The New Church
As will have been seen from the "Parish History" page, the Anderton family had provided Euxton with a Chapel, priest’s accommodation and a Catholic School by the mid-19th century and were clearly very committed to the maintenance and growth of the Faith – as the local Squire, however, it is equally clear that Mr Anderton had become accustomed to the rights and privileges that existed though his ownership and sole benefaction of these facilities. Following the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in 1850, it is certain that the Bishop sought to establish and exercise his primacy in these matters, but, of course, he did not want to alienate his major benefactor whilst doing this!
From the surviving Parish Records it can be seen that the Church set out to buy (non-Anderton) property and land adjoining the existing Priest’s house in Euxton in 1859 using the “Church Building Fund” to secure the land required for the new Church buildings. This land (off Wigan Road opposite the Euxton Hall estate) was actually bought by Mr Anderton (who presumably outbid the Church!) and the following 4 years saw a series of meetings / proposals / counter-proposals between Mr Anderton and Fr Worthy / Bishop Goss regarding the financing and siting of the new Church.
Matters seemed to come to a head in December 1863 when Mr Anderton formally offered land at Primrose Hill for the planned Church and Cemetery – by this time Mr Anderton had more or less accepted that the new Church would be a “public Church” rather than his own “private Church” (whilst being open to the public!). The correspondence suggests that Mr Anderton would have been willing to completely fund the building of a Church close to Euxton Hall provided that it would continue to be his private property, and although it is clear that he was unwilling to permit a public cemetery to be opened near the Hall he intended to open a private burial plot for the Family close to the Chapel near the Hall. Fr Worthy was opposed to Mr Anderton’s proposals on practical grounds, Primrose Hill being too far away from the congregation and the School; there were also concerns about Mr Anderton’s continuing wish to retain a degree of control over the running of the Mission.
Fr Worthy identified a number of potential sites in Euxton for the required developments, identifying a “site opposite the Protestant School” as his favoured option. Mr Anderton expressed his concern about the Church moving “into the Village” – would it be accepted by the local population?…… an interesting question given that the Act of Catholic Emancipation had been passed more than 30 years earlier!
Bishop Goss suggested that Fr Worthy approach the owner of this land (Mr George Garstang) to enquire whether this land might be for sale, and Mr Garstang gifted the land to the Church to enable the development. The land in question (the current site!) was transferred to the ownership of the Church in April 1864, albeit that Mr Anderton continued to discuss the “ownership” question with Bishop Goss.
Mr Anderton was clearly unhappy at this turn of events and felt that the Church was failing to recognise the Family’s position as "ancient protectors of the Church in Euxton", but he acknowledged the reality of the situation and eventually became reconciled to this, and, indeed, made a donation of £1000 towards the cost of the building of the Church.
Mr Anderton was largely living in Brighton during this time, and a series of letters between himself and Fr Worthy reveal his unhappiness with the design of the side chapel as it emerged – covering not just the design, but also its access and usability as a private chapel (the Church being “inconveniently far” from the Hall) – he first requested curtains and then a screen around the chapel – he argued the cost; but eventually came to terms with it all, and the Anderton family continued as major benefactors to the Parish throughout their lives.
Edward Welby Pugin was the architect of the Church, although it is clear that Rev John Worthy had a strong input to the design and subsequent ordering of the church building, fixtures and fittings.
Fr Worthy was undoubtedly a man of action and energy – on 2nd May 1864 within days of the transfer of ownership of the land, Fr Worthy wrote the first of many letters to Pugin outlining his ideas (requirements!) for the internal layout of the church, including a first hand-drawn sketch of his design:in which the “Anderton Chapel” was envisaged as simply being a seating/kneeling area, with no separate access and no screen; the Font was at the back of the Nave; confessionals were in the North Transept; and the Presbytery seemed to be planned to be at the side of the church rather than the rear. Discussions (in the form of exchanges of letters) continued, with the eventual production of a final plan (again drawn by Fr Worthy!) prior to the laying of the foundation-stone on 28th August 1864. It is amazing that agreement on such a complex matter could be reached in that timescale when every idea, and its implications, had to be “discussed” by writing letters!
Fr Worthy is remembered as the “First Rector and Builder” of the church, and his description as “Builder” is well-merited. He wasn’t just intimately involved in the design of the church, he selected and ordered materials, negotiated with suppliers, arranged and chased deliveries, harangued suppliers and tradesmen whose performance fell below his expectation, and directly managed the building activity. All of this whilst continuing to negotiate with, and placate, Mr Anderton and Bishop Goss – and not forgetting that he had a full-time job attending to his priestly ministry! How did he do it all?
As indicated above, Mr Anderton had many misgivings about the new church – his loss of control, his unhappiness at the perceived lack of appreciation of his family’s historic support of the Church, and the location of the building: but he evidently decided to accept the situation as it was. He did, however, dig his heels in over the arrangements concerning the Anderton Chapel – its position, furnishing, access and privacy, perhaps not unreasonably given that he was being asked to cover all the costs associated with the Chapel over and above the donation he had made to the church building cost itself.
It was the question of privacy that most bothered Fr Worthy – the original “agreed” plan shows the Anderton Chapel as being open to the Nave, with the south aisle running along the back. On 7th October 1865 Fr Worthy writes to Mr Anderton and, essentially, tells him that his plans for the Anderton Chapel do not meet his approval given that they involve the installation of “high rails and curtains between you and the Sanctuary” and that “no-one should be allowed to make himself a hiding place in a public church”, however Fr Worthy can probably recognise the strength of Mr Anderton’s position as he states that he will leave the decision to Bishop Goss, and abide by whatever that decision is. There is no further correspondence on the matter, but the Bishop presumably acceded to Mr Anderton’s requests as the curtained screen was subsequently installed (and stayed there until the last of the Anderton’s was buried).
The new church was opened on 29th October 1865.
The book "Old Country Churches and Chapels" published in 1872 gives the Catholic population of the district as 500, with the average attendance at the two Sunday morning services being 320, with 180 attending the afternoon service, the congregation being “made up of agricultural people, factory workers, and miners, and although some of them are rough-spun, all maintain great order during the services…”
Contemporary newspaper articles describing the Foundation Stone-laying and Church Opening ceremonies may be read here:
The Church – the first 150 years!
Since the time of its building, the church has undergone considerable refurbishment and re-ordering, but it would still be recognisable to the first worshippers from 1865.
The main entrance porch has a doorway on each side with a pair of folding doors then leading into the nave. Inside the porch the stained glass window depicts "The Dowry of England" showing Our Lady and the Child Jesus enthroned on England.
The interior of the church has a remarkably light and symmetrical appearance. The nave is in five bays, and is separated from the side aisles by a series of Gothic arches supported alternately by round and octagonal columns, the round columns being in the Norman/Gothic style and the octagonal in a vaguely Classical style. The nave ceiling represents an upturned boat: a favoured design of Pugin, the fleur-de-lis motif being painted on the ceiling in 1991.
The original pews were of pine, stained and varnished - only the front pews (those subject to bench rents) had padded kneelers, the rest of the congregation had to do with plain wood. These original pews were replaced by oak pews in the 1960s as part of the Centenary celebrations. The original Stations of the Cross were also replaced (by the current Stations) in the 1960s.
The nave contains a plaque stating that all the stained glass in the church was installed in 1925-26 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of St Mary's.
The westernmost window of the north aisle contains a stained glass depiction of Blessed Robert Anderton. At the east end of the south aisle is the "Good Shepherd" window, depicting Christ, the Good Shepherd, with the Red Rose of Lancashire and a building resembling Rivington Pike tower above him. The six lancet windows at the back of the nave contain the coats-of-arms of four Popes and two Bishops of Liverpool, including Alexander Goss, the 2nd Bishop who consecrated St Mary's.
Electric lighting was installed throughout the church in 1939, replacing the old gas lighting.
In 1956 confessionals were installed in an extension built alongside the Sanctuary, the access being through what was previously the “private” Anderton Chapel: externally this involved moving the foundation stone which was originally set in the outer wall of the Sanctuary. The confessional was previously sited in the north transept along with the Baptismal Font.
The chancel was originally separated from the rest of the church by an oak rail, supported by an iron screen of neat, gothic pattern – this rail was replaced by a carved oak rail in the 1940s (design sketch dated 1945), a gift from the US servicemen at Washington Hall, who also donated an oak pulpit (design sketch dated 1943). Both of these items were removed in the major re-ordering on the Sanctuary in 1991.
The original altar, which was approached by three steps, was designed by Rev Worthy. The front of the altar was divided into three panels, separated by columns of a green colour, with foliage capitals tinged with gold. The central panel was painted scarlet, green and gold and contained the holy monogram. The outer were painted blue, scarlet and gold, the monogram being that of the Virgin Mary. The original altar was replaced by the current altar in 1888 - the altar is made out of Italian marble and depicts the Lamb of God holding the flag of St George and England. The original altar reredos was moved from the old Anderton Family Chapel at Euxton Hall and was installed as a temporary measure. It was replaced in 1887 by a reredos of ecclesiastical design covering the whole of the back wall of the Sanctuary. In the 1940s (design sketch dated 1945) this reredos, in turn, was replaced by the current oak-panelling reredos, depicting the Wedding Feast at Canaan and the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The Tabernacle is of the purest white marble, with columns of onyx supporting a carved cornice.
The nine stained glass windows in the Sanctuary show various saints and commemorate the nine parishioners who died in the conflict of the First World War. The two other windows commemorate William Anderton and were donated by his Memorial Committee.
The Sanctuary mural "The Murder of St Thomas à Becket" was painted in 1942 (according to the date on the artist's sketches!).
Reference has been made to the re-ordering of the church in 1991: the original internal layout of the church was determined by Rev John Worthy, and followed tradition but in 1991 the church underwent a major reordering, with the altar being moved forward into the Sanctuary so that the priest could face the congregation during the celebration of the Mass. The altar rails were also removed and marble altar steps installed to provide a wide access to the Sanctuary. The reredos was re-modelled with the central panel being aligned with the side panels and with the paintings of the two miracle scenes being continued into the central panel. The tabernacle and "triptych" doors were decorated to portray two Angels when closed and the Gateway to Heaven when open. At the same time as the reordering, the crucifixion rood and sanctuary lamp were recovered from St Alban’s, Liverpool which was undergoing closure at the time and were installed at St Mary's. The modern lectern was also installed at the time of the reordering, replacing the previous pulpit. Together with a complete redecoration and the installation of new lighting in both the nave and the sanctuary, the reordering transformed the interior of the church, but still succeeded in maintaining the ethos of the original traditional design.
The south transept of the church was originally designated as the Anderton Chapel, for the use of the Anderton family. At the time of the church's opening the Anderton Chapel was "open-plan" with the nave of the church, but it was separated from the rest of the building by an ornamental gothic screen shortly after the church was built.
Beneath the Chapel is the Anderton Vault, which contains the mortal remains of William Ince Anderton (d1884), his wife Lady Emma (d1866) and their second son Sir Francis Robert (d1950). Sir Francis Robert Ince Anderton was "the last Anderton" and the Vault was sealed immediately following his burial. His death marked the end of the Anderton family dynasty and in the following years the Anderton Chapel screen was removed and the south transept was one again opened-up into the main body of the church. The south transept was then used primarily by the altar servers until it was reordered into a Lady Chapel in 2004.
The Baptistery is sited in the north transept of the church and contains the original font - a fine font with a intricately carved font cover in Gothic style. The original plans of the church show the font sited at the back of the church (albeit there also seems to be a smaller font in north transept): it is not known whether the font was originally installed there and it can certainly be seen sited in the north transept in photos of the church interior in 1910 (albeit further forward than it is today – it was presumably moved to its current position when the Baptistery was re-ordered in 1956). The stained glass windows depict St John the Baptist and St Thomas the Apostle and commemorate Canon John Worthy and Father Thomas Keeley as First Rector and First Parish Priest.
The Gallery, at the east end of the building, is supported by three arches. The gallery was used by the choir, and houses the original 1865 organ which remains in fine working order thanks to a number of cleanings and restorations. The two windows depict Christ and Our Lady entering an area where people of all nations are gathered. Etched glass panels were installed in the choir gallery rails in 2014, commemorating the parish’s war dead of World War 2.
Outside the church
In 1877 a clock was installed in the presbytery tower, presented as a gift to the people of Euxton by William Ince Anderton to mark the coming-of-age of his eldest son. The shape of the presbytery tower was changed during renovation work in 1953, when “the ornamental windows, which served no useful purpose, were removed”, according to Fr Skehan’s report. The clock face was changed from black to white during Fr Cadogan’s time during more renovation work. Old photographs of the building show that the presbytery tower once sported a weather-cock which hasn’t survived to today - its fate is not known!
The War Memorial Cross was erected in the church grounds following the First World War to commemorate the 9 parishioners who gave their lives in that conflict. An extension to the Memorial was added after World War II to further commemorate the 7 parishioners who gave their lives in that conflict. The Memorial remained free-standing in the church grounds until some mindless vandals damaged the Cross, following which the Memorial was re-set and built into the wall of the porch - the War Memorial was re-dedicated on 3rd November 1996.
The Changing Face of the Sanctuary
As described in the previous section, the look of the Sanctuary has changed over the years: there are no known surviving pictures of the original “1865 Sanctuary”, but we are able to follow the other major changes with the following photos:
The interior of the church pictured about 1910:
The Anderton Chapel complete with its gothic screen is seen on the left; the altar and reredos are those installed in 1887/1888; the altar rails have wrought-iron inserts. Note that the windows overlooking the Sanctuary are plain glass, the stained glass only being installed in 1925/26.
A closer look at the original wrought iron altar rail
following its donation to St Catherine’s, Farington.
The rail is no longer in place at St Catherine’s.
The interior of the church pictured in the 1940s following the installation of the oak reredos, altar rails and oak pulpit.
Note that the gothic canopy above the tabernacle is still in place.
The interior of the church pictured following the removal of the gothic canopy above the tabernacle and simplification of the reredos.
The interior of the church pictured following the major re-ordering of 1991. The altar has been moved forward into the Sanctuary; the altar rails have been removed and marble altar steps installed.
The reredos has been re-modelled with the two miracle scenes being continued into the central panel with the tabernacle and "triptych" doors also redecorated.
The crucifixion rood and a new sanctuary lamp have been installed as has the modern lectern.
The stained glass windows of 1925/26 can also be seen, as can the 1942 Sanctuary mural.
The Stained Glass
All of the stained glass in the church dates from 1925-26, and was installed to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of St Mary’s. Images of all the stained glass windows in the church may be viewed in the History of the Parish" booklet by clicking here (page 20). The following is a description of the stained glass, with selected pictures:
The nine stained glass windows (above) in the Sanctuary commemorate the nine parishioners who died in the conflict of the First World War. The two other windows commemorate William Anderton (who died in 1926) and were donated by his Memorial Committee.
In the west porch (which was the private entrance to the Anderton Chapel) the stained glass window depicts Euxton Hall. The inscription basically says that during the Penal Times until the building of the chapel in 1817, Mass was said in Euxton Hall.. In the east porch (the main entrance) the stained glass window depicts "The Dowry of England" showing the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus enthroned on England.
The Baptistery stained glass windows depict St John the Baptist and St Thomas the Apostle and also commemorate Father Thomas Keeley and Canon John Worthy.
(Above) In the sacristy are windows depicting Jesus Christ at the Last Supper; and Fr Keeley distributing Holy Communion. The depiction of Fr Keeley is clearly set in the Church (the altar can be recognised) and provides the best impression we have of what the Sanctuary looked like in the time before any photographs exist.
It would be very interesting to know if the communicants were modelled on actual parishioners – and, if so, who they were!
(Above left) The westernmost window of the North aisle contains a stained glass depiction of Blessed Robert Anderton who was martyred on the Isle of Wight in 1586.
(Above; centre & right) The windows in south transept of the church (originally designated as the Anderton Chapel) commemorate the Anderton family as long-term benefactors of Catholicism in Euxton, one depicting the Coronation of the Virgin, the other (pictured above right) depicting St William of Cellone and St Winifred – possibly a memorial to William and Ida Winifred Anderton.
The six lancet windows at the back of the nave contain the coats-of-arms of four Popes and two Bishops of Liverpool, including Bishop Alexander Goss, the 2nd Bishop of Liverpool who consecrated St Mary's.
Above the choir gallery are two windows depicting Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary entering an area where people of all nations are gathered.
Note: The “Virgin Mary window” (pictured right) is partially obscured by the organ!