Church of St John
Part of Group: Yes 2 Oth
At Risk: No
Historic England Ref: 301 (Link)
Roman Catholic church. Dated 1819 on frieze of colonnaded porch
The foundation stone was laid on 27 January 1818, and the church was opened on 24 June 1819. It was built to hold over 1,000 people and cost just over £6,000. It was built at the back of the site, behind the 1785 chapel, which was demolished once the new church was complete and replaced with two houses framing the access from Standishgate (only one of which survives). The architect of the church is not known for certain, but evidence suggests Robert Haulbrook, a local mason, whose bill accounted for almost half of the cost. J. J. Scoles carried out the earliest decoration of the church, in 1834. Scoles also made sketches for the high altar, and the beautiful wooden circular tempietto over the present marble altar is presumably his design, as part of the Rev. Henry Gradwell’s augmentation of the chapel. The interior was further augmented in 1849 by the addition of pilasters around the internal side walls and the provision of four stained glass in the sanctuary, the latter presented by Fr Henry Walmesley. The central window of the sanctuary was blocked at this time to show the internal decorations to better effect. In 1874 the window was unblocked and a stained glass window by William Gardner of St Helens installed.
In 1885 the interior was paved with tiles and new benches and gaslight installed. In 1895 marble and alabaster altar rails were installed in memory of the Rev. Joseph Gradwell SJ, made by J. and H. Patterson of Manchester, and new flooring put in the sanctuary, by Mr Preston of Wigan.
The Jesuits handed the church over to the archdiocese in 1933.
In 1959 the wooden high altar was replaced by the present marble one, and a marble Lady altar was introduced. The permanent altars enabled the church to be consecrated, and this took place on 17 June 1959. In 1962 one of the two houses of 1819 framing the approach from Standishgate was demolished in order to widen that access. At the same time, a new modern block housing a baptistery and sacristies were built, from designs by T.B. Marsden of Southport. In about 1994 the interior was reordered by Anthony Grimshaw Associates. A dais and nave altar was installed, with an ambo, credence table, and presidential chair. The benches for the congregation were arranged around this dais on three sides. A carpet was fitted in the nave, repeating the pattern of the tiles below, and a polychrome scheme of redecoration was carried out. The 1959 Lady altar is now relocated to the 1962 baptistery.