Building » Ulverston – St Mary of Furness

Ulverston – St Mary of Furness

Victoria Road, Brogden Park, Ulverston LA12 OBY.

  • First church

  • School

  • Pulpit detail

A late nineteenth-century sandstone complex of church, presbytery and school by Sinnott & Powell, replacing a church of the 1820s. With the later (war memorial) lych gate, this is a prominent group of buildings in the Ulverston Conservation Area. The church is enlivened by remarkable furnishings made by the mission priest.

The mission at Ulverston was established by Jesuits from Maynooth, who built a chapel in Fountain Street in 1821. The foundation stones were brought from Furness Abbey. This chapel was built in Georgian Gothick style and survives, listed Grade II, as an antiques warehouse. The Jesuits handed the mission over to the Diocese of Liverpool in 1863. The 1820s church, built on a cramped corner site with the school located in a collection of cottages on a separate site was increasingly inadequate for the growing needs of the Ulverston mission and in 1886 Sinnott & Powell prepared plans for a new church, presbytery and school on a site acquired in Brogden Street. The school was built first (completed in 1887) and the foundation stone of the church laid on 15 August 1893 (the Feast of the Assumption) by Dr O’Reilly, Bishop of Liverpool. The contractor was William Waite of Ulverston, and the estimated cost £6,000. The new church was opened on 21 August 1895 by Dr O’Reilly’s successor, Bishop Whiteside.

The church was described in the local newspaper (24 August 1895) as follows:

‘The new church which is a decided acquisition to the ecclesiastical architecture of the town, is Gothic in style, of the geometric period, built on a nave and aisle plan, with chancel and side chapels at the East end, and a spacious porch forming the base of a future tower at the South West corner. Its internal dimensions are: from the West wall to the chancel arch, 74ft, the length of the chancel 23 ft. and the width across the nave and aisles 52 ft. 6 ins. The sacristies adjoin the South chapel and form a connecting block between the church and the presbytery. The buildings are massively constructed with local red sandstone from St Bees and are covered with the picturesque green slates of the district.

‘In the interior a rich effect has been obtained by the use of polished Shap granite for the columns of the nave arcade.  The new church and presbytery are situated in the best part of the town, and taken together with the adjoining school built some seven years ago, form an extensive group of mission buildings.  The contract has been well carried out by Mr William White of Ulverston under the superintendence of the architects, Sinnott and Powell of Liverpool and the clerk of works, Mr John Price of Preston. The church accommodates about 600 persons, three times more than in the old chapel. A remarkable feature of the exterior is the sculpture executed by Father Allan, the priest in charge of the mission. It is a large statue of the Virgin Mother seated with the infant Saviour in her arms. She sits on a throne with a crown on her head and her feet rest on a crescent moon. The whole group is enclosed in a richly moulded vesica which bears in rich letters the inscription: ‘Ave Mater Salvatoris’. The vesica is placed high up in the west gable’.

The remarkable Fr Allan was described in the Furness Year Book for 1898 as a gentleman of considerable artistic and literary ability, and an excellent musician, painter and sculpture. In addition to the statue in the west gable, he adorned the church with a framed copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper on the west wall of the nave, an elaborately carved oak pulpit and paschal candlestick, and large Stations of the Cross in the nave.

There is a later timber-framed lych gate on a sandstone plinth, built as a First World War memorial.

Entry amended by AHP 21.12.2020

Heritage Details

Architect: Sinnott & Powell

Original Date: 1895

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed