Huddersfield Road, Millbrook, Stalybridge, SK3
A notable example of experimental 1960s church design, retaining its original character to a high degree. The stained glass screen by Pierre Fourmaintraux, original corona and ceramic Stations and holy water stoups by Alan Boyson are all striking features of the interior.
A parish was formed in 1958 from the neighbouring parish of Stalybridge and the church was built to serve the Millbrook community, which was still dominated by industry at that time. The church was designed by Edward Massey and Alan Burton of Massey & Massey (Plumb, 50). The foundation stone was laid on 14 October 1961 by Bishop Murphy, and the building was solemnly opened by Bishop Grasar on 25 April 1963.
In 2011 an estimated repair bill of £250,000 led to a decision to close the church. A final Mass was held on 14 July 2011, and the future of the church is now uncertain. [It was listed grade II in December 2011].
[This description was written before the listing of the building. The detailed list entry has been added at the end of the report].
St Raphael is a very ambitious building which reflects the era of architectural and liturgical experiment in which it was built. Although the plan is essentially traditional, it is treated in an innovative manner. There are storeyed transepts reached by open spiral stairs, a long nave, crossing with a dome and clerestory lighting, and east Lady Chapel. The altar stands beneath the dome in front of the chapel. It is of black and white marble, with matching altar rails. The north wall of the nave is dominated by a full-height (8 ft 6 ins high x 60 ft long) screen with dalle de verre stained glass by Pierre Fourmaintraux of Powells (Whitefriars), with scenes from the story of Tobias and the Angel. Ceramic Stations of the Cross were designed for the building by Alan Boyson. There is a west end narthex and separate baptistery with a white stone font. Sacristies, toilets, etc. are along the south side of the building, to which a presbytery is attached.
The church appears today much as it does in early photographs and the architectural effect is well preserved, with a corona of light from the dome clerestory brightening the island altar and contrasting with the intense colours of the glass screen. The central light pendant is the original designed by McGoughlin of Dublin. The other main light fittings and simple bench seating with carved roundels also appear to be original.
Original Date: 1961
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II