Ivy Street, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7
A striking church by Edmund Kirby & Sons, the design very characteristic of its time, and retaining many original features of note. The needle spire is a local landmark.
Runcorn was developed from the late eighteenth century as the terminus of the Bridgewater Canal. A mission was established in 1842, providing for local Catholics who had previously had to cross the Mersey to Widnes to reach the nearest mission centre. With the expansion of industry in the area, a growing Catholic population, including Irish immigrants, resulted in a church being opened in 1846-7 on Windmill Street. It became a school-chapel in 1866. A large new iron church, capable of seating 700, was opened on Irwell Lane in 1888. Despite its temporary nature and a serious fire, it lasted well into the post-war years, finally being demolished in 1976.
In 1938 a plot of land for a presbytery and church was purchased in Langdale Road. Due to the war, and a bomb falling on the site, a site on Ivy Street was instead used for the site of a new church, which opened in 1956. Built from designs by Edmund Kirby & Sons, it cost £37,000 and could accommodate 350 people. A parish hall used as classrooms was added in 1963 (now the parish centre); a primary school on Oxford Road opened in 1965; a scout hut in 1973; and a new comprehensive school in 1982.
St Edward’s is a striking modern church, characteristic of its date, with a simple interior retaining many original fittings and finishes. The church is orientated with the sanctuary to the north, but for this description this will be referred to as the liturgical east end. Externally, the walls are clad with fair-faced red brick in monk bond, a variation on Flemish bond, with sandstone dressings and a large west porch, in painted stone surmounted with three stone Celtic crosses. The shallow-pitched roof is laid with terracotta pantiles with deep timber fascia boards to the east and west gables. On the south side of the west elevation is the tower, described below, and the principal entrance within a four-bay, flat-roofed, double-height reinforced concrete porch. The porch contains two single doorways with modern timber doors and a pair of rectangular plain-glazed windows above and is fitted with modern steel gates. The remainder of the elevation has eight round-headed windows to the ground floor, with six roundel windows above with a large central statue of St Edward (the Confessor) fixed to the wall. The north elevation comprises five full-height window bays and an entrance bay at the west end. The entrance has a plain sandstone hooded surround and is fitted with modern timber doors. The entrance has one step and modern steel gates. The window bays contain a central brick panel with steel-framed glazing surrounding it above a sandstone-framed rendered panel. The south elevation is dominated by the tower and the single-storey parish centre, added in 1963. The tower has three round-headed louvres on each face to the upper bellcote stage, a flat parapet and a needle spire, clad in copper. There is an entrance door on the south side, with ramped access and modern timber double doors. The parish centre has a mix of roundel and arched windows, and also modern rooflights. The presbytery is attached at the south-east end of the parish centre. The east elevation is blind.
The interior of the church is wide and lofty due to its portal frame construction which also defines its seven-bay length. The north windows contain coloured and plain geometric glazing, with fabric banners hung on the brick panels within. The south wall is oak panelled and set with large clear-glazed windows and leads to the Parish Centre and confessionals; above the panelling are the Stations of the Cross and four round-headed clear glazed windows. The west choir gallery has an oak panelled front, with eight round-headed windows below and six roundels above, all with clear glazing. Access is provided to the south and west, into an entrance hall with stairs to the gallery (of steel and timber, original to the church), and off which the parish hall is also entered; and from the north directly into the nave. The walls are plastered and painted; the ceiling is finished with acoustic tiles, and the floor is laid with linoleum tiles with modern carpet to the nave aisle and sanctuary. The original communion rails have been removed in post-Vatican II reordering. Three steps lead up to the sanctuary, the walls of which are clad with marble panels. The side chapels are lit by four round-headed windows on each side and a larger window to the north chapel. The forward altar, tabernacle plinth and ambo are of polished grey and white marble and there is a panelled timber canopy over the tabernacle. Carved timber angels flank the tabernacle. The chapels also have carved timber figures, placed in front of oak panelling; Crucifixion and Annunciation scenes in timber are placed upon the cross beams above the entrances to the chapels (which retain their timber communion rails). Nave seating consists of original oak benches, with an incised and painted cross detail in the bench ends. There is an octagonal marble font on a marble plinth at the west end of the
Architect: Edmund Kirby & Sons
Original Date: 1956
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed