of Jesuits and massing priests. I wish I might hear that some preachers are planted there to cross them. I hope before this you have one I Preston’ (Warren, 1993, p 10). The Preston mission was served by the Society of Jesus from 1701, and the town was the site of much turbulence in the time of the Jacobite uprising. In the slightly calmer waters of the late eighteenth century, and very soon after the Second Relief Act legalised the building of public places of Catholic worship, a new Chapel was built in Fishergate (1792). This was the church of St Wilfrid (qv).

The first cotton mill opened in Preston in 1777. By 1835, when St Ignatius’ church was being built, there were forty mills in the town. Between 1800 and 1851 the population  grew  from  11,837  (of  whom  500  were Catholics) to 69,450 (30,000 Catholics). St Ignatius’ was the third chapel established to serve this burgeoning population, and it soon became too small. The church was opened on 5 May 1836. The initial cost of £1,500 was met by individual subscriptions.

A new and large presbytery was built to the east of the church in 1875.

The church has associations with two famous poets: Francis Thompson was baptised here in 1859, and Gerard Manley Hopkins was curate in the late 1880s.

The Jesuits have long moved away from St Ignatius’, and since 2015 the building has been the cathedral of the Syro-Malabar community.


Please refer to the list description, below. Additional points:

  • In a rather extraordinary liturgical adaptation, the high altar has been sawn in half and the Mensa brought forward to allow the Mass to be said facing the people
  • There are further side chapels, baptistry etc which are richly furnished, and underemphasised in the list description
  • In recent years a narthex/social space has been created by enclosing the space beneath the organ gallery at the west end of the nave
  • The 22 ft high Portland stone parish war memorial in front of the church (separately listed Grade II) is in the form of a Calvary and was designed by J. S. Mangan of Preston. The figures are by Hooper and Webb of Liverpool.

Entry amended by AHP 20.12.2020

List description


Roman Catholic church. 1833-6, by J. J. Scoles of London, chancel and chapels added 1858 by J.A.Hansom; altered 1885-6 by M. E. Hadfield & Sons, and G.Webster. Chisel-dressed sandstone ashlar, slate roofs. Nave on north-south axis with east and west aisles; south tower with spire, flanked by chapel and baptistry (added 1912), east and west transepts, and chancel with east and west chapels. Perpendicular style. The tower, of 3 unequal stages with set-back buttresses, has the main doorway recessed in a 2-centred arch with inner and outer moulding and a crocketed ogee crest, above this a tall 2-centred arched 3-light window with Perpendicular tracery and a pedestal- mounted statue on the sill, a set-back belfry stage with louvred 2-light windows, an embattled parapet with crocketed corner pinnacles, short flying buttresses from these to an octagonal spire with clock-faces, lucarnes, roll-moulding to the angles, and an apex cross. The flanking baptistry and chapel are square, with parapets, each with a niche statue in the front wall and a large traceried 3-light window in the side. The nave is tall and narrow, the aisles low and broad, both of 5 bays, the aisles with buttresses and wide Tudor-arched 3-light windows and the nave with pilaster strips and large 3-light clerestory windows, all these windows with Perpendicular tracery and hoodmoulds, and both with parapets, those of the nave with tall crocketed pinnacles (some missing). The transepts, slightly lower than the nave, have large 4- light traceried windows, and in the angles with the aisles small added porches. The chancel, 4 bays beyond the transepts, has pilaster strips and 2 traceried clerestory windows in each bay except at the north end which has only one, and various gabled side chapels on both sides in similar style. INTERIOR: 5-bay aisle arcades with clustered piers and moulded 2-centred arches, inner shafts carried up to meet slender wall shafts of roof trusses, which have cusped open-arcading; organ loft in tower, with choir gallery projected into nave; large transept arches in similar style, and confessionals at the end of each (added 1885); 3- bay chancel with arcades also in similar style but with annular caps to the shafts, hoodmoulds to the arches, and angel-corbels to the wall-posts; sanctuary with large transomed window; inner and outer chancel aisles, with chapels at the north ends, various elaborate reredoses etc.

Heritage Details

Architect: J. J. Scoles, J. A. Hansom, M. E. Hadfield & Sons

Original Date: 1833

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*