Levenshulme Road, Gorton, Manchester M18
A design by the Reynolds & Scott partnership, moving into a slightly more ‘Gothic’ phase, with a striking west end entrance bay. The interior is dominated by the exposed concrete frame, and retains some original furnishings and more recent stained glass.
Gorton is a suburb of Manchester which expanded during industrialisation in the nineteenth century and was home to large engineering works. Following the decline of industry in the twentieth century there were clearances and new building was undertaken, including much council housing. St Francis Gorton (now in secular use) by E.W. Pugin was built in 1866-72 and became the dominant Catholic presence in the area. Sacred Heart is some distance from St Francis, and was founded to cater for the increasing population in the area. Early in 1900 a deputation consisting of two friars and two prominent lay Catholics approached Bishop Bilsborrow to discuss setting up a new mission. In June 1901 the Bishop appointed Fr Alban Snape Finn to take charge of the mission and the first Mass was celebrated in his lodgings on Hyde Road in September 1901. He went on to obtain a plot of land in 1902 and a ‘tin tabernacle’ school chapel was erected in a matter of weeks. It was opened in January 1902 by Rev. Canon Musseley, with the choir of St Mary’s, Mulberry Street in attendance. A new school was built in 1903, leaving the iron building in use solely as a church. A succession of schools was provided in the locality over the years, most recently in 1994. A presbytery was built in 1905 and a member of the congregation, Richard Wylde, acted as the builder. This survives as a red brick building of traditional design. A new church built in 1925-6 was a modest building of brick, by an unknown architect. This stood on the site of the present parish hall, and was extended soon after it was built to cater for population increase.
Plans for a new church to the designs of Reynolds & Scott were approved in October 1958 and Bishop Beck laid the foundation stone in October 1960. He returned to open the completed church in March 1962. A parish hall was completed to the designs of the same architects in 1963. This is the venue for a community café as well as serving the usual parish functions.
Mass was celebrated facing the congregation for the first time in 1965. In 1979 the church was consecrated by Bishop Holland and the sanctuary was reordered for the occasion. Side altars were removed, the altar rails partly dismantled and the high altar was moved forward. Major roof repairs, including the removal of the cupola, were undertaken in 1985 to remedy a long standing problem of rainwater penetration. In 1993 another reordering took place, when the altar rails were completely removed and used to make a lectern. The font was brought into the body of the church. At some point the after this the former baptistery was converted to an accessible WC.
All orientations given are liturgical. The church is constructed around a reinforced concrete frame, with brick and artificial stone cladding and a copper roof. The roof rises over a notional crossing, where there was a cupola, shown on illustrations of the building, which was removed in 1985. The front of the church incorporates a full-height recess, where the main entrance is integrated into a concrete frame which rises above the doors and supports a Calvary. This is positioned in front of the west window (obscured by scaffolding at the time of inspection), casting a silhouette of the cross visible from the interior. The sides of the building are articulated around the concrete frame, the nave bays with tall windows with cambered heads. Inside there is a narthex and west gallery and nave without aisles. The concrete frame is exposed in the roof where the form echoes traditional Gothic vaulting. Original fixtures and fittings include the Crucifix and canopy at the east end, and the altar, which was moved forward during reordering. Stained glass of circa 2000 is by D. Holt of Classical Glass, Bolton.
Architect: Reynolds & Scott
Original Date: 1962
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed