Building » Stockport (Heaton Norris) – St Mary

Stockport (Heaton Norris) – St Mary

Roman Road, Heaton Norris, Stockport SK4

St Mary’s was designed by Pugin & Pugin and exhibits an obvious debt to the architecture of E. W. Pugin. The church dates from the close of the nineteenth century and the exterior retains architectural coherence, despite some alteration. Inside there have been changes and reordering, however a rich effect still obtains and the church has a good collection of stained glass. The church is a key historic building and landmark in the conservation area.

Heaton Norris is one of a group of townships on the north side of the Mersey originally in Manchester which became administratively incorporated into Stockport in 1913. A Catholic school was established in 1868, and a house of Regency or early Victorian character alongside was acquired to serve as a presbytery.

The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Bishop Bilsborrow on 27 March 1897, and the building was opened on 21 November in the same year by Cardinal Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster and former Bishop of Salford. The architects were Pugin & Pugin of London.

The church was embellished over time. In 1899 Cardinal Vaughan presented a painting of St Peter offering the keys to Our Lady, with the inscription England is My Dowry. Stained glass in the chancel and two side altars were also introduced in 1899. In 1931 a set of nave windows was unveiled, the gift of Archbishop Curley of Baltimore and Washington, who had family connections with the parish priest. Archive photographs  show that the interior also had a rich stencilled and painted scheme, now mostly overpainted. The Rev. Dr Turner arrived in 1940 and subsequently oversaw various works including a new high altar, reredos, sanctuary floor, altar rails and sanctuary roof lights, completed in 1952 (when the church was consecrated). In 1957 the sacristy was found to be in poor condition and replaced. The church was extended at the west end in 1962-3, when a narthex incorporating a new baptistery was installed. This involved removing the lower part of the west wall, losing a niche with a statue and other architectural detail.  A doorway on the north side was blocked and turned into a window. The hardwood partition below the west gallery is probably of this date. The architects for this addition have not been established, but the angular modern Gothic treatment suggests Reynolds & Scott. More recently (early twenty first century) a new altar and ambo have been formed by Alberti, Lupton & Co. Ltd, using marble from the former high altar.


All orientations given are liturgical. The church is of Accrington brick laid in English garden wall bond with stone dressings and consists of a canted apsidal chancel and sanctuary and single-span nave. Windows have tracery of Decorated character.  The tall canted apse and west front exhibit similarities architecturally with the work of E.W. Pugin. A stone bellcote in the west gable has a statue of the Virgin and Child beneath, a later addition. A large wheel window is framed by stepped brick buttresses, with a triple-gabled west porch of 1960s date below. A simple brick sacristy of twentieth century date is attached on the southeast side. A metal ramp leads up to the west porch where there is a former baptistery at the south end, and a glazed screen with doors leading to a secondary space beneath the west gallery, also fitted with a screen and doors.

The interior, despite alteration, is striking and richly decorated. The west gallery has a cusped balustrade and the nave is spanned by arch-braced roof trusses, each principal rising from a stone bracket which forms the canopy for a niche with statuary. A broad pointed chancel arch is flanked by lesser, very shallow arches enclosing windows and marking the position of altars to Our Lady and Sacred Heart. The mid-twentieth century sanctuary furnishings are of alabaster and marble and include altar rails. Side altars have reredoses which also appear to be of mid-twentieth century date, replacing the more ornate arrangements shown in archive photographs. There is an almost complete scheme of stained glass, generally of high quality, including a set of richly coloured nave windows by an unknown artist installed in 1931, executed to traditional designs.

Heritage Details

Architect: Pugin & Pugin

Original Date: 1897

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed