Building » Rainhill – St Bartholomew

Rainhill – St Bartholomew

Warrington Road, Rainhill, St Helens L35

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

Pevsner calls this ‘the noblest Catholic church in South Lancashire’. It is a handsome Neoclassical building, with an Italianate campanile and a splendid classical interior. The church is part of a group which includes the presbytery, school, convent and a large graveyard with a handsome Renaissance-style entrance arch.

The church was built at the expense of Bartholomew Bretherton, the Catholic owner of a substantial coaching company in the early nineteenth century.  The company’s first staging  post  out  of  Liverpool  was  at Rainhill  where  the  Ship  Inn  now  stands. Bretherton apparently had stabling for 240 horses in this location. In 1824 he bought the manor of Rainhill and built himself a new house across the road from the Ship Inn called Rainhill House (this is now the Jesuit Conference centre and has been renamed Loyola Hall). The church was built 1838-40, and followed by school and convent buildings, all paid for by Bretherton.


Roman Catholic church built in 1838-40 to the designs of Joshua Dawson of Preston (c1812-1856) at the expense of Bartholomew Bretherton of Rainhill House.  This church is Dawson’s only major recorded work. The building is constructed of locally-quarried red sandstone with roof-coverings of Welsh slate. The body of the church is in the form of a prostyle temple with a hexastyle portico with fluted columns of the Ionic order and a tall central doorway with an eared surround. The south side wall and the eastern apse have closely-set Doric pilasters without any window openings; the north wall is also blind but without pilasters. Attached by a short two-storey link building at the  northeast  corner  is  an  Italianate  campanile  added  in 1849,  with  twin  bell openings on each face and a shallow pyramidal roof.

The interior is basilican in plan and character, with a nave of six bays of Corinthian columns, continued as fluted pilasters round the semi-domed eastern apse, which is divided from the nave by a round arch carried on fluted columns. The nave has a coffered barrel vault with semi-circular lucarne windows, while the side aisles have flat ceilings. To either side of the sanctuary are Classical arcaded screens. The southeast chapel has an elaborate canopy. Western organ gallery, the central section now  glazed in beneath.

For  many  years  the  interior  had  elaborate  late  Victorian polychrome decoration; most of this was painted out in a recent redecoration in more neutral colours, but four figures remain in the apse. The interior has been considerably re-arranged.  Early twentieth century photographs show that there was then a central block of pews. A reordering of 1984 involved the removal of the original organ and the bringing forward of the original altar (much of its original ornament was removed at the same time). The fittings include three nineteenth century brasses to members of the Bretherton family, including the donor, Bartholomew Bretherton.

List description


1840. Very imposing. West end has 6 massive fluted Ionic columns with frieze and pediment up steps, with large door under portico. Interior has tall massive Corinthian columns forming aisles, and a round apse with a half-dome. Coffered barrel vault ceiling over nave.

Listing NGR: SJ5017890352

Heritage Details

Architect: Joshua Dawson

Original Date: 1840

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II