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St Walburge's Church spire
Weston Street, Maudlands, Preston, Lancashire
St Walburge's Church spire
associated engineer
Not known
date  May 1850 - 3rd August 1854
era  Victorian  |  category  Church/Synagogue  |  reference  SD528298
photo  Paul Dunkerley
The grey spire of St. Walburge’s Church in Preston rises to 91.4m, making it the highest church spire in England (excluding the cathedrals). It was designed by the architect Joseph Aloysius Hansom, better known as the inventor of the horse-drawn ‘Hansom cab’.
St. Walburge’s is the Catholic parish church of Maudlands, Preston, and was ‘founded on cotton bales’, i.e., paid for from the profits of Preston’s cotton industry. It was named after St. Walburge, the daughter of the King of Wessex, who was born in AD 710.
Hansom, who was born in York, was commissioned to design the church in 1847. The foundation stone was laid in May 1850 and the church opened its doors on 3rd August the same year.
St. Walburge’s stands on a hill overlooking the city and dominates the western end of the Preston skyline. It is Gothic in style but unlike a normal parish church and more like a cathedral in concept, and is considered one of the architectural wonders of Lancashire.
The red sandstone church is 50m long and 16.7m wide.The 25.3m-high roof is supported on 14 hammer beams, which feature full-size carvings of saints. The west gallery sits on iron columns. There is a 6.7m diameter rose window in the west façade. In 1873, a sanctuary was added to the east façade. The nave has a central aisle and side aisles, and a seating capacity of nearly 500. The church cost a total of £15,000, of which £5,444 went on the spire.
The slender spire is made of grey stone and has been likened to a needle pointing into the sky. Pevsner described it as “almost ghost-like”. The spire abuts the south wall of the church rather than sitting over the nave, which would be more usual. It is supported by substantial buttresses on its southeast and southwest corners and features high pointed arches on the exposed faces at its base plus an ornate gold cross at the top. In the tower is a single 30 ton bell cast by John Taylor Bellfounders of Loughborough.
Beside being the tallest church spire in England, it is also the fifth tallest spire in the country, behind Salisbury, St Paul's, Liverpool and Norwich Cathedrals. The church is Grade I listed.
Repair work to the church was undertaken in 1993 under the supervision of the architect Francis B. Roberts. The roof was repaired and stonework parapets rebuilt.
Architect: Joseph Aloysius Hansom
research: PD
bibliography
"The Buildings of England: South Lancashire" by Nikolaus Pevsner
Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1969
Location

St Walburge's Church spire