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Church of St Thomas and Lychgate, High Lane

Description: Church of St Thomas and Lychgate

Grade: II
Date Listed: 1 February 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1403103

OS Grid Reference: SJ9535685299
OS Grid Coordinates: 395357, 385297
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3645, -2.0712

Locality: High Lane
County: Stockport
Country: England
Postcode: SK6 8DX

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Listing Text


Anglican church of 1850-1 by Charles Wyatt Orford. Nave extended, and north aisle and south-west tower added in 1866 to designs by James Medland Taylor. Lychgate c1881-8.

Reason for Listing

St Thomas's Church, High Lane, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architects: though modest, the two phases of this church were designed by two ecclesiastical architects, Charles Wyatt Orford and James Medland Taylor, both of whom have other listed churches to their names;
* Interior: the church retains a richly painted apse and apsidal arch, unusually incorporating painted tin panels attached to the walls, good-quality stained glass to all the windows, particularly the apse glass by Wailes and Co., whose intense colours compliment the wall paintings, a plain but well-crafted hammer-beam roof, carved arcade capitals, and an encaustic tiled floor;
* Fixtures and Fittings: the church contains good-quality fixtures and fittings which include an 1867 organ with multi-coloured painted pipes, which compliment the wall paintings, an original stone font, and a carillon of six hemispherical bells in the tower;
* Alteration: this mid-C19 church was more than doubled in size in two major building phases a mere fifteen years apart, driven by a massive population growth in a previously sparsely populated area, reflecting the rapidly expanding pace of industrialisation driven by the demand for locally-produced coal;
* Subsidiary Items: the 1880s' timber lychgate is a good representative example which enhances the setting of the church.


High Lane was a small village with no Anglican church provision until the Bishop of Chester granted a licence for services to be held at the National School built in 1846. Subsequently, Thomas Orford, Steward of Lyme, donated land for the building of a church, with David Shaw Clayton, a partner in the local coal mining company, giving land for the graveyard and parsonage. Charles Wyatt Orford was appointed architect, though funds raised only ran to building the apse and a short nave. Orford appears to have specialised in ecclesiastical architecture and his Commissioners' Church, St Mark's Church, Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton, of 1848-9 is listed at Grade II.

The foundation stone was laid in December 1850 and the church opened in 1851, comprising an apse and short nave containing 22 pews providing 110 seats. The lack of money meant that there was no stipend for a vicar and so the church remained unconsecrated until 1859. The church initially came under the jurisdiction of the parish of Stockport, but by 1876 the parish of High Lane had been formed.

It soon became apparent that the church was too small for the growing local population and in March 1866, plans to enlarge it had been submitted by the architect James Medland Taylor of Manchester. Taylor, together with his brother, Henry, was one of the leading ecclesiastical architects' practices in the north-west, and many of their churches in the region are listed.

The church reopened in October 1866 with the nave extended half as far again and a wide north aisle added, increasing accommodation to 300. The nave and north aisle windows by Lavers and Barraud were donated at this time. In addition the original belfry was replaced by a tower; the carillon of six hemispherical bells being first played in December 1870.

Inside the church, the font was moved from the porch to the rear of the nave during the 1866 enlargement. The original harmonium was replaced by a new organ in 1867 built by F W Jardine of Manchester; it was enlarged around 1900 and restored in 1987, though retaining its original pipe decoration. An historic photo of 1909 shows that the church walls were also painted with ornate patterns. Other than the apse, these were gradually painted over, disappearing completely in a redecoration in 1939; Pevsner suggests that the apse decoration is c1866 rather than c1852. A modern vestry was built against the north aisle in 1968-9; it is cantilevered over some of the graves.
The church lychgate was constructed during the incumbency of the Revd W G Bridges (1881-1888).


MATERIALS: rock-faced sandstone with ashlar dressings, slate roofs with bands of fish-scale slates, stone slate roof to tower, lychgate; timber, slate roof. Norman style.

PLAN: a six-bay nave with semi-circular east apse, south porch with adjoining square tower, north aisle, north-east vestry, large modern vestry attached to north side.

EXTERIOR: the church has a plinth and corbel table, with a moulded sill band to the west gable walls of the nave and north aisle, and to the east apse. The nave has clasping buttresses. The west rose window is above a central buttress flanked on each side by a tall round-headed window with projecting moulded lintel band; there is an adjacent smaller rose window to the north aisle over two round-headed windows with hood moulds. The south elevation has single and paired round-headed windows with hood moulds. The porch to the third bay has a round-headed doorway in the gable wall reached by external steps; chamfered surround with engaged columns with Romanesque scallop capitals, hood mould. There is a small round-headed lancet over, two round-headed windows to the right side elevation, and tower to the left side elevation. The tower has quoining and ashlar bands with a tall spire with metal weather vane. There are round-headed lancets, with black circular clock faces to the front and side elevations just below belfry stage. The belfry stage has round-headed, louvred windows with column mullions, and gargoyles to each corner of the tower apex. The semi-circular apse has pilaster strips forming three panels each with round-headed window with engaged jamb columns and hood mould. The vestry and north aisle are largely obscured by a modern, flat-roofed building.

INTERIOR: the nave has hammer-beam trusses with collars, single side purlins and secondary trusses. The aisle has collar trusses. The arcade between the nave and aisle has three wide slightly pointed arches and a narrow pointed arch at the east end; the capitals are variants of Romanesque scallops and Transitional water-leaf, the easternmost incorporating the attributes of the Evangelists. The moulded round apsidal arch has engaged column to each side, with Romanesque scalloped capitals, richly painted in jewel-like colours with intricate geometric and foliate detailing. The apse walls, ceiling, and window reveals are similarly painted, also with Celtic knot motifs. Between the windows are tin panels attached to the walls painted with Bible passages and the Creed. The windows contain richly coloured stained glass denoting the Sacrament of Eucharist, Symbols of the Passion, and Symbols of the Trinity by Wailes and Co. The nave and aisle windows have stained and painted geometric and foliate glass by Lavers and Barraud. Painted tin panels attached to sills are now painted white. On the east side is a pulpit of 1938 in Austrian oak. The organ is situated at the east end of the north aisle with timber Gothic casing and decoratively painted pipes. A small hexagonal stone font stands at the west end on a floor of encaustic tiles. The tower retains a carillon of six hemispherical bells made by Messrs Mears & Co of London.

SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: a timber lychgate with pierced double gates. The pitched roof has bands of rectangular and fish-scale slates; decorative ridge tiles.

The modern flat-roofed building attached to the north side of the church is not of special interest.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.