St Peter's stands
in the centre of the Ancoats Conservation
Area, at the core of what is now known
as the Ancoats Urban Village and is an
important architectural and social landmark
in East Manchester. It has a distinctive
Romanesque style, with a basilica plan
(a plain rectangle with side aisles marked
out by columns and the transepts defined
simply by a break in the roofline), an
apsidal (semi-circular) chancel and a
'campanile' bell tower with fluted, pyramidal
was built in 1859 to designs by Isaac Holden,
the founder chairman of the Manchester Society
of Architects, who was able to design in a number
of continental styles, and the building was
consecrated in 1860. It was the first Anglican
Church to be built in this predominantly Roman
Catholic community and was one of the initial
phases of church building undertaken by Bishop
Prince Lee, Manchester's first Anglican Bishop,
following the creation of the Manchester Diocese.
Lee noticed the growing population of Ancoats
(14,000 in the St Peter's parish in 1860) and
identified the need to have an established Church
presence here, even though there would be no
'pew rent' from the very poor local community
to pay for the construction. A budget of £4,200
was set - hence the use of brick rather than
the traditional but more expensive stone for
the construction and the innovative use of cast
iron columns to support the clerestory arches
between the nave and aisles.
St Peter's was originally designed
to seat 1,350 people, but in the early 1900s
the first floor gallery that had originally
occupied three sides of the church, was greatly
altered, the side aisle sections being removed
and the remaining west end portion being extended
to pass across the whole end of the church.
This must have reduced the seating capacity
by about 300.
From the 1950s onwards the population
of Ancoats greatly declined and the proportion
of regular churchgoers in the community decreased
significantly. In the late 1950s, the congregation
was joined by that of the nearby St James' Church
and briefly became known colloquially as 'St
Peter's and Little Jimmies'. The size of the
congregation soon became unsustainable again,
however, and the church closed shortly after
its centenary in 1960.
St Peter's 1996
St Peter's 1996: interior
Twenty-five years of mixed use
followed, from University theatre prop storage
to a knitting factory. The building was listed
(grade 2) in 1989 as part of the designation
of the Ancoats Conservation Area but in the
early 1990s it was abandoned, purchased by a
developer with long-term plans to convert it
to residential use but with no interest in keeping
the building in good condition in the meanwhile.
The building suffered vandalism and all its
internal fittings (including pews with cast
iron ends) and its external railings were stolen.
Slates were stripped from parts of the roofs
and squatters caused localised fires, leading
in the end to the total loss of the fluted roof
at the top of the tower. St Peter's was left
to rot, a symbol of wider neglect and dereliction
Peter's Church was acquired by ABPT in 1997
on a long lease from Manchester City Council,
following a series of back-to-back transactions
involving English Partnerships (the Government's
regeneration agency, then spearheading the regeneration
of Ancoats through strategic acquisitions),
Manchester City Council and English Heritage
(the Government's agency for the protection
of historic buildings, which is able to underwrite
the costs of some statutory purchases by other
public bodies). At this time the building was
a derelict shell and ABPT immediately implemented
an 'enveloping' (mothballing) programme with
funding from English Heritage and other partners.
project safeguarded the building and was a significant
catalyst for the regeneration of the Ancoats
Conservation Area. The restored tower became
known as the 'beacon of hope' for the area and,
thankfully, the building suffered very little
vandalism or deterioration in the period thereafter.
The enveloping project involved the re-roofing
of the building (using corrugated metal sheets
in the aisle and apse areas as a temporary measure,
for reasons of economy) and high level brickwork
repairs, but left the interior as a stripped-out
shell and all the window openings boarded up.
Dry rot was eradicated and the building allowed
to dry out gradually to a moisture level at
which rot would not reoccur. Through this process
ABPT was able to 'buy some time' for the building
whilst design proposals and business plans for
its reuse were developed.
The cost of repairing St Peter's and reinstating
its internal finishes (ceilings, wall plaster
etc) was far greater than the value of the building
upon completion, because of the quantity and
cost of the specialist materials required in
relation to the rental values that might be
attracted in the building, upon which a commercial
valuation is based. This meant that the refurbishment
and conversion of the building was uneconomic
to the private sector and grant funding was
needed to bridge the 'conservation deficit'.
had campaigned for the rescue of St Peter's
since 1996 and following the enveloping project
of 1997-98, submitted a Heritage Lottery Fund
(HLF) stage one bid in 1999. Three years later,
after undertaking significant design development
and business-planning work, a stage two award
of £905,000 was made. This was quickly
followed by the offer of matching funding of
up to £704,000 from the Northwest Development
Agency. These two funding streams demonstrate
the importance of the project in both heritage
and regeneration terms. Further financial support
has been made available by the Architectural
Heritage Fund, in the form of a repayable development
grant and a working capital loan.
- To complete the permanent
repair of St Peter's as a catalyst for the
wider urban regeneration of the Ancoats area
- To enable full appreciation
of the architecture of the original building
- To create a flexible
internal volume that may be further converted
by others for a wide range of possible uses
- To encourage cultural
and publicly available uses of the building
that provide good access for all
Following a competitive tender
process in Spring 2004, Linford Group were appointed
as main contractor for the permanent repair
project. Construction commenced in late July
2004 and included:
- Completion of the restoration
of the vestry, including new roof and porch.
- External and internal brickwork
repairs, re-pointing where necessary.
- New roofs to the aisles, including
new timber trusses and rafters and lath and
- New lead roof to the semi-circular
- New structural concrete ground
floor suitable for a range of floor finishes,
with services void under.
- Provision of services infrastructure
so that welfare facilities could be accommodated
in the former vestry area at some future date.
- Discreet amendments to the
tower entrance to permit full disabled access
through the front door.
- Public art installation inside
the tower and external feature lighting to
indicate the new life within and reinforce
the 'beacon' character
- Reinstatement of the ornate
curved and coffered nave ceiling, using horsehair
reinforced plaster on oak laths.
- Reinstatement of other lost
architectural features, including the ceiling
gasoliers and external railings. New windows
and doors, including stained glass to the
- Heritage interpretation and
public information provision during the restoration
phase and on completion.
Practical completion was
granted in January 2006.
"The Cotton Church: A
brief history of St Peter's, Ancoats"
has been prepared by Carys Edge, a final year
history student and Terry Wyke of MMU. Carys
has thoroughly researched the background to
the church, and provides a lively history of
a unique city centre parish. Contact Heritage
Works on 0161 278 1755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org,
to order a copy.
For several years, Ancoats Buildings
Preservation Trust worked with the Embroiderers'
Guild, who were looking into the possibility
of converting the church into an international
centre for embrodiery. In May 2007, the Embroiderers'
Guild decided not to proceed with these plans.
A development brief has been prepared
by Heritage Works BPT and New East Manchester
on behalf of the NWDA. The building is to be
marketed in summer/autumn 2007. The brief will
include the following criteria:
- viable uses that do not subdivide
the internal space;
- an extension to the 'west'
end to adjoin a new public square;
- a good level of public access
For more information about the
Development Brief, contact New
East Manchester or Ancoats
Urban Village Company.
The Embroiderers' Guild's proposals
for the development of St Peter's, subsequently