Building » Whaley Bridge – Sacred Heart

Whaley Bridge – Sacred Heart

Whaley Lane, Whaley Bridge, High Peak, Derbyshire, SK23

A small stone-built church built at the end of the Victorian period, probably from designs by Edmund Kirby, to serve a growing town. It has some significance for its historic value, and is included within Whaley Bridge Conservation Area, although its set-back, screened position means that it is not prominent in the street scene.

The nineteenth century industrial development of Whaley Bridge was prompted first by the canal and then by the railway, which also encouraged housing to be built for commuters to Manchester and Stockport. A mission was established  in the mid-nineteenth century at Errwood Hall, Taxal, home of Samuel Grimshawe. This was variously served by Jesuits from Manchester or Dominicans from Pendleton. A diocesan priest was appointed to the mission by 1898. The present church was built in an expanding residential area on the west side of the town and was opened on 26 August 1900 by Bishop Allen. It was built to seat 150 people. The architect and builders have not been established; Plumb suggests Edmund Kirby, and the church does bear some resemblances to the slightly earlier St Mary at  Middlewich (qv), which is attributed to Kirby. By 1902 funds had been raised to pay off the building debt. The first resident priest was Fr James Welch, who arrived in 1906. The parish has had resident priests since then, except for 1912-1920 when the parish was served by Dominicans from Errwood Hall. The presbytery was built in 1924, from designs by Edmund Kirby & Sons.


The church is orientated with the sanctuary to the north; in this description liturgical compass points will be used and the sanctuary will be referred to as the east end. The church is built of local sandstone, coursed to the west end facing the road and roughly coursed rubble to the other elevations. The sanctuary and nave are under one roof, covered in Welsh slate with timber barge boards and cast iron rainwater goods. The gabled west porch is a late twentieth century addition, entered from the south by double boarded doors. This is flanked by lancets with a circular window in the gable end. The windows are all lancets with stone sills and plain voussoirs, and most of the glass is modern.  The sanctuary is not expressed externally, but gables mid-way along the nave provide some interest to the simple exterior. On the south side of the nave, lean-to additions containing a parish room and sacristy connect the east end of the church to the presbytery.

The simple interior is entered via the original boarded doors at the west end, now within the later west porch. The nave and sanctuary walls are plain-plastered above a timber boarded dado, which dates from the late twentieth century. The four-bay roof is carried on exposed pine collar trusses with decorative cast iron braces, and the roof slope and soffit at collar level are plain plastered. The pews are late twentieth century hardwood, and the floor is carpeted. The reordered sanctuary contains a collection of simple fittings including a Gothic-style oak freestanding altar and a gilded oak Gothic reredos. Both appear to be roughly contemporary to the church. The wood block sanctuary floor is raised one step above the nave floor and is mostly carpeted. The portable font is modern, with a re-used carved Gothic feature with cherubs on the cover. Other fittings include stained glass in a north window by Hardman in memory of Grace and Albert Johnson, plaster Stations of the Cross, a mosaic icon and a stone statue in a Gothic niche on the south wall.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edmund Kirby (unconfirmed)

Original Date: 1900

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed