701/2/1 (East side)
14-MAY-1952 PARISH CHURCH OF ST MARY
Large town church in an elevated position and dominating the old town centre of Stockport and adjacent to Stockport Market. Medieval Decorated style eastern arm, comprising chancel (windows renewed and some internal stonework restoration in the C19). Attached NE block of probably C14 origins incorporating what appears to be an oratory. The remainder of the church was rebuilt 1813-1817 to the designs of Robert Goldsmith, revised by Lewis Wyatt after advice from John Soane in Perpendicular Gothic style, repair and alterations of 1882 to the designs of J S Crowther. Ashlar masonry with freestone dressings and slate roofs, the masonry of the medieval structure pinkish in colour. 3-bay chancel; nave galleried on the N and S sides; W tower with NW and SW porches; 2-cell NE block (now in use as heritage centre) including gabled projecting E end oratory.
Exterior: 3-bay chancel with diagonal buttresses with gables, rising as giant crocketted pinnacles. The pinnacles are C19. The Decorated style nave window tracery on the N and S sides is also C19 (evidence from old print) but in medieval window openings. C19 ogee arched priest's doorway on the N side. Large C19 6-light E window with Flamboyant tracery. The NE block consists of 2 cells. The eastern cell is gabled to the N, the Western has a parapet. The block may have been reduced in height. C19 stack between the blocks. On the E side a small steeply-gabled projecting bay with stone slate roof has a 2-light Decorated style traceried window and a small medieval trefoil-headed lancet in the E wall to the N of the bay. The N wall has two crank-headed 3-light windows and a doorway into the W cell. Impressively tall tower with set-back buttresses which are decorated with gables and blind tracery. Embattled traceried parapet with big octagonal pinnacles with crocketted finials. 4-centred W doorway with a square-headed hoodmould and carved spandrels. 4-light traceried W window with a Flamboyant traceried roundel over, all under a gable. The clock face stage of the tower is decorated with tiers of blind tracery. Tall, paired, traceried belfry windows, each with 2 transoms. The W walls of the nave are canted and, in the angle between nave and tower there are two matching porches. These are embattled with open 4-centred arches on the W and outer sides. 5-bay nave with an embattled parapet. The buttresses rise above the parapet as tall pinnacles with crocketted finials. 2 tiers of traceried nave windows. The lower tier are smaller, the gallery windows tall, with reticulated tracery.
Interior: The medieval E arm is high quality but much restored. Unplastered walls. Moulded chancel arch; moulded wallplate to chancel. Common rafter arch braced medieval chancel roof, with scissor-bracing above, probably C14, overhauled in 1984. Fine example of a triple sedilia and double piscina on the S wall with cusped arches and crocketted gables. The carved stonework is heavily restored. On the N wall a Tudor arched tomb recess has a panelled soffit and a effigy of a priest, re-sited here from a former chapel on the S side of the chancel (information from the incumbent). 1909 alabaster reredos with panels with depressed ogee arches in a frame decorated with fleurons. E wall panelling to match. C19 choir stalls with concave shouldered ends and poppyhead finials. The E cell of the block attached to the N side of the chancel is lined with early C19 timber Gothick panelling. The moulded brattished cornice and timber panelled ceiling with moulded ribs and may be earlier. On the E wall a pair of C19 doors opens into the oratory or chantry under an unrestored segmental arch with a trefoil-headed aumbrey on the S wall. The nave has N and S galleries and a plaster tierceron vaulted roof to the nave with large foliage bosses. There are additional ribs in the W bay. Good NW and SW timber Gothick gallery staircases with traceried balustrades and octagonal newel posts with carved finials. The gallery roof is divided into bays by crank-headed cross arches. The wall above the chancel arch is decorated with panelled blind tracery flanking a Royal Arms. The tall moulded stone tower arch is 1882. A plaque in the tower, which has an internal oval plan, records the removal of the W gallery, restoration of the nave and work on the tower in 1881-1882 to the designs of Crowther. The polygonal timber pulpit is a 1960s adaptation of the 1813-1817 phase pulpit. Font with an octagonal stone bowl with carved motifs on a stem with marble shafts with carved capitals. The c. 1880s nave benches have concave shouldered ends. 1813-1817 benches survive in the gallery with fielded panelled ends. Many wall monuments include one to William Wright, d.1753, by Daniel Sephton of Manchester, 2 by Westmacott and one by John Bacon Junior. C19 stained glass by several different makers, including the E window by O'Connor, 1849 and windows by Clayton & Bell, Hedgeland, Wailes, Cox and Son and Shrigley & Hunt.
Historical Note: A painting of the church before the 1813-1817 rebuilding is kept in the vestry and the church also has a good collection of copies of later prints.
Outstanding for both the scale and interest of the medieval eastern arm which includes an oratory or chantry, combined with the ambition of the 1813-1817 nave and tower rebuilt by Lewis Wyatt. The church is a key townscape element in old Stockport. Group value with the arched screen wall to the NW of the church, part of the Wyatt design.
Grundey F. Stockport Parish Church St Mary the Virgin, Churchgate, Stockport, n.d.
Pevsner, Cheshire, 1971, 339-340.