Building » Salford (Pendleton) – St Sebastian

Salford (Pendleton) – St Sebastian

Gerald Road, Pendleton, Salford M6

A fairly simple, well designed building, slotted into a site which retains older buildings of local historical interest. The most significant fittings are the organ and the Sacred Heart sculpture from the previous church; the paintings are also of local interest. 

During the nineteenth century the immediate area was dominated by industry and housing, including poor quality slum properties. A community of Catholics had formed in the early nineteenth century as the area became industrialised. In due course this part of Pendleton was included in the area covered by the mission of St John, founded in 1843.  Mass was first said in a school on Church Street fifteen years later. The mission of St James was formed in 1870 and Fr Saffenreuter was the first rector. He established an infants’ school, also used as a chapel, in Whit Lane. Charlestown became a separate mission in 1892, and the first rector was Fr R. Smith. During Fr Pool’s rectorship property was purchased on Gerald Road and a school chapel was started in November 1895, when Bishop Bilsborrow laid the foundation stone. Dedicated to St Charles, it opened in July 1896.

In 1897 the Dominican Fathers took over the mission. The superior, Fr Hyacinth Koos, secured a larger plot of land beside the school chapel with a view to building a church for the order. This was made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donation of £10,000, which met the full cost of the church. The donor was in fact André Raffalovich, Jewish convert, poet and writer on homosexuality; after his conversion to Catholicism in 1896, Raffalovich became a Dominican tertiary, taking the name Brother Sebastian. The new church was dedicated to St Sebastian, and the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Salford in September 1898. The priory building was commenced the following year. The architects for the church, and most likely the priory buildings too, were Sinnott & Powell of Manchester and Liverpool. The church, dedicated to St Sebastian, was consecrated in 1901 by the Rev. Dr O’ Callaghan, Bishop of Cork.  It was designed along the same lines as St Clare, Sefton Park, Liverpool (1888-90), with narrow passage aisles.

Sinnott & Powell’s church was demolished in 1971, leaving part of the priory standing (this was converted to diocesan offices but became disused recently when new offices were provided on the Cathedral site, and the building is currently (April 2013) being offered for rent). The present church was built in 1972-3 at a cost of £32,700, to designs by Desmond Williams & Associates. It opened in September 1973.  It is linked to a presbytery, which is of slightly earlier date, perhaps provided to serve the demolished church.


All orientations given are liturgical. The church is of loadbearing brickwork with exposed steel roof beams and timber board finish inside. The monopitch roof slopes up to the east. A link to the pre-existing presbytery was also part of the design. There is a narthex, a rectangular nave designed to seat 200 people, and rear sacristies, WCs, etc. The exposed brick of the walls has been painted cream, and the church is carpeted, as it was from the outset. This was part of a strategy to impart warmth and a welcoming feel to the interior. Sculpture produced in consultation with Fr Mulholland inside includes a Crucifix of 1972-3 by Mr E. Blackwell, who also did sculpture at Holy Cross church, Patricroft (qv) and elsewhere.  A Sacred Heart statue displayed on the street side of the church is said to have come from the previous church. A purpose-built pipe organ by Jardine stands against the south wall.  There is an unusual stained and painted glass frieze on the north and south sides of the church depicting the Stations of the Cross. Simple, well designed furnishings include bench seating, altar and lectern. There is a painting of St Sebastian, based on traditional depictions of the saint, and a painting of a local scene in the manner of Lowry, by a local artist.

Heritage Details

Architect: Desmond Williams & Associates

Original Date: 1973

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed