Building » Whitehaven – St Begh

Whitehaven – St Begh

Coach Road, Whitehaven CA28 7TE

The church is a good example of E W Pugin’s work. The adjacent earlier chapel and presbytery are of some historical interest although the original interior of the chapel has been lost.   The site has considerable importance because Whitehaven has been the centre of the Benedictine mission in West Cumbria since 1706.

The Benedictine Mission was founded in Whitehaven by Dom Francis Rich from Douai in 1706.  The town was then one of England’s principal ports, developed by the Lowther family for their coal trade, and the Lowthers’   known religious tolerance attracted  immigrants  from  Ireland.    A  chapel  was  built  in  1785,  probably  off Catherine Street in the centre of Whitehaven, and was enlarged in 1824. The site in Coach Road was given by the Earl of Lonsdale and the first chapel here was built in 1834.  The foundation stone of the present church was laid in 1865 and the church was opened in 1868. The cost was £6000.

Built of rock-faced grey stone with dressings of red St Bees sandstone; steep roof with coverings of patterned Welsh slate.  Nave and chancel under one roof with full-length north and south aisles and shallow eastern apse. Tall west elevation with buttresses rising to eaves level, central doorway up steps and three stepped lancets.  A fleche was intended at the gable apex but was presumably never built.  South side of five bays  with  broad  6-light  traceried  aisle  windows  and  circular  foiled  clerestory windows.  N side has three similar bays and an attached 2-storey building intended as the sacristy and organ chamber at east end.

Interior has nave arcades of four bays of tall pointed arches of banded stone on columns alternately cylindrical and octagonal with moulded capitals. Elaborate boarded timber roof.  Tall chancel arch.  The chancel has two arched openings to side chapels on each side and a boarded wagon roof with ornamental painted decoration, which  may  be  original.    The  altar  has  been  brought  forward  and  the  altar  rails removed. The original organ gallery at the east end of the north aisle is blocked-up. The enlarged western gallery/vestibule is mostly modern.

Fittings include the elaborate original stone reredos carved by Mr Bolton of Cheltenham. The three stained glass windows in the apse all by Hardman, most of the other windows are clear-glazed.   The body of the church is filled with the original pine benches on iron supports.

The builder was Mr Cousins of Whitehaven; the stone carving of the church building was done by Mr Pickering of Carlisle.

Heritage Details

Architect: E W Pugin

Original Date: 1868

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II