The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester, stands as a symbol of permanence in an area that has seen huge changes since the parish was founded in middle of the nineteenth century.
In the decade after the Great Famine of 1845-49, thousands of Irish immigrants settled to the south of the River Medlock.
The first Bishop of Salford, William Turner (1799-1872), invited the Society of Jesus to provide clergy for a new parish to be located in a temporary church in Burlington Street. This structure, named Gesù after the Society’s mother-church in Rome, was opened on Easter Tuesday, April 4th 1868.
The foundation stone of what came to be called Holy Name Church was laid in June 1869.
The shell of the building without interior fittings cost £14,000 and was opened on October 15th 1871.
The architect was Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-1882), famed as the inventor of the ‘Patent Safety Cab’ that bears his name. He designed Birmingham Town Hall (designed 1831-32, completed 1861). His other major churches are Mount St Mary’s Church, Leeds (1851-57), St Walburge’s Church, Preston (1854), Plymouth Cathedral (1856-58) and Arundel Cathedral (1869-73).
Built of brick, faced with Warwick Bridge stone outside and terracotta within, Hansom’s design is in fourteenth-century Gothic style.
The façade is asymmetrical: the baptistery with its conical roof extends to the south, and because of the street-layout the footprint is trapezoidal, so that the liturgical east end (actually north-east) is wider than the entrance. This is disguised by the layout of chapels along the south aisle, which are balanced by confessionals, each with its own fireplace, to the north.
The nave is wide, light and spacious, reflecting the Jesuit preoccupation with preaching. The rib-vault of hollow polygonal terracotta blocks by Gibbs & Canning Ltd of Tamworth is supported by slender columns.
J A Hansom intended a slender lantern and spire 240 feet high with twin windows and gables, but it was abandoned for fear of overburdening the foundations.
Instead, a shorter, tapered tower was designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882-1963), younger brother of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Liverpool Cathedral. It was completed at a cost of £17,000 in 1928. Its carillon of bells was dedicated on October 13th 1931.
During the ministry of Fr Bernard Vaughan SJ (1847-1922, brother of Cardinal Henry Vaughan), the church had a powerful influence on the surrounding community.
In the year 1900 the parish, with a population of 3,500, registered 25 converts, 125 baptisms, 2,850 Easter Communions and 32,815 confessions. A bazaar in 1893 raised £7,350, supplemented by a donation of a thousand guineas by Sir Humphrey Trafford, then the owner of Trafford Park, and his friends.
In 1895 the funeral of Sir Charles Hallé took place at Holy Name Church: the cortège reached Weaste Cemetery four hours after the start of High Mass, which included a performance of the Mozart Requiem and Beethoven’s Eroica symphony.
The removal of local families to outer-Manchester housing estates from the end of the 1920s, the upheavals of the Second World War and the post-war clearance of the surrounding streets radically changed the setting of Holy Name Church.
The area became a collective campus for what are now the city’s three universities – the University of Manchester (formerly the Victoria University of Manchester), the Manchester Metropolitan University (previously Manchester Polytechnic) and the Royal Northern College of Music (founded by Sir Charles Hallé as the Royal Manchester School of Music).
The Jesuits moved away in 1985 and from 1992 the church was run by the brothers of an Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. In 2003 the Oratorians moved to St Chad’s, Cheetham Hill, the mother-church of Manchester Catholics, and the Jesuits were invited back to Holy Name to run the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy: http://www.muscc.org.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Manchester’s Heritage, please click here.
There are two separate handbooks for the two Manchester’s Heritage tours that ran in 2009 and 2019 respectively. The itineraries were entirely distinct, so the two handbooks interconnect. The 80-page 2009 edition is longer, but the 60-page 2019 version, which includes a section on Holy Name Church, has more depth and text: the older version is reduced in price to £10.00, while the later one is £15.00.