Building » Thurnham – St Thomas and St Elizabeth

Thurnham – St Thomas and St Elizabeth

Thurnham, LA2 ODT.

A fine mid-nineteenth essay in ecclesiologically-correct fourteenth century Gothic, by a major architect. Placed in a tranquil wooded setting and historically associated with nearby Thurnham Hall, the church forms an attractive group with the earlier presbytery, the striking Gillow mausoleum, boundary walls and lych gate.

The Daltons of Thurnham Hall were a Catholic family, and around 1800 the Revd James Foster would make the trip from Lancaster to say Mass in the Hall.  Foster began fundraising for a new house and church, with the first (the present presbytery, now let) being completed in 1802. The chapel was not completed until 1816, and was built principally at the expense of John Dalton, Robert Gillow and Richard Worswick, Lancaster bankers. Miss Elizabeth Dalton, who inherited the estate in 1837 helped to defray the cost of building a new church, the present building, which was built in 1847-8. This stands on the site of, but is at right angles to the previous building. Nearby is the grand mausoleum of the Gillow family, built near the old chapel in about 1830.


The church is quite large, with a northwest broach spire which has a stair tower with its own spirelet. Aisles, expressed  chancel, plate  tracery, clerestory  with  circular windows, i.e. certainly an effort to be archaeologically convincing. West gallery, scissor-braced roof, arcades with round piers and double-chamfered arches. The chancel has triple sedilia with detached shafts and a painted and stencilled panelled ceiling.

There is an elaborate reredos and altar with statues of St Elizabeth and St Thomas in canopied niches (said to have been modelled on Elizabeth Dalton and Fr Crowe, the resident priest). Painted versions of the same saints appear on the side of the chancel walls; it seems likely that these were part of a now overpainted polychromatic decorative scheme. An elaborate arcaded stone screen runs across the east end, before the chancel and continuing across the north Lady Chapel. It has an attached pulpit and roundels  with  carvings  of  angels  etc.  The  stained  glass  looks  like  the  work  of Hardman. Over the chancel arch there is a painting of the Last Judgement, possibly 1850. The pews are low pine benches, numbered (some removed for new forward altar).

The largest and most striking churchyard monument is the Gillow mausoleum, located immediately to the west of the church. Stone, Egyptian, with stepped parapets with x type crosses, battered sides and a battered opening in an oblong frame, north side. West side a row of fat Egyptianesque columns. There is no inscription.

There is a lych gate at the entrance to the churchyard with upper timbering and a stone boundary wall, of roughly-coursed masonry, with a transition to coursed masonry and ashlar blocks and neoclassical gate piers by the entrance drive to the presbytery.

The presbytery is a plain two-storey red brick Georgian house under a slate roof. The design and location of the barn/outbuilding next door hints at a possible design symmetry that the previous chapel may have had with these buildings.

Entry amended by AHP 21.12.2020

List descriptions



Roman Catholic church, 1847-8 by Charles Hansom. Sandstone rubble with slate roof. Built with chancel at south, but for purposes of this description assumed to be conventionally oriented. Comprises a nave, lower chancel, north and south aisles, a tower with stone spire at west end of north side of nave, and a north porch. 3-stage tower has semi-octagonal stair turret, and weathered offsets. The bell openings are within sunken panels with corbel tables over, and are of 2 pointed lights with a quatrefoil under a pointed head. The octagonal spire has 2 stages of lucarnes. The west wall has a window of 3 trefoiled lights under a pointed head, and a similar window to the south aisle. The west doorway is moulded with a pointed head. The north side has 5 aisle bays separated by buttresses. The windows are of 2 cusped lights with quatrefoil under a pointed head. The nave clearstorey has 5 quatrefoiled windows. To the east of the aisle is one bay of the chancel. At the west side of the aisle is a gabled porch with moulded pointed arch, and a statue niche over. On the south side are 6 clearstorey windows and 5 aisle windows. To the right of the 1st window is a moulded doorway with pointed head and shallow stone porch. The east window is of 4 trefoiled lights under a pointed head with Y-tracery and 3 large quatrefoils. Interior has west galley with organ and with a timber front carried on 3 stone arches. The nave arcades are of 5 bays with pointed arches, chamfered in 2 orders, and have round piers. Above the pointed chancel arch is a wall painting of the last judgement. Below is a screen of tracery supporting a rood. The open timber roof has scissor-braced rafters and no trusses. The chancel has a piscina and triple sedilia, and a reredos flanked by carved figures. The roof has painted timber panels. A north chapel has stencil decoration. The windows contain stained glass of various late C19th dates.

Gillow mausoleum


Mausoleum, probably c.1830 (first burial 1836). In Egyptian style. Sandstone ashlar. Of rectangular plan. Walls battered, but with central part of each wall vertical, forming buttresses at each corner. Coved cornice with roll moulding under. Blocking course stepped on east and west sides, supporting  stone cross. East and west walls have doors with architraves, the western one blocked by a slate slab. On the south side are 4 recessed Egyptian columns, with bud bases, reeded bands, fluting, and bell capitals with papyrus decoration.

Listing NGR: SD4655754320

Heritage Details

Architect: C. Hansom

Original Date: 1847

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II