Building » Standish – St Marie of the Annunciation

Standish – St Marie of the Annunciation

Almond Brook Road, Standish, Wigan WN6

Standish has claim to be the oldest mission in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, with Mass said at Standish Hall from 1559. The present church is a large red brick Gothic building of the 1880s by James O’Byrne, who built widely in the Wigan area. Although perhaps standard for its time in terms of design and plan, the church forms a good group with the later presbytery and parish rooms, and contains some early twentieth century furnishings of quality.

St Marie’s can claim to be the oldest ‘parish’ in the archdiocese, and is indeed listed as parish no.1 in the Directory. Chaplains serving the Standish family at Standish Hall from 1559 included the martyrs Laurence Vaux (who wrote the first English-language catechism of the Reformation era), the Jesuit missioner St Edmund Campion and the Ven. Edward Bamber (who was captured at Standish). In 1694 Standish Hall was suspected of being a centre of Jacobitism and many local Catholic gentry were rounded up and tried. In 1715 at the time of the Jacobite rebellion Ralph Standish joined the Scots army at Preston and was taken prisoner and subsequently sentenced to death. He was later reprieved, but forfeited his estates (later bought back).

In 1742 a chapel was built at Standish Hall, and from 1828 to 1873 the mission was served by Benedictines. There is a local story associated with a cottage, which still survives near Almond Brook Road, known as Cat’i’th’Window Farm. The story runs that the occupier of the farm used to put a black cat in the window, either as a signal to warn Catholics of the presence of soldiers in the area, or to announce that Mass was being celebrated. From 1865 a day school was established in this cottage.

The site of the present church was gifted by Mr Henry Standish. The foundation stone was laid on 24 June 1884, and the new church, built from designs by James O’Byrne of Liverpool (who had built the college at Upholland as well as St Patrick’s Wigan), was opened by Dr O’Reilly, Bishop of Liverpool on 18 May 1884. The cost of the church was £3,267. The adjoining presbytery and schools/parish rooms were built in 1908, again with financial help from the Standish family. The Standish estate was put up for sale in 1921 and its buildings slowly but steadily lost in the ensuing decades.

After the First World War a crucifix stone memorial was erected in front of the church and presbytery. This was moved to its current position next to the entrance from the car park in 2000. In 1923 the original wooden altar in the church was replaced by a new marble altar, and marble  communion rails added. Stained glass windows in the aisles depicting saints and local martyrs, and the large east window depicting the Seven Sacraments, were introduced in 1932.

In 2000 the buildings and grounds underwent major refurbishment, followed by internal redecoration and reordering in 2004. A new marble altar and lectern were installed, the baptismal font re-sited, the marble altar rails removed and new lighting installed. The building was carpeted throughout.


Large church in lancet Gothic style, built in bright red Lancashire brick laid in English garden wall bond, under a slate roof. There is no tower, but a western bellcote. In some ways this is a beefed-up version of O’Byrne’s design for St Patrick’s in Wigan. The main entrance is at the centre of the west front, with a projecting brick arch, stone surround to the doorways and carved stone representation of the Annunciation in the tympanum. Above this, triple lancets and raised bellcote, as at St Patrick’s. The flank northern elevation is of six bays, with one lancet in the eastern and western bays and paired lancets in the intervening four bays – this pattern common to both the clerestorey and aisles. At the east end, the canted sanctuary is of a slightly darker red brick, this time laid in stretcher bond and with a parapet. The window details are also slightly different, with the lancets separated by stone shafts and given stone dressings. A foundation stone is set into the east wall. It may be that the construction proceeded in two distinct but closely-spaced phases.

The large early twentieth century presbytery is attached to the church on the south side, and in turn is linked with the parish rooms, built at the same time. These buildings are also in red brick; the parish rooms have some Edwardian and Olde English timber framed elements.

The interior is conventional for its date, with a wide nave with uninterrupted view of the sanctuary, narrow circulation aisles, western choir gallery and sanctuary area flanked by side altars facing the aisles. The nave arcades are carried on circular polished granite piers, and there is an arch braced timber roof rising from wall posts. Good late nineteenth century glass in the east windows and over the side altars, with scenes from the life of the Virgin. The western gallery has a canted front with an open balustrade with trefoil arches. The marble altar fittings and stained glass windows in the aisles and at the east end are of twentieth century date and are all of high quality. The altars incorporate mosaic and opus sectile panels, the stained glass commemorates local saints and martyrs in the aisles, with the Seven Sacraments in the three lancets at the west end.

Heritage Details

Architect: James O’Byrne

Original Date: 1883

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed