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St Jude's Roman Catholic Church, Wigan

Description: St Jude's Roman Catholic Church

Grade: II
Date Listed: 26 April 2013
Building ID: 1413107

OS Grid Reference: SD5717303479
OS Grid Coordinates: 357173, 403482
Latitude/Longitude: 53.5262, -2.6475

Locality: Wigan
County: Wigan
Postcode: WN3 5LX

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Listing Text


Roman Catholic Church. 1964-5 by L A G Prichard & Son. Reinforced concrete frame, pinkish bricks. Dalle de verre glass by Robin Riley. Mosaic crucifixion by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze.

Reason for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of St Jude, Worsley Mesnes, Wigan, of 1964-5, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Planning: the fan-shaped design of the church shows considerable finesse in the planning of the religious space to unite the congregation and priest in a manner that firmly places the Eucharist literally and spiritually at the centre of worship as encouraged by the Liturgical Movement and subsequently endorsed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-5);
* Interior: the building has a powerful and expressive design using a radiating framework of deeply-protruding, exposed concrete beams infilled with warm brick and polished boarding ceiling, the spatial focus being upon the sanctuary of pure white marble, lit from above and offset by the large Crucifixion mosaic on the rear wall;
* Artistic embellishment: the church is notably enriched by high-quality contemporary artwork, particularly the large mosaic crucifixion by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze, the tactile richness of the Expressionist design imbuing the sanctuary with a religious intensity, and also the full-height symbolic panels of vibrant dalle de verre glass designed in a swirling abstract manner by Robin Riley;
* Intactness: the church remains largely as built in 1964-5, other than some minor alterations to subsidiary areas which have not significantly imposed upon the original design, and retains many good-quality fixtures and fittings.


St Jude's Roman Catholic Church was built in 1964-5 to serve a major housing development built in the 1960s in Worsley Mesnes, about 1.5 miles south-west of Wigan town centre; it was historically an area of farmland and coal mines belonging to the recusant Downes family of Wardley Hall. A temporary church was initially built by the first parish priest, Father Tobin, while the architects L A G Prichard & Son designed a permanent building capable of holding 600. The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Beck on December 14 1964, and the Archbishop returned to open and bless the completed church on July 13 1965.

The church was designed with two sets of six staggered windows with abstract dalle de verre glass by Robin Riley. The technique of setting slabs of thick coloured glass in a concrete frame was developed in France from the late 1920s. The glass, which varies in thickness from 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in), was made by Verriers de St Jobain in France and cut, shaped and fitted by J O'Neill & Sons of Liverpool. Robin Riley also designed the narrow band of clerestorey windows in the circular baptistery. Above the altar is a large mosaic crucifixion 5 m x 2.7 m (17ft x 9 ft) designed by Hans Unger and created by mosaic artist, Eberhard Schulze. This was the pair's first large-scale religious mural, but they had previously worked together on mosaics for London Transport. The mosaic combined glass tesserae, smalti (opaque glass handcrafted in Venice), and larger ceramic tiles specially made in their studio. These were set into a pliable mixture of dark-coloured cement on a base of marine plywood covered with expanded metal.

The baptistery was turned into a shrine dedicated to St Jude in 1993. In 1996 the area behind the sanctuary which formed a Lady Chapel and vestry for altar servers, had a change of use to a meeting room and a weekday chapel.


PLAN: the church is shaped like an isosceles triangle with squared-off corners. The broad north base equates to the liturgical east with the altar in its centre meaning that the church is much wider than it is deep. The choir gallery, porch and baptistery are in line on the central axis, with the circular baptistery forming the liturgical west apex of the building, facing the street corner.

EXTERIOR: the church has a large reinforced double-height concrete frame with a set-back box-like clerestorey with a flat roof, positioned to light the altar. To either side of the entrance porch are six full-height staggered stained glass window bays fanning out diagonally with angled flat roofs rising to the outer corners; the windows are of swirling dalle de verre glass set in concrete panels. Otherwise the infill panels of the concrete frame are filled with solid pinkish brickwork. The south elevation above the entrance porch has a horizontal six-light window of stained glass. The single-storey, flat-roofed entrance porch and passageway linking the church with the circular baptistery has angled timber double doors to both sides with rectangular overlights, and side lights with decorative iron-work screens. The passageway has walls of timber and blue and red bands of stained glass. The circular brick baptistery has a concrete cap set with a horizontal clerestorey band of dalle de verre panels. Four tapering concrete fins rise from the centre of the baptistery to form an open spirelet supporting a pole topped with a cross.

INTERIOR: inside, the expressed concrete frame has projecting uprights supporting angled beams fanning out from the long liturgical east wall to meet uprights set against the lower, angled rear walls. The two central roof beams cross over each other and the clerestorey above them floods the altar with light. The recessed ceiling between the beams is of timber planks. The semi-circular sanctuary area is raised up several steps and retains its original Bianco Carrara marble steps, altar, and altar rails. The ambo, in matching marble, was installed in 2001. To the rear of the altar is a projecting retable covered in blue mosaic tiles. Above, flanked by concrete uprights, is a large mosaic Crucifixion depicting Christ on the Cross, with the Blessed Virgin Mary kneeling on the left and St John standing on the right. It was designed by Hans Unger and created by mosaic artist, Eberhard Schulze; it is signed UNGER / EBER in the bottom right corner. The colours used for Christ are white, light-grey to dark-grey and set against strong black lines to intensify the shape of the body, with red tesserae depicting the wounds and gold sheet tesserae for the halo. The depiction of the Virgin Mary uses light beige to dark brown colours, with a range of yellows and greens for St John; both have gold halos. The dominant background colour is blue tesserae with larger pieces of stained glass or Venetian smalti fused ceramic tiles.

The spaces between the rear wall concrete uprights are filled with twelve staggered windows, six to either side of the porch and cantilevered concrete balcony. The windows consist of swirling abstract dalle de verre glass by Robin Riley though it is possible to discern symbolic representations of Christian themes. Each window is made up of nine panels containing an over-arching pattern of shaped pieces of intensely-coloured glass. In the centre of the concrete balcony is a symmetrical set of organ pipes. To the rear of the balcony is a horizontal six-light memorial window dating from 1977. It is of stained glass depicting St Jude and commemorates Father Tobin, the parish's first priest who was closely involved with the church's construction. Beneath the balcony are two sets of inner entrance doors from the porch separated by a central glazed screen. The doors are fully glazed with half-height diagonal metal door pulls.

There is a set of Stations of the Cross from c1967 by Earley & Co of Dublin.

The entrance porch contains a tapering concrete holy water stoop. A short gated passageway on its south side leads to the former baptistery. The baptistery has clerestorey dalle de verre glass by Robin Riley. A deep, circular font of pale grey marble on a dark grey marble stem is set in a central circular area paved in dark grey marble. Rising from its raised rim and enclosing the font are four concrete fins which rise to form the external spirelet.

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