Building » Ribchester – St Peter and Paul

Ribchester – St Peter and Paul

Stydd Lane, Ribchester, Preston, Lancs PR3

The oldest church in the diocese, built before the Second Catholic Relief Act, and passing itself off as the pavilion wing of a small country villa. The church was extended at the (ritual) west end in 1877. The interior is plain, with a gallery at the west end; there are few furnishings of note and the building has suffered from some inappropriate alterations. 

In the eighteenth century, Catholic activity was centred on Hothersall Hall, Bailey Hall, Osbaldeston Hall and other Catholic households. Bishop Francis Petre, Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District from 1750-75, lodged with the Walmesley family at Showley Hall, Clayton-le-Dale. The parish registers for Ribchester go back to 1783, and the land for the present church was granted on a 199-year lease by Richard Walmesley to Rev. William Fisher, his chaplain, on 11 April 1788. This was just before the passage of the Second Catholic Relief Act, which legalised the building of public Catholic places of worship. In the words of the parish history, ‘the church was built to correspond in every detail, except depth, to the other side of the Lodge (presbytery) in order to disguise its function as a place of Catholic worship’. According to this history, the church was originally the size of the present sanctuary, and was only extended to its current length in 1877. Perhaps more plausibly, Hartwell suggests that the church was extended by just one bay at this time, when the gabled wall and bellcote would have been added. Either way, the additions were seamless, with the original west door and window reused.

A school was built in Stydd Lane in 1861-2, extended in 1911 and again in 1961-2. It closed in 1984 and the building now serves as the parish centre.

The interior decoration has been at times very rich, but the present appearance seeks to reinforce the building’s simple barn-like character. In c1989 major alterations and refurbishments were carried out at the time of the church’s bicentenary. These included the removal of the render from the internal (ritual) east wall to expose the rubble stone construction and the unblocking of blind windows in the south (ritual east) wall. The pews, which are likely to have been the original ones, were removed, although some survive in the gallery.


The church is described in the list entry, below. This makes no mention of the extension of the building, said to have taken place in 1877. It also needs to be updated to take account of more recent alterations, such as the unblocking of the south (ritual east) windows. Generally, the windows have sadly been replaced with double glazed versions of the originals. Inside, the plaster has been stripped from the sanctuary wall and new (or second hand) pews introduced in the nave, c1989. The nave floor is of stone flags, while the sanctuary is carpeted. Original pews appear to survive in the gallery, which is approached by a stair with stick balusters and carved tread ends of early nineteenth century character, but apparently dating from (or reused in) 1877. The different form of the plaster ceiling at this end, vaulted rather than flat, tends to confirm that this bay is a later addition.

Apart from the gallery pews, the only other furnishings of particular note are the painted panels of St Peter and St Paul, now placed in the gallery on either side of the central window. These are presumably a legacy of one of the nineteenth century schemes of redecoration.

List description:


Presbytery, 1789. Squared, coursed sandstone with slate roof. 2-storey, 3-bay symmetrical composition with plinth, chamfered quoins, moulded cornice and end stacks. Windows have plain stone surrounds, those on the ground floor being wide and possibly having lost mullions. The door has an architrave, fluted frieze with corner paterae, and moulded cornice. To the west is a single-storey one-bay link to a 2-storey outbuilding with hipped roof, chamfered quoins and a plain stone window surround on each floor. This balances the church (q.v.) to the east and, from the south, makes it appear to be one of a pair of pavilions to a house.

Listing NGR: SD6532435786

Heritage Details

Architect: Not recorded

Original Date: 1789

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II