Shaw Heath, Edgeley, Stockport, SK3
A striking Edwardian town church by the Liverpool architect Edmund Kirby. The bold red brick and terracotta exterior is a strong feature on the edge of Stockport town centre, with a contemporary presbytery. The lofty interior is fairly conservative for its date but is nevertheless a successful Gothic design with good, well-made fittings, including glass attributed to Margaret Agnes Rope.
Catholics in Stockport were served from Manchester during the late eighteenth century; Fr James Blundell first said Mass in a room on Windmill Street before building a church dedicated to St James and St Philip in Shaw Heath in 1803. That church was rebuilt and refurbished on several occasions before being replaced by the present church of Our Lady and the Apostles in 1905, from designs by Edmund Kirby.
In 1925 the sanctuary was redesigned as a First World War memorial, with a new high altar backed by a carved oak screen and alabaster and marble altar rail with bronze gates (The Tablet 31 October, 1925). A reordering scheme of c.1989 involved the extension of the screen to enclose the sanctuary chapel. At the same time the altar rails were removed and a new altar, font and ambo introduced in front of the chancel arch.
The list description (below) provides a comprehensive summary of the main features and character of the building. The church is similar to Kirby’s Sacred Heart, Chorley (1894) and St Vincent, Altrincham, qv (1904). The west front faces roughly south-west, but in the list description, liturgical compass points are used.
Roman Catholic church, 1903-5, by Edmund Kirby. Red brick and terracotta, Welsh slate roofs. Decorated period influenced Gothic Revival. Stained glass attributed to Margaret Agnes Rope.
PLAN: Nave with apse at the east end and double entrances to the west end. Side aisles continuing as an ambulatory around the apse. Baptistery projection to the north at the west end of the nave. A small side chapel interrupts the west end of the south aisle. On the north side of the north aisle there is a complex arrangement with two parallel ranges forming a large north chapel and an area for confessionals, with a small porch to the west and vestries to the east. A corridor links the south west corner of the church to the presbytery. The south side is hidden by neighbouring buildings.
EXTERIOR: West. The west front of the nave has a deeply set, large rose window above an arcade of 6 lancets, all framed by a full height, 4 centred arch of 9 ribbed orders. Below is a pair of entrances set in pointed arches of 6 ribbed orders that extend up into a traceried parapet that is in front of the 6 lancets, the parapet is augmented by 3 pinnacles. The west end is topped by a pair of louvered turrets with spires, the gable topped by a cross finial. The west window of the south aisle has a 3 light window. To the north of the nave there is the baptistery with its hipped roof and lancet windows. Set back behind the baptistery there are the paired gabled roofs of the north chapel and confessionals. The chapel (southern gable) has a triple lancet above a porch with a lean-to roof. The gable to the north has a small rose window above four equally tall lancets. Both gables are topped by finials.
North: The nave is of 11 bays with the western-most being blind. The clerestory has large, 6 light windows arranged in 2 stages, with the lights being multifoiled and the transoms being unusual in being pierced by quatrefoils. Aisle windows are simpler in design as they are single staged. Two groups of 5 lancets light the confessionals, to the east there is a lower 4 light window lighting a vestry, with a side door beyond. The north chapel has a high level, 3 light north window.
East: The apse clerestory windows match those of the nave. The east window of the ambulatory is similar but taller. The surrounding brickwork is rough, indicating that there was an intention to rebuild this with the addition of an eastern chapel. The remaining ambulatory windows are in the form of paired lancets arranged in pairs, divided into two stages with foiled transoms. The north and south chapels, as well as the confessional, have small rose windows set in their gables.
INTERIOR: Walls are plastered apart from the arches to the nave and apse, the windows, and a quatrefoil frieze below the clerestory windows, which are all in moulded terracotta. The arches of the arcades flanking the north chapel are ribbed plaster, as is the very wide chancel arch. All of the arcading has polished marble cylindrical pillars. The nave roof is hammer beamed but without collars, the roof being scissor-braced instead. The windows are nearly all clear glazed with diamond leading, although a small proportion has been replaced with plain glass with fake leading. The east windows to the chapels and ambulatory all have pictorial stained glass. The large rose window in the west end has a geometrical design in lead work with mainly clear and pale yellow glazing.
FITTINGS: The marble and alabaster high altar of 1925 incorporates an oak tabernacle (1905) and reredos, with an ornate oak screen between the sanctuary and ambulatory. The chancel screen was added in similar style in circa 1989. The altar, font, lectern and other fittings added in circa 1989 are not of special interest. Apart from the oak confessionals, the fittings of the north and south chapels are thought to be later C20 replacements. The baptistery has lost its font, but retains a wrought iron screen added 1929. The large organ loft at the west end is thought to be original although it fits slightly awkwardly into the church creating an entrance lobby that is lower than the lights above the entrance doors. The organ was rebuilt in 1955, framing the rose window.
SUBSIDARY ITEM: The presbytery is connected to and contemporary with the church. However, beyond the fact that it is also in red brick with slate roofs, it displays little evidence of having been designed as part of an architectural ensemble with the church. The presbytery is of a typical late C19 and early C20 design and has also been altered, especially internally with its conversion from a residence for a group of priests into a single residence. The presbytery is thus not of special interest beyond its contribution to the setting of the church.
HISTORY: The Church of Our Lady and the Apostles was built in 1903-5 to replace an earlier church dedicated to SS Philip and James. It was designed by Edmund Kirby of Liverpool, the west front being similar to that of the Church of the Sacred Heart, Chorley by Kirby, 1894. In 1925 the sanctuary was redesigned as a First World War memorial with a new high altar backed by a carved oak screen. Re-ordering of the church in circa 1989 saw the extension of this screen converting the sanctuary into an enclosed sanctuary chapel, with a new high altar, font and lectern placed before the chancel arch.
SOURCE: Gerard Wight & Hazel Dove, 1999, “Our Lady and the Apostles Stockport, 1799-1999” (Booklet marking the bicentenary of the parish)
REASON FOR DESIGNATION: The Church of Our Lady and the Apostles is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Its architecturally impressive exterior, particularly the treatment of the west front facing Shaw Heath. * The high quality of its interior, both in terms of overall design and the detailing, especially the early C20 fittings. * The additional interest of later alterations such as the sanctuary chapel with its war memorial high altar and the eastern stained glass windows.
Amended by AHP 09.02.2021
Architect: Edmund Kirby
Original Date: 1905
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II