The Holy Name Church under wraps

Mark Pearce, Ashlyn Whitty of the HLF and Fr William
Mark Pearce, Ashlyn Whitty of the HLF and Fr William

The Holy Name Church in Manchester is undergoing something of a transformation during July and August.  The interior is swathed in polythene sheeting and the church is closed for two months while essential works are undertaken to remove asbestos from the undercroft.

The church, which has a Grade 1 heritage listing,  was built in 1871 and has been a familiar landmark on Manchester’s Oxford Road, now at the heart of the University campus but then in a crowded residential district.  This was cleared in the 1960s, at which time the church was assigned to the university chaplaincy.

Fr William Pearsall SJ, assistant chaplain,  explained why the church had to be closed:  “It all started with the electrics.  The church urgently needs to be rewired but electricians found asbestos in the undercroft so they were not able to work down there to replace cabling. So first we have to remove the asbestos before we can to the rewiring.  It turns out this is a huge job!  The undercroft is filled with builders’ rubble from when the church was first built.  Asbestos is mixed up in this, so the whole lot has to come out. And as you can see, you couldn’t have the public in the building while we do this.”

Project Architect Mark Pearce of Lloyd Evans Pritchard (LEP) commented “the workmen are bringing out about two tons of spoil each day, which has to be securely transported to a site for the treatment of contaminated waste. We have airlocks and air handling in place for the workmen who are all wearing protective clothing."

Fr William and Ashlynn Whitty in the north transept - water damage to the walls can be clearly seenLEP have been  working with the Holy Name building fabric for decades, having undertaken extensive repair and restoration work during the 1990s when the Oratorians had care of the church.  LEP recently undertook a major survey of works which still needed to be done, of which the asbestos removal is just the first phase of a repair and resotration programme totalling around £2 million.

“We received some very good news recently” commented Jane Hellings, Director of Development & Communications for the Jesuits in Britain, “an application we made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the next phase of the works has been successful.  We have been awarded £226,200 which will cover 80% of the cost of works to the north transept so exploratory work can start in that area as soon as the asbestos removal is complete.”

Fr Pearsall agrees: “the roof is failing in the north transept and there is a danger the historic tiling will start to come off the walls as the water gets in behind, so this is very timely news. We are very grateful to the HLF and  those who support the Lottery and look forward very much to working with them to restore this important place of worship to its former glory.”

The Holy Name will reopen before the end of August.  The north transept works will start some time in 2018 and should not require a closure of the church.

Protective clothing