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Roman Catholic Church of Holy Name of Jesus, Wirral

Description: Roman Catholic Church of Holy Name of Jesus

Grade: II
Date Listed: 26 September 2013
Building ID: 1414960

OS Grid Reference: SJ2988888051
OS Grid Coordinates: 329888, 388049
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3846, -3.0556

Locality: Wirral
County: Wirral
Postcode: CH43 6UN

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Listing Text


Roman Catholic church. 1898-9 with 1909 porch and baptistery, Lady Chapel, and sacristy. Edmund Kirby, with fixtures and fittings by Edmund Kirby and his son Edmund Bertram Kirby (c1924), and stained glass by Hardman (1903) and Margaret Agnes Rope (c1918 and 1929). Gothic with Perpendicular and domestic-style detailing. Orange brick with moulded brick detailing and red tile roofs.

Reason for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Birkenhead, of 1898-9 with 1909 additions, by Edmund Kirby, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architect: the church was designed by the notable ecclesiastical architect, Edmund Kirby, a devout Catholic who also worshipped here and lived in the adjacent house called Overdale, now part of Birkenhead School;
* Architectural interest: Kirby was highly successful in designing a small-scale, modest church which through its careful attention to detail such as the use of moulded brickwork and Tudor arches has a pleasingly intimate and welcoming atmosphere;
* Historic interest: between 1908 and 1934 Holy Name of Jesus became the episcopal church to the Bishop of Shrewsbury who then lived in Birkenhead and the church was extended and significantly embellished and enriched during this period;
* Interior: the church has many good-quality fixtures and fittings, a number of which were designed by Edmund Kirby including the fine east windows by Hardman, and the timber high altar, reredos, and wall panelling to the sanctuary, with carved oak screens to the side chapels designed by his son, Edmund Bertram Kirby;
* Artistic interest: the Lady Chapel contains two exquisitely detailed windows in the Arts and Crafts manner, notably the larger window of 1929 depicting Nine Martyrs of the Shrewsbury Diocese, which together with a smaller window in the nave, are by the accomplished stained glass artist, Margaret Agnes Rope, a highly devout woman who joined the Carmelite Order in 1923 but continued to design religious stained glass.


The neighbourhood of Oxton began to be developed in 1839 on land belonging to the Earl of Shrewsbury. The first buildings were weekend houses for Liverpool businessmen, and later, substantial family houses for wealthy commuters. Initially, Catholics living in Oxton were principally servants working in the large houses. They attended Mass at the chapel of a convent established by the Faithful Companions of Jesus, a French order of nuns, on Ashburton Road. In 1882 the second Bishop of Shrewsbury, Edmund Knight, decided to live in Birkenhead, and Mass was then celebrated at his house, Avondale, on the corner of Reedsville and Slatey Road.

Bishop Knight's successor, Bishop John Carroll, bought Overdale, a large stucco house which is now part of Birkenhead School, on the corner of Bidston Road and Beresford Road. The ballroom was converted into a chapel. After Bishop Carroll died in 1897 Overdale was put up for sale. It was purchased by Edmund Kirby, the Liverpool ecclesiastical architect, a devout Catholic who continued to offer the use of the chapel to local Catholics. Kirby and other prominent local Catholics then successfully petitioned the Bishop to allow a church to be built. The site was given by the Topham family and had formerly been the orchard of Overdale.

The new church was built to designs by Edmund Kirby. The foundation stone was laid in 1898 and the church was consecrated in 1899. It cost £2,000, half of which was provided by local Catholics. In 1901 the carved timber high altar, reredos and wall panelling were installed in the sanctuary, and in 1903 three east windows by Hardman were added, all to Kirby's designs.

In 1908 Bishop Hugh Singleton decided to return to Birkenhead, living in Beresford Road until his death in 1934. During this period the church was used as an episcopal church and was significantly embellished and enriched. In 1909 a lean-to porch and baptistery were built at the west end and it is likely that the Lady Chapel and sacristy are also of this date. The pulpit was installed in 1923, and the Lady Chapel tabernacle and credence table in 1924. Shortly after, the carved oak screens to the side arches were designed by Edmund Bertram Kirby, who joined his father as a partner in the practice in 1905. They were carved by the Norbury family of Huyton.

Three sets of stained glass windows were commissioned from Margaret Agnes Rope. The earliest is a group of windows above the Lady Altar which was given by John Lindon (who donated the Lady Chapel and other fittings) in memory of his mother and wife and dates from c1918. The larger John Lindon memorial window, also in the Lady Chapel, was erected in 1929. A window on the liturgical south side of the nave also dates from 1929.

The sanctuary was reordered in 1985 by Bing Vis and included the re-siting and reduction in height of the high altar, removal of communion rails and extension of the sanctuary steps. Around this time the sacristy was extended to provide a garage. In the early 1990s the garage was converted into a meeting room.

Until 1955 the former Bishop's house served as the presbytery, but in 1955 a new house was erected at the east end of the church to the design of John Sheridan of Edmund Kirby and Partners.


PLAN: whilst aligned approximately north-south, liturgical compass points are used for the description of the church. Five-bay nave with a polygonal sanctuary. West porch and baptistery (now meeting room), north Lady Chapel and south sacristy with former garage, now meeting room.

EXTERIOR: the church is built of orange brick in English garden wall bond (3:1) with a chamfered plinth, moulded brick sill and window head bands, deep stepped eaves band, and red tiled roof with kicked eaves. Facing the road, the gabled west end has a large rose window with moulded brick sexfoil tracery. The deep overhanging eaves have timber bargeboards, presently painted blue, and there is a small terracotta foliate Celtic cross at the gable apex. Beneath the rose window is a full-width, single-storey lean-to porch and baptistery with a central gablet. The lower level is of brick, with three trefoil-headed windows in the centre and a screen of timber-framed windows to each side. All the windows have leaded lights. The south elevation has four bays of four narrow trefoil-headed windows separated by buttresses. The windows have leaded lights except for the two inner lights in the fourth bay, which are stained glass. At the left-hand end is an entrance doorway in the side of the lean-to porch. It has timber double doors beneath deep over-hanging eaves on timber brackets. At the right-hand end is a shallow two-storey gabled projection with a gable stack. Abutting the gable wall is the single-storey sacristy extension. The red tiled roof has kicked eaves and is hipped to the outer elevation. The north elevation of the church is similarly detailed with the single-storey Lady Chapel projecting at the left-hand end. It too has a red tiled roof with kicked eaves and is hipped to the outer elevation. The polygonal sanctuary has diagonal buttresses with three narrow trefoil-headed windows to each face. The three inner faces have stained glass windows, with leaded lights to the two outer faces.

INTERIOR: the nave has an open roof with boarding and four arch-braced timber trusses with cusped crown-post and diagonal struts between the tie-beams and collars. The walls are of red brick with Tudor-arch moulded detailing encompassing the three-light and four-light windows, which have sloping tiled sills. The west wall has a central round-headed doorway with double timber doors and a leaded overlight which opens into the porch. It is flanked by two windows to the left and a window converted to a doorway, which opens into the former baptistery, and an unglazed window to the right. The windows have two trefoil-headed lights with a trefoil above; those to the left have leaded glass. The doorway into the baptistery retains the trefoil and has a shouldered-arch head. The chancel arch is pointed, with Tudor side arches into the Lady Chapel and through to the sacristy. Both side arches have Gothic timber screens designed by Edmund Bertram Kirby. The sanctuary has stained glass windows (1903) by Hardman to designs by Edmund Kirby, depicting the Presentation at the Temple flanked by the Nativity and the Agony in the Garden. The Gothic timber reredos, wall panelling, and high altar, now set in a forward position, were also designed by Edmund Kirby (1901). To the right of the chancel screen is a polygonal timber pulpit (1923). The Lady Chapel has two stained glass windows by Margaret Agnes Rope. The East window depicts Our Lady with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist (c1918). The large north window depicts Nine Martyrs of the Shrewsbury Diocese, all of whom were martyred between 1582 and 1689 and were born in the area of the future diocese, and Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, and Our Lord, King of Martyrs (1929). The circular stone font with Gothic carving, and a stand of granite columns stands in the Lady Chapel, having been relocated from the baptistery. On the liturgical south side of the nave is a third stained glass window by Margaret Agnes Rope showing St Teresa of Lisieux and St Winefride (1929).

EXCLUSIONS: The 1955 presbytery is excluded from the listing.

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