Building » +Salford – Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist

+Salford – Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist

Chapel Street, Salford M3

The cathedral church of the Diocese of Salford, and one of a small group of large, architecturally ambitious Catholic churches built in England before 1850 which reflected the growing confidence and ambition of the Church. It is a powerful design and forms a good group with the attached former offices and seminary buildings. The interior has strong spatial qualities and retains interesting and unusual stained glass and some furnishings of high quality. 

Salford originated as a medieval settlement which grew up along the banks of the River Irwell and Chapel Street is part of the historic core of the settlement. The area became popular and fashionable for elegant public buildings and residences at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Later in the century the peripheral areas became built up with dense housing and industry. Clearances from the 1960s were followed by decline and, more recently, regeneration.

Following the collapse of the original St Mary’s Mulberry Street (qv) in 1835, some of the money collected for the establishment of a new church was used to buy land at Hunts Bank in Manchester. It soon became clear that this location would be engulfed by works associated with the establishment of the railway (Victoria Station, opened 1844) and the land was therefore sold and a plot on Chapel Street, Salford acquired instead. A. W. N. Pugin drew up proposals for a church in 1842, but in the event he withdrew, citing ‘a point of principle’, and designs were instead prepared by Matthew Hadfield of Weightman & Hadfield. This was reputed to be the first Catholic church since the Reformation to adopt a cruciform plan. It was certainly one of the largest, most ambitious and impressive Catholic churches of its day. The cost was said to be in the region of £18,000 and the building was a dramatic demonstration of the confidence of the Catholic church in England.  The building was inaugurated in 1844 and 6000 people are said to have attended the laying of the foundation stone by Dr Sharples, Vicar Apostolic. Principal benefactors included the Leeming and Lee families. When it was opened in 1848 the service was attended by Catholics from all over the country, including eight English bishops. The various fixtures and fittings included a magnificent reredos by George Goldie, sanctuary furnishings by Goldie and Weightman & Hadfield, metalwork by Hardman and choir furnishings by Lane & Lewis.

With the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy by Pope Pius IX in 1850 the Diocese of Salford was created and the church elevated to the status of a cathedral. The building is discussed by Charles Eastlake in his seminal book The History of the Gothic Revival published in 1872, and merited a full page illustration.

Various repairs and restorations included one in 1881 when the spire was damaged by a storm. A new chapel of the Blessed Sacrament was designed by P.P. Pugin and completed in 1884.With the debt finally paid off in 1890, the church was consecrated. The building was subject to a reordering in 1972 by Cassidy & Ashton when a new sanctuary with altar was formed in the crossing. More controversially, another reordering in 1983 resulted in the removal or mutilation of the high altar, pulpit, side altars and other furnishings, with alteration of the choir furnishings. More work in 1990 involved the destruction of Goldie’s reredos, leaving only the base.

A major further phase of work was finished in 2009 when the ancillary buildings of the Cathedral, originally a seminary, library, a former Victorian school and parts of the former Salford Corporation Education Offices were converted to provide diocesan offices, a conference centre and shop, with scope for extending the range of facilities within the Education Office premises. This work was undertaken by Michael Taylor of Bate & Taylor Architects and the project won local awards for conservation and regeneration awarded by Salford City Council.


All orientations given are liturgical. The list entry (below) covers the main elements of the building. It describes the south transept as an addition of 1884, but this seems to be an error perhaps owed to the fact that a new chapel was established in the transept at that time. Both transepts are shown on the large scale map of Manchester and Salford published in 1850-1. The design is essentially an assemblage of motifs from the English medieval precedents of Newark (Nottinghamshire), Howden Minster (South Yorkshire), and Selby Abbey (North Yorkshire). All appeared in Edmund Sharpe’s Architectural Parallels of 1848 and many of the details are reproduced exactly, suggesting Hadfield had access to Sharpe’s material. The reproduction of motifs from a restricted range of sources was common in church architecture of the 1840s, and this example is particularly successful in blending the different elements convincingly. The interior stonework is largely painted in neutral colours matching in tone the twentieth century altar and associated furnishings of marble in the crossing. Also painted are the sanctuary screens and base of George Goldie’s reredos. Here, in the north and south corners respectively are the Lee and Leeming chantry chapels, with stone tomb recesses and brass memorials by Hardman. The Lady Chapel, with a reredos with Marian texts and emblems, occupies the centre of the space. In the south transept the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament was designed by P. P. Pugin of 1884. Fittings include a marble altar and effigy of St Aurelius (curtained) by R. B. Boulton and panelling with paintings on a gold ground is by Joseph Alphege Pippett. The metalwork by Hardman, Powell & Co. seems largely to have disappeared. The north transept east chapel is a war memorial, with a large Pieta, marble panels inscribed with the names of the dead, and stained glass, probably by Hardman, with censing angels on each side and an east window on the theme of sacrifice. On the west wall of the transept the altar of Mary Queen of the most Holy Rosary is probably late nineteenth century, with painting on a gold ground.

Stained glass is generally of high quality, much probably by Hardman. It includes a window (chancel south side) with the architect M. E. Hadfield and designer of the furnishings George Goldie in the attitude of donors at the base, with scrolls showing their designs. The east window by William Wailes, dated 1854, is on the theme of the story of Catholicism in England from the conversion of King Ethelbert by St Augustine through to the Restoration of the Hierarchy, including a scene showing Henry VIII. It must be one of the largest and most elaborate windows designed for a Catholic church of the day. The west window has glass of abstract design installed in 1995. Carved Stations of the Cross were presented by the de la Salle brothers of Hopwood Hall in 1989. Other fixtures include work by Harold Riley, including pen and ink studies of 1982 showing Pope John Paul II and a painting of the Pope.

List descriptions



Roman Catholic cathedral. 1845. By Weightman & Hadfield. S transept added 1884. Coursed and squared stone with Welsh slate roof. c1300 Gothic style, extensively modelled on Selby and Howden. Nave with 2 aisles, central tower and spire, aisled chancel.

EXTERIOR: Cathedral tower rises above nave with paired bell chamber lights in deep, shafted recesses. Angle buttresses terminating in pinnacles with quatrefoil parapet running between them. Brooch spire with 4 tiers of lucarnes. Nave of 4 bays divided by buttresses, each with 3-light Decorated window. Gabled porch to W, with deep moulded doorway with niche over. Paired 2-light Decorated windows to clerestory. N transept with rose window in N wall, and octagonal turret in western angle with scallop-tiled ogival conical roof. 4 bays to chancel, unbuttressed. 3-light Decorated windows, with quatrefoil tracery, reticulated traceried 3-light windows to clerestory. Polygonal turrets on each eastern angle, with low leaded roofs. Large E window of 7 lights with richly reticulated tracery. Octagonal pinnacle turrets each side of W front, with 2-light Decorated windows in each gabled face, and crocketed spirelet. W door in deeply moulded splayed arch, flanked by blind traceried panels. 4-light Decorated window over, with enriched pointed hoodmould and blind traceried panels each side. Gabled buttresses also have traceried panelling, and canopies over statues. 3-light Decorated W windows to aisles. S transept of 2 bays, articulated by gabled buttresses and with corbel table to eaves.

INTERIOR: nave arcade of 4 bays with clustered shafts, and paired arches to clerestory. Clustered shafts to crossing arches. Timber roof to nave, stone vaulting to chancel. Austere internal decoration, relieved by richness of altar furnishings and stained glass. S transept chapel has polished marble altar rails and encaustic tiled floor, oak panelled reredos with gilded painted scenes from the life of Christ. Marble altar, the raised reredos having linenfold panelling above marble quatrefoils with emblematic sculpture, and terminating to SE with statue in niche. High relief sculpted panel to south chancel chapel altar and painted screens, the chapel divided from the ambulatory behind the high altar by a stone canopied memorial. Ambulatory divided from high altar by low stone traceried screen. E altar in ambulatory with elaborately carved reredos. Chancel has mosaic floor, an abstract design with central emblems, all set in a polished marble surround. Between the clerestory windows, over each pier of the chancel arcade, statues of kings and bishops in canopies. N transept chapel altar with figures set behind glazed tracery to returns and frontal. Memorial to Bishop Sharples d1850, a recumbent effigy in moulded recess. Stained glass, possibly by Hardman, in E window and in chancel aisles, one S window dated 1849, the E window dated 1854. Representations of saints, kings and martyrs in medieval idiom. Emblematic glass in S and N aisle windows, with west window of N aisle representing Saint Aloysius, dated 1889, and Durrell memorial window to N, by Barracough and Sanders of Lancaster, 1920. Sacramental window of c1889-90 to N transept. Cathedral House: originally the Theological College. c1850. Adjoining the cathedral on the E side. Coursed and squared stone with steeply pitched Welsh slate roofs. L-plan with entrance range facing the road behind a courtyard. 3 storeys. 3-window range with central full-height canted bay with polygonal slated roof containing narrow central dormer. Large porch or porte cochere with shallow segmental archway, and paired sash windows above. Similar paired sash windows in flanking bays, all with relieving arches to first floor. Modillion eaves cornice, then steeply gabled dormers, 2 stacks springing from right hand dormer. Projecting wing advanced to the right, a somewhat later addition, though in similar style. 6-window range with moulded arched doorway to right, and relieving arches over 4-pane sash windows of first floor. 3 wide gabled dormers in the roof. Further brick wing extends the line of this wing to rear, and on the angle of the main ranges, a large traceried wooden lantern with continuous band of windows beneath pyramidal roof.

Listing NGR: SJ8278998598

Railings, walls, gate piers and gates


Railings, walls, gate piers and gates to Cathedral of St John and Cathedral House (qv). c1845. Stone and wrought-iron. Stone flanking walls to cathedral precinct, that on E side divided by pilasters, and with stone gate piers to a pair of later C19 wrought-iron gates. Small arched side gate alongside.

Last updated: 20.11.17.

Heritage Details

Architect: Weightman & Hadfield

Original Date: 1848

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*