Leigh Avenue, Appleton Village, Widnes WA8
St Bede’s is a convincing work by a major Gothic Revival architect of the mid 19th century. Substantial in scale, and well detailed, the building is second only to St Michael’s, Ditton in architectural importance within the Widnes Pastoral area. Whilst the building lost some of its furnishings in the reordering of the early 1990s, it remains an appealing church with a village character.
The history of St Bede’s goes back to the time of the Appleton Mission in 1750, though the land for the present church was given by the Dennett family of Appleton who also part funded the building. It opened in 1847. The presbytery designed by Sinnott, Sinnott and Powell was erected in 1892.
Built of red sandstone, St Bede’s is a serious and scholarly work in the Puginian Gothic style by Weightman and Hadfield. It has a broad west tower with angle buttresses, a nave and aisles, side chapels and a south porch. The tracery in the east window is curvilinear.
Internally, the five bay arcade rests alternately on round and octagonal piers with good carved capitals. At the west end is a choir and organ gallery. The nave roof is supported on scissor braces, and the chancel has braced collar trusses resting on hammerbeams. The sanctuary was re-ordered in 1992 by the introduction of a nave altar, but the liturgical usage of the large chancel space behind it has not been effectively resolved. The original place of the High Altar is taken by a timber panel which is probably the front of an early 18th century secular chest. The stained glass in the chancel was supplied by Pugin in 1850, together with a reredos (though this cannot be the current one). The floor of the sanctuary is paved with encaustic Milton tiles. The Lady Altar and Blessed Sacrament Altar, attributed to A.W.N. Pugin, are of painted stone with marble shafts. The Stations of the Cross are large painted plaster figure groups by Goertz which date from 1864. In the chancel is an early Gothic Revival oak chair, said to have come from Lower House, which was the Appleton Mission. The pipe organ, a fine instrument by G. and F. Benson of Manchester and dated 1904, was recently restored with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The organ was brought to St Bede’s from the Independent Methodist Church, Smith Street, Oldham in 1979.
The red brick and stone presbytery by Sinnott, Sinnott and Powell was added in 1892. It is attached to the sacristy, and contains polychrome tiled floors in the hallway and porch.
Catholic Church, 1847, by Weightman & Hadfield, in red sandstone with slate roof. Large west tower with angle buttresses, gargoyles and crenellations. The windows are paired lancets to nave, curvilinear to the chancel (with stained glass) and trefoil to clerestorey. The main entrance, in the tower is in Decorated style.
Interior: Side aisles formed by alternate round and octagonal sandstone columns supporting large Gothic arches. nave roof has exposed rafters with scissor bracing and simple hammerbeam supports, whereas the chancel has rafters formed into braced collar trusses, also with hammer beam supports. Plastered walls and ceilings between timbers. Central altar of 1850 reputed to be a design of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Large organ at high level in tower area.
Architect: Weightman and Hadfield
Original Date: 1847
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II