Chapels at Holy Name Church in Manchester get vital repairs

The National Churches Trust, together with the Wolfson Foundation; and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales via the government’s Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England have helped restore this wonderful Jesuit church.

Oxford Road in central Manchester is usually one of the busiest streets in the country.  As the axis of Manchester’s knowledge quarter, it is lined by university, hospital, research and cultural buildings, among which the neo-gothic masterpiece of the Holy Name Church stands out, albeit with another temporary scaffolding frill.

The only Grade 1 listed Catholic church in Manchester, 150 years ago the Holy Name was the parish church at the heart of a thriving residential suburb.  With the knowledge quarter having displaced the local communities it now serves the universities as the Catholic chaplaincy church.

The Holy Name Church stands as a testament to the technical ingenuity and energy of the Victorian city. Back in the 1860s thousands of Catholic immigrants were arriving mainly from Ireland to fill jobs in the textile mills. The bishop asked the Jesuits to build as big a church in as short a time as possible. Architects Joseph Hansom and son rose to the challenge.  Modelled on 14th century French gothic cathedrals (which took many decades to complete), they built the church in two years (1869-71) using prefabricated locally sourced terracotta tiles and polygonal hollow pots, much lighter than stone, to form the vault. This makes the church unusually spacious and earned it its prestigious Grade 1 listing. 

Of course, over time exposed to Manchester’s climate, the church has suffered extensive wear and tear and it has been a constant endeavour to maintain.  In the last five years around £500,000 has been spent to remove asbestos from the crypt, to update the electrical systems and to replace leaking roofs.

Scaffolding once again surrounds the church – this time at the east end where the failing roofs and crumbling masonry of the south side chapels are being repaired. The work has included cleaning and restoring six heavily silted stained-glass roundel laylights at the vault apexes (see before and after pictures below).



The Jesuits are grateful to three funders for support for this vital work.  The National Churches Trust, together with the Wolfson Foundation, have contributed a total of £25,000; and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have contributed £103,000 via the government’s Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England.

Fr Brendan Callaghan SJ, priest in charge of the Holy Name, said: “The leaking roofs in the east end have been a worrying problem for some years and it is such a relief to be able to make repairs to secure this area in our 150th anniversary year. We are extremely grateful for generous grants from the National Churches Trust and Historic England which have made the work possible.”

Recent student and church volunteer Adam Brocklehurst said: “As a local, the Holy Name has been a beacon in my life so I am really happy to see this commitment from Historic England and the National Churches Trust to preserve our Manchester heritage. It will be wonderful to reclaim the south chapels from the buckets and mops!”   

Visit the Holy Name Manchester website here

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