St John the Baptist Church - History
1. Parish Priests' Pen Portraits ("Pop-up Priests")
1892-1893 Fr Arnold Nohlmans (sorry, no information as yet)
In 1892 he moved to Burnley to found the new mission of St John the Baptist, Ivy Street.
In 1896 Fr Aukes moved to Radcliffe as Rector at St Mary's, then in 1902 to St Mary, Ashton under Lyne and finally in 1906 to Osbaldeston. In 1909 exhausted by his three decades of missionary labours in Lancashire, Fr Aukes retired home to Holland where he died a few months later, 27 December.
In 1903 Fr Wookey was appointed Administrator (Dean) at Salford Cathedral, but he was unhappy in the position finding it too much strain and requested a move, and in 1909 he was sent to the newly built St Augustine's, York Street to take over from Canon Richardson who had died shortly after completing the new church. Fr Wookey found the situation at St Augustine's even worse though - there were serious financial irregularities in the accounts, and the diocese refused to let him have access to Canon Richardson's ledgers, unable to balance the books, Fr Wookey again resigned and asked to be moved elsewhere.
In 1912 Fr Wookey was given charge of St Thomas of Canterbury, Higher Broughton where he finally settled in and made his name, serving the parish for 24 years until his death 25 September 1936, he also served as chairman of the Manchester CTS, and the Catholic Needlework Guild, and was Diocesan MC, he was described in his obituary as "a man of charm and dignity, charitable, hospitable, and with a lively wit"
William Shine was born 27 September 1868 at Ballyaffin, Waterford, he was educated at Mount Melleray and at Waterford being ordained 23 September 1894 at St Bede's College, Manchester. Fr Shine served an eight year curacy at St Augustine's Church, Granby Row, Manchester.
He was then sent in 1902 to St John the Baptist, Burnley where he would spend 11 years and where he built the present church and presbytery.
In 1913 he moved to St Anne, Blackburn where once again he set about building a new church, although this time he died before he saw his work completed, on 10 July 1925 at the age of 56.
1913-1922 Fr John Connor (sorry, no information as yet)
In 1923 Fr Atkinson was appointed Parish Priest at St John the Baptist, Burnley, moving in 1928 to the Sacred Heart & St Edward, Darwen. In 1937 he retired to the Little Sisters of the Poor where he died 20 March 1941.
The Congregation of the Divine Pastor was a Catholic group devoted to the abolition of alcohol; Dean Edward Woods who had been at St Anne's Church, Blackburn since 1870 had founded the group and in the early 20th century had gathered a number of Priests together from across the world to live with him at Blackburn and declared themselves independent of the diocese (much to Bishop Casartelli's chagrin), they established an additional base at Oswaldtwistle. In 1913 when Fr Woods died, his congregation descended into bickering and infighting and Casartelli appointed the Vicar General as their new superior with instructions to dissolve, some of the priests were incardinated into the Salford Diocese, others were given their marching orders.
Fr Geoghan was accepted into the Salford Diocese and appointed curate at St Mary, Oswaldtwistle, serving there for 14 years, in 1928 he was made Parish Priest at St John the Baptist, Burnley, but two years later was given the parish of St Mary, Billington (Langho) where he remained for 25 years until his death 15 May 1955.
William Fletcher was born 20 October 1881 in Burscough, he trained at Valladolid and was ordained 26 June 1910, he served 13 years as curate at Ss Peter & Paul, Bolton, then as chaplain to Deane Convent 1923 to 27, he then served briefly at Mossley before being appointed Parish Priest at St John the Baptist, Burnley in 1930, he served for 31 years and was appointed an Honorary Canon in 1960, but died the following year 22 January 1961.
In 1961 Fr Molloy was appointed Parish Priest at St John the Baptist, Burnley, then in 1979 he moved to the Holy Saviour, Nelson. He retired in 1988 to McAuley Mount where he died 24 June 1990.
1979-1989 Fr Patrick Keane
1989-1998 Fr Leo Heakin
1998-2018 Fr Michael Waters
For current clergy see Parish Clergy Team
(with thanks to archivist Lawrence Gregory for the information & photos used in the pop-ups above)
2. The Church Building:
An urban Gothic Revival church constructed on a site beside a cotton mill. The benefactress was Lady O’Hagan, the heiress of Towneley Hall. The church’s predecessor building, a school-chapel, still survives, as does the original high altar from that chapel (now in a side chapel in the church).
The mission was founded in 1891 from St Mary’s, Burnley. Mass was initially said in a room over a blacksmith’s shop in Elm Street. A plot beside the Bishop House cotton mill was acquired from Lady O’Hagan for £13 per annum, large enough for a building to house a school and chapel. (Lady O’Hagan was the youngest daughter of John Towneley of the local Catholic landowner family. She inherited Towneley Hall and its park in 1878 and in 1912 sold them to Burnley Corporation.) On 5 November 1893 the chapel on the first floor was opened by the Archbishop of Cyzicus, the Most Reverend William Benedict Scarisbrick. The building had been designed by Oswald Hill of Manchester and the overall cost was £3,000. The school for 600 children opened in May 1894. In November 1897, a new altar was dedicated. Made of oak, it came from the workshop of Beyaert & Co. of Bruges.
In about 1901, a strip of adjoining land was donated by Lady O’Hagan, large enough for a new church and presbytery. In 1902 a men’s reading room was built and opened. Oswald Hill designed a new presbytery which was completed in 1904. On 22 August 1908, the foundation stone for the new church was laid by Bishop Casartelli, who opened and dedicated it on 2 May 1909. The architect was J. B. Holt of St Ann’s Square, Manchester. The contractors were Messrs Smith Brothers of Burnley. The overall cost was £3,400. The original altar from the school-chapel was installed as a side altar in the new church.
In 1921, the church was painted by Reuben Bernett of Manchester in a ‘high class Ecclesiastical manner’. This was part of a war memorial. The main part of this was completed in 1922 and consisted of a high altar, altar rails, and a mural tablet (figure 1). All of them were erected by R. J. Boulton & Sons. The high altar was consecrated on 4 November 1922 by Bishop Hanlan. At the same time a new font was unveiled, which had been funded and erected by John and Patrick Cummings in memory of their parents. In 1926, the east window was erected as a memorial to Fr W. Shine (died 1925). It was designed and erected by Messrs Charles Lightfoot Ltd of Manchester.
In 1934, a new organ was installed and the interior redecorated by R. Nicholson of Longridge, who also designed the pictorial decorations, including the painted angels in the spandrels of the nave arcade, and panels in the sanctuary. (The latter may be the donor figure-style murals visible in figure 1.) In October 1962, the exterior of the church was painted. In December 1963, a new pipe organ by Messrs Jardine of Old Trafford, Manchester, was installed. In December 1967, a temporary forward altar was installed. In 1972, the interior was redecorated. In 1974, the interior was reordered by Messrs Alberti Lupton, which included the removal of the carved alabaster reredos. On 23 July 1974, the church was consecrated and the new altar blessed. In the 1980s, the altar rails were moved to the southwest corner where they now stand in front of the war memorial plaque.
The church is built using local sandstone ashlar with slate roofs. The plan is directional, of a nave with side aisles, and a three-sided apse. The west elevation has a slightly projecting central bay framed by buttresses. The hoodmould of the pointed-arched west doorway becomes at impost-level a string course. Above the string course are two small oblong windows under blind shoulder-arched window heads. Below the string course at cill level of the main west window is the foundation stone. The west window has five lights with cusped Y-tracery. Its hoodmould also runs into a string course on either side. Above two narrow ventilation openings in the gable is the ornate gable cross. The west walls of the side aisles have each a single segmental-headed window of two lights with cusped tracery. The north elevation has similar windows to the aisle, with a doorway at the west and a single-light window to the east. The clerestory windows have two-light Y-tracery windows, with a single-light window to the west bay. The east walls of the side chapels have six-foil rose windows, while the apse has three two-light windows with cusping.
The interior has a five-bay nave with an additional narrow bay for the gallery. The roof is panelled above the arch brace. The nave arcade has moulded pointed arches on octagonal sandstone columns. The columns and bases are left unpainted, while the capitals and everything above are painted. There are angels painted in the spandrels of the arcade, possibly those (or based on those) painted in 1934 by R. Nicholson. The Lady Chapel at the northeast has a statue of Our Lady Queen of Heaven, and painted Marian monograms on a panelled ceiling. (A former sandstone Lourdes grotto against the east wall is currently screened off by a curtain.) To the north of the area in front of the sanctuary is the fine marble and alabaster font of 1922, with an octagonal bowl, a central stem and four colonettes.
The sanctuary has painted monograms on the panelled ceiling. The floor is of white and coloured marble (probably of 1974). The tabernacle stand is of white marble (1974). The altar is that of 1922, moved forward in 1974. Mostly of white marble, it has a central carved panel of the Agnus Dei, flanked by panels of red Skyros marble and columns of green vert des alpes marble. The oak altar in the Sacred Heart chapel at the southeast (by Beyaert & Co. of Bruges) has the Agnus Dei, the IHS monogram, and the pelican in her piety on the frontal. The reredos has a pinnacled canopy over the tabernacle, which is now filled with a statue of the Sacred Heart. On either side are paintings of saints on gold ground. The outer pinnacles of the reredos carry angels.
Off the south aisle is one confessional, beside the sacristy at the southeast. Originally there was a second confessional, later demolished. At the west end of the south aisle are the former altar rails, and the First World War memorial tablet with a carving of the crucifixion, both of marble and alabaster and dating to 1922. The organ gallery with the pipe organ (1963, Messrs Jardine of Old Trafford, Manchester) has a plain timber balustrade and a three-arched front to the nave, filled with opaque glazing and central doors.
The east window has stained glass of the Sacred Heart and St John the Baptist (1926, Messrs Charles Lightfoot Ltd of Manchester). The west window has seven stained glass medallions originally from St Augustine’s church, Granby Row. Throughout the church there are statues of St Teresa, the Baptism of Christ, St Antony, St Joseph and the Christ Child, and of St Francis Xavier. The Stations are elaborately framed and painted plaster casts.
With thanks to Taking Stock: Catholic Churches in England and Wales: