St Mary's Church, Warrington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
St Mary's Church, Warrington
Buttermarket Street, Warrington, with St Mary's Church
Coordinates: 53°23′23″N 2°35′20″W / 53.38969°N 2.58882°W / 53.38969; -2.58882
OS grid reference SJ 609 882
Location Warrington, Cheshire
Country England
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website St Mary's Warrington
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II
Designated 4 April 1975
Architect(s) E. W. Pugin,
Peter Paul Pugin
Architectural type Church
Style Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 1875
Completed 1923
Materials Pale Pierpoint stone and Runcorn sandstone
Deanery St Gregory's, Warrington
Diocese Liverpool
Priest(s) Mgr John Devine OBE
Organist/Director of music Mr Michael Wynne
Parish administrator Jane Wright

St Mary's Church is in the town centre of Warrington, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building,[1] and is an active Roman Catholic church. The parish was established and served by Benedictine monks from Ampleforth Abbey, but following the withdrawal of Ampleforth Abbey from the parish in 2012, it is now served by the priest from St Benedict's Church, Warrington.[citation needed] It is well known for the beauty and reverence of its liturgy and the ambition and excellence of the church choir and music. The church is sometimes referred to as 'St Mary's Priory'.[2]


The parish was established from St Alban's Church, Warrington by the Benedictine priests from Ampleforth Abbey who served there. Fr.John Placid Hall OSB is credited with conceiving the idea to build the church and to have chosen the site. The site had been occupied by a cotton mill. The site was bought on 5 May 1870 for £4,000.[3]

The church was designed by E. W. Pugin and its construction started in 1875, just before Pugin's death. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop O'Reilly of Liverpool on Sunday 9 May 1875. It was completed by Peter Paul Pugin in 1877. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner considered it to be one of their best churches.[4]

The church was opened on Thursday 30 August 1877. The splendid reredos and rose window were blessed on 1 November 1885. The tower, a departure from the original design, was designed by Pugin & Pugin and built by Travis & Wevill of Liverpool in 1907. A northeast chapel, the First World War Memorial Chapel, was added in 1923.[citation needed]

On Sunday, 4 August 1935, a religious service was broadcast by the Home and Overseas Service of the BBC.[citation needed]

St Mary's parish had a school and parish hall, known as Ashton Hall, both of which have been closed and demolished. From 1934 a programme of slum clearances reduced the population of the parish by half within four years.[citation needed]

St Oswald's Church, Padgate was established from St Mary's by Fr Thomas Austin Hind OSB in 1929, who became its first priest.[5]

Fr. Paul William Wright OSB announced on Sunday 15 January 2012 that Ampleforth Abbey could no longer provide a priest for the parish due to a lack of manpower and that he would be the last monk-priest to serve in the parish. An offer from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to take over the parish and provide two resident priests was refused and the Archdiocese of Liverpool agreed to take over the pastoral care of the people of the parish. Thus ending a Benedictine presence in Warrington lasting 250 years. Fr. William Wright's last Mass was on Sunday 9 September 2012.

The church building remains the property of Ampleforth Abbey, but the pastoral needs of the congregation are met by the Priest of St Benedict's Church, Warrington.


It is built in pale Pierpoint stone and red Runcorn sandstone.[4] The church is in Decorated style. Its plan consists of a southwest tower, a six-bay nave with a clerestory, north and south aisles, a short chancel, and short transepts.[1] The tower is slender and the parapet spells out "AVE MARIA". There is a west porch. To the north of the chancel is the Sacred Heart Chapel (1890) and to the south is the English Martyrs (formerly Lady) Chapel. The interior is "airy and spacious". The confessionals are integrated into the north wall. The arcade spandrels contain carvings of angels supporting busts of English saints.[4] These are St Augustine of Canterbury, St Hilda, St Thomas of Canterbury, St Walpurga, St Bede on one side and St Gregory the Great, St Winefride, St Cuthbert, Saint Mildred and St Wilfrid on the other.[citation needed]

The fittings were all designed by Peter Paul Pugin and the carving was executed by Boulton of Cheltenham. The High Altar (1885) and the chapel altars are in Portland and Bath stone. The pulpit (1884) and communion rail are in marble, and the choir stalls (1891) in oak. The pews are benches with cast iron frames. The Stations of the Cross (1894) are recessed, and are in Caen stone. The sculptures are of St Benedict and St Scholastica (1891) against the chancel arch, of Our Lady of Lourdes by Philip Lindsey Clark in the north aisle, and of the Holy Family by Josefina de Vasconcellos in the south transept. In the chancel are Minton tiles with a lily design by C. W. Pugin.[4] Above the reredos is a rose window.[1] The reredos is of great quality and features the adoration of the kings and the adoration of the shepherds, as well as flowers and symbols that maintain the marian theme. It is topped by four statues of saints renowned for their devotion to Mary: St Anselm, St Bernard[disambiguation needed], St Dominic and St Alphonsus Liguori.[citation needed]

Parish Priests[edit]

Parish Priest Tenure
Fr Thomas Austin Bury OSB 1877-1882
Fr Austin Bernard Pozzi OSB 1882-1883
Fr Francis Wilfrid Sumner OSB 1883-1897
Fr Neville Vincent Wilson OSB 1897-1915
Fr Thomas Austin Hind OSB 1915-1927
Fr Herman Alexius Chamberlain OSB 1929-1942
Fr Douglas Martin Rochford OSB 1942-1953
Fr Austin Michael Sandeman OSB 1953-1962
Fr Peter Gabriel Gilbey OSB Baron Vaux of Harrowden 1962-1976
Fr Francis Christopher Topping OSB 1976-1986
Fr Anthony Augustine Measures OSB 1986-1997
Fr John Felix Stephens OSB 1997-2007
Fr Paul William Wright OSB 2007-2012
After the withdrawal of Ampleforth Abbey
Monsignor John Devine OBE 2012–Present

Sacred music[edit]

St Mary's is recognised as having one of the leading choirs in the North West. The Church prides itself in continuing this ancient tradition that is part of our nation's cultural heritage. The Church is fortunate to have had a choral tradition, since its opening, and today has 3 choirs, as well as a choral outreach project into local Catholic schools. The church is known for hosting high quality sacred music concerts, and also has a weekly series of Wednesday lunchtime organ recitals.[citation needed]

The church contains two organs. The west-end organ was built in 1887 by Franklin Lloyd, and has been restored by Gray and Davidson, and Rushworth and Dreaper. Built with 3 manuals and pedals it was last restored in 1963 by Henry Willis[6] The choir organ was built in 1995 by A. Hypher, and rebuilt in 2009 by Peter Hindmarsh.[7]


The church possesses a chime of eight bells that were cast by Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, in 1906. The bells were baptised on 7 October 1906 by Abbot Smith of Ampleforth. They were totally restored in 1962 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, with further work done in 2005.[3]

Bell Diameter Strike Note Name
Tenor 3 feet 5 inches (1.04 m) 391 c.p.s St Mary
7th 3 feet 1.5 inches (0.953 m) 440 c.p.s St Benedict
6th 2 feet 11 inches (0.89 m) 489 c.p.s St Wilfrid
5th 2 feet 9 inches (0.84 m) 521 c.p.s St Patrick
4th 2 feet 6.75 inches (0.7811 m) 586 c.p.s St Richard
3rd 2 feet 4.5 inches (0.724 m) 656 c.p.s St Anne
2nd 2 feet 2.75 inches (0.6795 m) 742 c.p.s St John
Treble 2 feet 1.75 inches (0.6541 m) 790 c.p.s St Helen


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Historic England, "Roman Catholic Church of St Mary, Warrington (1329731)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 19 May 2014 
  2. ^ St Mary's Choir, St Mary's and St Benedict's, Warrington, retrieved 19 May 2014 
  3. ^ a b Plumb, Brian (1977) Our Glorious Chapter, St.Mary's Warrington 1877-1977 ,Kilburn Printers, Liverpool
  4. ^ a b c d Pollard, Richard; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2006), Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp. 608–610, ISBN 0-300-10910-5 
  5. ^ Plumb, Brian (1979) St Oswald's Warrington
  6. ^ Lancashire (Cheshire), Warrington, St. Mary, Buttermarket Street (C00171), British Institute of Organ Studies, retrieved 28 November 2010 
  7. ^ Lancashire (Cheshire), Warrington, St. Mary, Buttermarket Street (R01895), British Institute of Organ Studies, retrieved 28 November 2010