Building » Stonyhurst – St Peter

Stonyhurst – St Peter

Stonyhurst College, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancs BB7

A major work of the Gothic Revival, entering its ‘archaeological’ phase. The building is an expression of Catholic confidence in the post-Emancipation years, and of the Jesuits who built it. The church of St Peter is of outstanding significance for its historical associations with Stonyhurst School, for its external architecture and for the quality of its interior and fittings.

The residence of the Recusant Shireburn family, Stonyhurst was a local centre of Catholic observance during the penal years. In 1794, Jesuits and pupils from their school, originally at St Omer, were forced to leave Liege for England.  At the invitation of Thomas Weld of Lulworth, the then owner of Stonyhurst, the school was re-established there.  Between 1794 and 1797, the chapel within the school was also attended by local Catholics. A former stable on the site of the present building was adapted as a temporary chapel before the present church was erected in 1832-35 from designs by J. J. Scoles. Its design loosely based on that for King’s College at Cambridge, this was one of the earliest prominent churches to be built after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.  The building was consecrated by Bishop John Briggs on 23 June 1835. Pugin visited in 1837 and designed windows in the 1850s. The 1850s decoration of the interior in the Nazarene style was designed by Frederick Settle Barff, using two German artists named Fischer and Wurms for the frescoes in the chapels. The building remains in its original configuration, without additions, although various phases of re-ordering and redecoration have taken place, including  the addition of a marble high altar from designs by Edmund Kirby in 1893 (the original altar and reredos went to St Joseph, Hurst Green, qv) and a reordering in the 1950s under the direction of H. S. Goodhart-Rendel. The most recent refurbishment and interior restoration was completed in 2011, by Cassidy & Ashton architects.


The building is very briefly described in the list description, which covers all the main buildings of Stonyhurst College (see below). The church was designed by Scoles in late Perpendicular style, an unusually accurate revival use of the style for the date, based on King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.  The building is faced in a buff sandstone ashlar, with a shallow-pitched Welsh slate roof. Nave and sanctuary are arranged within the seven-bay building, under one roof, with lean-to aisles and west gallery. The sanctuary is at the north end, but in this description liturgical compass points will be used; the sanctuary will be referred to as the east end and so on.

The west front is framed by octagonal stair turrets topped with traceried cupolas, and dominated by a five-light Perpendicular-style window. Below, is a richly moulded Tudor-arched doorway with double panelled doors. The west ends of the aisles have smaller Tudor-arched doorways, and Perpendicular-style lancets over. The nave clerestory has two-light windows between pilasters that are continued as crocketed pinnacles above the roof. Aisles have moulded plinths and string courses, three-light windows and gableted buttresses.  Side chapels to north and south sides of the east end are expressed by projecting gabled bays with four-light windows. The east end is similar to the west with a large five-light window, set above a single-storey sacristy range, with three-light windows – seven-bay east elevation and three-bay south elevation, linked to the College by the Silence Gallery.

The interior combines sanctuary and nave under one roof, with no arch to define the former (as at King’s College). The seven-bay nave arcade has clustered columns and four-centred arches.  Aisle floors are stone with timber below pews. The polychrome painted decoration is part of a 1950s scheme by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, the clerestory angels painted by D. Marion Grant, 1954-5. The nave and aisle ceilings are panelled, with braced beams on corbels, all polychrome. The reordered sanctuary extends to two bays, with carpeted steps up to the richly carved marble high altar, 1893 by Edmund Kirby, made by Norbury & Company of Liverpool. The side chapels have carved and gilded screens, the south chapel altar to St Peter was brought here in 1924 from Clayton Hall. The frescoes of St Francis Xavier and St Ignatius Loyola on the east walls of the chapels are respectively by Wurms and Fischer, 1854.  The west gallery projects into the nave, on plain cast-iron columns, with panelled coving and a painted front by Goodhart-Rendel. The limed oak organ case is by Adrian Gilbert Scott, 1929, the 1927 Willis organ was rebuilt by Corkhill of Wigan in 1991. Below the gallery, arched doors lead into the narthex, confessionals and to a stone staircase. The altar to Our Lady in the south aisle was brought here in 1898, from the Lumsden family chapel in Wardhouse, Aberdeenshire.  A fine collection of stained glass, including 1835 east window attributed to J. H. Miller, west aisle glass by Hardam, 1891, and aisle windows by Willement, Worrall, Hardman (designed by Pugin) and Capronnier, 1859-76.  The clerestory glass is by Lowndes and Drury, part of the 1955 Goodhart-Rendel scheme. Nineteenth century statues of saints are by Mayer of Munich, and bronze relief Stations of the Cross are by Stella Schmoller, 1952. Oak pews with poppy heads are probably early twentieth century. The small octagonal stone font in the south-west aisle appears to date from the early nineteenth century.

Extensive sacristies have dark timber fittings of various dates. The Silence Gallery is lined with a good collection of marble and brass marbles to Jesuit priests and school pupils, dating from early nineteenth century onwards.

List description:


8/16 Stonyhurst College 29.12.52 GV I

Public school, late C16th and later, sandstone ashlar.

Main (west) Front

The gatehouse and southern half of the facade were begun in 1592 by Sir Richard Shireburn. The gatehouse is of 4 storeys with mullioned and transomed windows and an entrance with moulded semi-circular arch. Each storey is flanked by paired columns, each with a different classical order. It is surmounted by an embattled parapet, and twin cupolas added in 1712. To the south of the gatehouse the facade has mullioned windows, with mullioned and transomed windows on the 1st floor. At the southern end is the ‘Blind Tower’ now with 2 mullioned windows on both 1st and 2nd floors and with a window of cusped intersecting tracery, c.1300, taken from Bailey Hall Chapel (q.v.). The facade is balanced by a wing of 1843-56 with a north tower having a 1st floor oriel window,

The Main Court

The south wall has a canted bay window with angle shafts and a doorway of c.1700 with large broken pediment on corbels. The hall range, on the east side, has a 3-storey bay window at its southern end and, opposite the gateway, a broad hood mould with angel stops, said to have come from Whalley Abbey. The east range was extended and the court enclosed in 1843-56.

The Kitchen Court

On the north side is a 4-bay range having gables with copings and ball finials, and mullioned windows with cyma-moulded hoods. In the west bay is a wide carriage entrance with segmental head. The door, in the 3rd bay, has ‘1699’ incised on the lintel. At the north end of the east side of the court is a range with C17th window details, reconstructed in the early C20th.

South Front

Begun in 1877 to designs by Dunn and Hansom in an English Renaissance style. The 15-bay centre has projecting wings framing a courtyard. The central 5 bays have an arcade on the ground floor, with corner turrets and cupolas. To the north are many ancillary buildings not included in the item.


At the south end of the west front, c.1800 and the only remaining one of the buildings erected by the Jesuits immediately after their arrival. 3 storeys. The north wall has a tripartite sash with glazing bars on each floor, the upper 2 being linked by a transom, forming a tall venetian window. This motif is repeated in bays 2 and 7 of the 8-bay south facade, whose central 2 bays project with a pediment.


The Old Refectory, on the 1st floor at the east side of the main court has a minstrels’ gallery constructed in 1857 from timber taken from demolished parts of the house, with latin inscription and date ‘MCCCCCXXIII’. The Bayley Room, previously the Chapel, at the south end of the west front, has 2 blocked windows with tracery of late C16th date. The boys’ chapel, on the west side of the courtyard of the south front, was completed in the 1890s and has elaborate carved woodwork and an open timber roof.


Built in 1844. 2 storeys with cellars entered at the west end and with an M-roof running east-west. South front of 7 bays with central doorway, Cross windows on the ground floor, and 2-light mullioned windows on the 1st floor. The door has a moulded surround with 4-centred head and castellated top.

Church of St. Peter

1832-5, by Scoles, with the altar at the north. Comprises an undivided nave and chancel with clearstorey, east and west aisle with the north aisle bay projecting as a transept, and a low cloister at the north end linking the Church with Shirk. The 4 octagonal corner turrets have openwork tops and crocketed domed caps. The south wall has 3 moulded doorways with 4-centred heads. The interior has arcades with clustered piers, 4-centred arches and stencilled decoration, and a low-pitched painted timber roof. Some of the glass, of various saints, is dated 1844, some is later C19th. Set into the aisle walls are the stages of the Cross, cast in relief.

Listing NGR: SD6908339060

National Grid Reference: SD6904039065


Gate piers


29.12.52 2 Gate Piers and Wall from south-west corner of 8/17 Infirmary running south-east, returning north-east in front of Church of St. Peter and containing 2 gatepiers


Sandstone rubble wall with coping. Gatepiers, of c.1700 and removed from the site of the present Shirk in 1799, sandstone ashlar. Each of square section, supported by a scroll on the outer side with a smaller scroll above. Above is a broken segmental pediment with urn and festoon.

Listing NGR: SD6898838990

Heritage Details

Architect: J. J. Scoles

Original Date: 1835

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade I