St John the Evangelist's Church, Kirkham

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St John the Evangelist's Church
St John's from the southeast
St John the Evangelist's Church is located in the Borough of Fylde
St John the Evangelist's Church
St John the Evangelist's Church
Location in the Borough of Fylde
Coordinates: 53°46′53″N 2°53′09″W / 53.7814°N 2.8857°W / 53.7814; -2.8857
OS grid reference SD 417 320
Location Ribby Road, Kirkham, Lancashire
Country England
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website Parish of the Holy Cross
Dedication Saint John the Evangelist
Consecrated 22 April 1845
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II
Designated 11 June 1986
Architect(s) A. W. N. Pugin
Architectural type Church
Style Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 1842
Completed 1845
Spire height 100 feet (30.5 m)
Materials Sandstone, slate roofs
Parish Holy Cross
Diocese Lancaster
Priest(s) Revd Andrew Broster
Former rood screen, by Pugin, now moved to the west end of the church

St John the Evangelist's Church, Kirkham, (also known as The Willows) is in Ribby Road, Kirkham, Lancashire, England. It is an active Roman Catholic parish church in the diocese of Lancaster. The church was designed by A. W. N. Pugin, and is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building.


In 1809 the first Roman Catholic chapel was built in Kirkham. It was dedicated to the Holy Cross, and was known as "The Willows" because it was in an area surrounded by willow trees. This name is still associated with the present church.[1] The chapel was replaced by the present church, which was built between 1842 and 1845, and was designed by A. W. N. Pugin.[2] Said to have cost £10,000, (equivalent to £860,000 in 2014)[3][4] the church was designed to hold 500–600 people and was heated by underfloor hot air provided by a furnace. The only lighting, however, was by hand-held candles.[4]

The church was consecrated on 22 April 1845 by Rt Revd George Brown, the bishop of Liverpool. The ceremony lasted from 7am until noon, after which the Bishop said Mass. The following day, St George's Day, the formal opening took place with four bishops in attendance and a host of other clergy. A special train was provided from Preston to bring about 200 guests. After a grand procession from the old chapel, the terce was sung by the priests and a choir from St. Augustine's, Preston then sang a High Mass with music from Mozart and Haydn. The sermon was by Scottish Bishop Murdock after which was a Te Deum. Afterwards there was a meal, followed by toasts and speeches.[4]

From 1895 the parish priest was Fr Francis John Gillow and in 1895-6 a number of alterations were made by him to the interior of the church.[5] The floor was lowered by about 2 feet (61 cm) and the steps at the west entrance were removed. At the same time Pugin's altar was moved to a side chapel and the rood screen was relocated to the west end of the church and altered to fit.[1][4] [nb 1] In 1906 Gillow installed a new main altar, a pulpit, benches, and Stations of the Cross.[1]

In 2011 the parish was linked with that of St Joseph, Wesham, and in 2013 the two joined to become the Parish of the Holy Cross.[6]

In the 1930s the church social club had its own successful snooker team which won a couple of trophies.[7] The church website maintains links to a number of documents of historical interest.[8]



The church is built in sandstone from Longridge, and has slate roofs.[1][9] It is in early Decorated style.[2] The church consists of a five-bay nave with a clerestory and aisles, a south porch, a chancel also with aisles, and a sanctuary without aisles. To the northeast is a vestry block, and at the west end is a steeple. The tower has angle buttresses, and a stair tower at the southeast corner. There is a moulded west doorway, above which is a two-light window, and a small window to the ringers' chamber. The bell openings have two openings, and above them is a continuous hood mould around the whole tower. On the tower is a broach spire with three tiers of lucarnes, and a coronet of blind lucarnes. The spire rises to 100 feet (30.5 m). The gables at the east ends of the nave and the sanctuary have cross finials. Along the sides of the clerestory are five quatrefoil windows with hood moulds. Most of the windows along the aisles have two lights, and the east window has three lights.[9]


Inside the church the five-bay arcade is carried on round piers with tall plinths.[9] There is an organ gallery at the west end, the Lady chapel is at the southeast of the church, and the Sacred Heart Chapel is at the northeast.[2] A few items of church furniture designed by Pugin are still in use, including a triple sedilia, credence table, prie-dieu and candlesticks.[4] Pugin's rood screen was moved to the west end in 1895-6.[5][9] It is in Caen stone, painted brown, and has a wide central ogee arch flanked by three similar but smaller arches on each side.[9] The painted rood figures, representing the Crucifixion, and also by Pugin, hang on the chancel arch.[1][9] Pugin's altar has been moved into the Sacred Heart chapel, and has been altered.[1] The other fittings date from the 1906 refurbishment. These include the high altar, in Carrara marble and alabaster, and the elaborate pulpit, also in marble and alabaster.[1][2] Around the church is a colourful scheme of stained glass windows, dating from the mid-19th century or later.[2] The two-manual pipe organ was built in 1846 by J. C. Bishop of London, and was repaired in 1976 by the Pendlebury Organ Company of Cleveleys.[10]


There is a ring of six bells, all cast in 1844 by Charles and George Mears of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.[11] They have been described as the first peal of bells to have been rung in an English Catholic church since the Reformation.[1][6][12]

External features[edit]

The churchyard walls and the gateway were also designed by Pugin, and are built in the same stone as the church. The wall runs along Ribby Road and has copings with the appearance of a Mansard roof. The gateway is in the form of an arch. Its top is stepped and has coping similar to that on the wall. The arch is pointed and chamfered, and behind it are buttresses.[13]


The church, and the churchyard walls and gateway, were designated as Grade II listed buildings on 11 June 1986.[9][13] Grade II is the lowest of the three grades of listing and is applied to "buildings of national importance and special interest".[14] The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, writing in 1969, says of the church and its architect "It is a modest building and, like so much of Pugin's, really very impersonal".[15]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Local writer and Preston Chronicle proprietor Anthony Hewitson ("Atticus"), in his 1872 Our Country Churches and Chapels, considered the roof screen to be "a gem", but unsuitable for modern liturgical requirements. When it was moved to the rear of the church it was too narrow and two additional panels, carved from wood, had to be added. When tapped they give a different sound to the rest of the screen. The crucifixion scene which surmounted it is now high up above the sanctuary arch.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h St John the Evangelist, Kirkham, Taking Stock, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hartwell, Clare; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2009) [1969], Lancashire: North, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 356, ISBN 978-0-300-12667-9 
  3. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  4. ^ a b c d e Singleton, F. J. (1983), Mowbreck Hall and The Willows: A History of The Catholic Community in the Kirkham District of Lancashire, The Parish Priest, St. John the Evangelist, Kirkham, pp.33–36
  5. ^ a b Pugin Foundaton: English buildings, Lancashire Retrieved 1 July 2014
  6. ^ a b History, Parish of the Holy Cross, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  7. ^ "1930s Snooker Team | The Parish of The Holy Cross". 2 July 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Historical Documents | The Parish of The Holy Cross". Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g English Heritage, "Church of St John the Evangelist, Kirkham (1164018)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  10. ^ Lancashire Kirkham, St. John the Evangelist, Ribby Road (S00029), British Institute of Organ Studies, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  11. ^ Kirkhan, St John Ev, Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  12. ^ Kelly, Bernard W. (1907), Historical Notes on English Catholic Missions (PDF), London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co, p. 436, retrieved 26 June 2014 
  13. ^ a b English Heritage, "Churchyard wall and gateway south of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Kirkham (1362360)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  14. ^ Listed buildings, English Heritage, retrieved 2 June 2014 
  15. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (2002) [1969], North Lancashire, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 150, ISBN 0-300-09617-8 

External links[edit]