Photographs, captions and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Left: View of the church from Oxford Road, Manchester. Right: West entrance, with its sweeping steps, side buttresses with crocketed pinnacles, double doors, gable, and fine carving.

Built 1869-1871, the church was listed Grade II* in 1963 and upgraded to Grade I in 1989. Exterior: "Coursed sandstone rubble" with slate for the roofs (listing text). Holy Name is the first of three major works which dominated the final stage of the career of J. A. Hansom (1803-1882), the others being St Philip Neri at Arundel and St Aloysius at Oxford. The chosen 14th-century French style demonstrates a major shift from Hansom's earlier Gothic churches and is the first where his youngest son, Joseph Stanislaus (1845-1931), was responsible for the interior decoration. A distinct feature is the use of terra-cotta. The church is located on Oxford Road, Manchester, in the city's university district.

Left: View of the church from the left, showing the other side tower, which harmonises rather than matching tower (note the different window design). Right: View from Portsmouth Street, with Henry Clutton's Grade II listed red brick presbytery (1874) to the right, showing Holy Name's flying buttresses, polygonal apse, turrets with crocketed pinnacles adjoining the apse, and the octagonal tower with its added third stage, complete with parapet but never given the lantern spire that Hansom had wanted.

In the late 1860s the Bishop of Salford invited the Jesuits to erect a new church to serve the rapidly increasing Catholic population in the centre of Manchester. Already a well-established architect of Jesuit churches, Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-1882) was approached. Described by Pevsner as a design "of the highest quality" and "of an originality nowhere demonstrative"(41) the building has not been without its problems, requiring extensive maintenance and sensitive restoration, especially with regard to the sandblasting of the terra-cotta undertaken in 1973.

The nave, showing the side aisles.

The chosen site, in the prosperous Regency suburb of Chorlton-on-Medlock, was paid for by a member of the Catholic gentry and, having received a substantial legacy, the Jesuits were able to proceed. The foundation stone was laid in 1869 and the, as yet incomplete, church was opened in 1871. It was designed to seat between 1,500 and 1,600 people, (up to 5,000 under pressure), and the final cost was in the region of £20,000, excluding tower and decoration ("New Catholic Church for Manchester"). A substantial gallery was built to house the large, newly-purchased Hill's organ; and local fund-raising commenced on a scale which matched the elaborate decoration and internal fittings which resulted, mostly designed by Joseph Stanislaus. The Lady Chapel was added in 1872, with additional work continuing intermittently for some time.

Left to right: (a) The centre of the nave, showing the clerestory windows and the roof-vaulting with its banded terracotta. (b) Closer view of Joseph Stanilaus Hansom's elaborately canopied pulpit, with mosaics of martyrs like Sir Thomas More around it (just seen here are John Fisher in a red cloak, and Edward Campion, in a dark blue one). (c) Close view of the lofty vaulting.

Built in stone with a steeply-pitched slate roof, the first internal impression is one of grandeur and spaciousness. The latter was achieved by the use of hollow hexagonal terra-cotta pots to form the vaulting and allow very slender piers. The join between the crossing and the chancel is contrived by the use of two diagonal arches brought together above their capitals, a particularly unusual feature typically found in Mohammedan mosques (Evinson 278). The top of the vaulting rises to 100 feet, 10 feet taller than Westminster Abbey ("Hansomly Done," 60). With numerous side chapels, the church houses a total of eight altars. The nave, at 186 ft east to west and 112 ft north to south, is very broad. There are also eight in-built confessionals, another unusual and continental feature. Five of the main windows are by Hardman.

A statue of St Anne, one of the many and varied sculptural enrichments.

As early as 1879, however, remedial work had to be undertaken to combat the unstable site, which proved to be an on-going problem. Hansom had planned an ornamental lantern spire rising to 240 ft, but he abandoned the tower after only 80 foot. Adrian Gilbert Scott added a third stage in 1928, but the spire was never built.

In 1885 Charles Alban Buckler was asked to design a rose window for the Sacred Heart Chapel, and in 1890 Joseph Stanislaus designed and installed the reredos, made of Caen stone. He used alabaster for the high altar, inlaid with green Russian malachite. He was also responsible for the pulpit and alabaster font.

However the following year Francis Bentley was asked to complete three of Hansom's side chapels, which he did by knocking them into one. This destabilised the structure of the whole church and the original design had to be reinstated. Bentley also designed the altar and reliquary in St Joseph's chapel. As of 1996, a lengthy and intensive programme of meticulous restoration commenced, carried out in stages.


The Architect. 8 November 1879: 278.

The Builder. 31 July 1869: p.611; 27 June 1885: 917.

Evinson, Denis. Joseph Hansom. Unpublished MA dissertation. University of London , 1966.

"Hansomly done." Country Life. 8 April 2009: 58-61.

Harris, Penelope. The Architectural Achievement of Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-1882), Designer of the Hansom Cab, Birmingham Town Hall, and Churches of the Catholic Revival. New York and Lampeter: Edwin Mellen, 2010.

Hartwell, Clare, Matthew Hyde and Nikolaus Pevsner. Lancashire: Manchester and the South East. The Buildings of England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004: 41, 419-20.

"Holy Name Presbytery." British Listed Buildings Web. 16 June 2014.

"The Jesu." The Tablet. 8 October 1870: 464.

Kelly, Bernard. Historical Notes of English Catholic Missions. Reprinted Michael Gandy. London, 1907: 269.

"New Catholic Church for Manchester." Preston Guardian. 8 October 1870.

"Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Name of Jesus." British Listed Buildings Web. 16 June 2014.

Last modified 16 June 2014