Lancashire

Churches

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Pevsner calls the tower and spire "perhaps the finest work of Edmund Sharpe"

The earliest evidence of a church in Kirkham dates back to 684AD, but of this building no remains exist. Tombstones of the C17 and C18 doremain. However, the present parish church of St Michael was begun in 1822.

The nave was built at this time, by the Preston architect, Robert Roper. It is said to be on the foundations of an older building but is representative of the period. The windows are large, single lancets set between narrow buttresses topped by steep gablets/pinnacles, together giving an impression of verticality. The exterior stonework is smooth with minimal decoration - twostring courses, a single step on the buttresses, and a gable with label stop headsand a crocketover the south door. The parapet is completely plain.

Inside, the nave is one vast and splendid preaching hall with no columns. The roof is flat, painted red, and divided into squares by painted ribs. Every junction of the ribs is punctuated by a gilded boss, eachof which is of adifferent design. The roof is supported by very "industrial" looking beams, pierced by quatrefoil and dagger openings.They would not look out of place under a railway bridge, andappear to be of wood, thoughit would come as no surprise to find that they were metal. At the west end of the nave is a gallery supported on very slender iron columns. The front to the nave has cusped panelling. There were formerly galleries on the north and south sides too, but these were removed in the C20. The area under the gallery has been turned into a room in recent years by the insertion of a wood and glass wall. The nave as a whole reminds one of a Non-Conformist building rather than the Church of England.

The west tower and spire were added in 1844 by the Lancaster architect, Edmund Sharpe. It is in the Decorated style, a period aboutwhich Sharpe was an authority. The tower has stepped angle buttresses with niches, decorative string courses,a west door and window, traceried bell openings, battlements and corner pinnacles. Its glory, however, is the beautifully proportioned octagonalspire. Each angle is crocketed, and it is supported by small flying buttresses.

The chancel of 1853 sits awkwardly with the exterior of the building, but adds considerably to the interior space. It houses, amongst other rooms, the organ and its workings.

The font - a Victorianoctagonal gabled and crocketed bowl on an octagonal column - is located, unusually, half way down the north side of the nave. The wooden pulpit by the chancel arch is orthodox in design, but massive - approximately 12 feet from base to top. Its dimensions are presumably in response to the size of the nave. The stained glass at Kirkham is unremarkable: the best piece, behind the organ, is dated 1859 and is in a medieval style. There are a few monuments to the Cliftons of Lytham Hall, and one to Henry Rishton Buck, a lieutenant aged27 who died at the Battle of Waterloo.

Behind the altar that sits below the organ pipes is a cased reredos that folds out. It is from the workshops of Kempe and is dated 1900. It is from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and was given to the churchby a former vicar who was a student at Christ Church college.

The church from the south east

Nave, steeple and chancel are of three dates, with the former being the oldest - 1822.

The nave from the chancel

The gallery can be clearly seen, supported by slender iron columns.

Reredos(1900)

The folding reredos by Kempe was formerly in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Interior from south west aisle

The chancel arch, organ archand large wooden pulpit can be seen.

Brass plate on Churchwardens' Pew

The plate records the churchwardens of 1770. It is currently fixed to Victorian box pews.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen