St. Wilfrid's Church
 
St. Wilfrid's Church, Chapel Street, Preston
 
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Preston's Catholic Chapel of St. Wilfrid was opened in June 1793. It was one of several in these parts built under the terms of the Second Catholic Relief Act 1791. By that Act, Catholic Chapels could be opened within the law, provided they were registered, had unlocked doors during services and no bells. In practice, even before 1791, there had been such chapels: Preston's was St. Mary's, in Friargate. However, it was too small for the fast expanding congregation and when the new St. Wilfrid's opened, It was closed.

In charge of the Catholic Mission in Preston at the time was the formidable priest, Joseph Dunn. He was in Preston for over 50 years, a great character, known to all as 'Daddy Dunn'. His monument is in the porch as is that of the Rev. Richard Morgan who assisted and at times restrained Dunn. Besides building the church, Dunn founded Fox Street School. He was an active member of the newly formed Preston Gas Light Company.

The original church with the Priest's House - now Cooks in Fishergate - cost 4000 and was situated on Town End Field. The population of Preston grew very rapidly in the early 19th Century and although St. Mary's was re-opened as a Chapel of Ease in 1814, more churches were needed: St. Ignatius opened in 1836 and St. Augustine's in 1840.

 
St. Wilfrid The church is brick built and has pronounced quoins (corner stones) with archading in the side wall rising high above the pedimented windows. Dunn's original building has been greatly altered since 1793. Between 1877 and 1880 the interior was completely redesigned and reconstructed by the Jesuit architect, Fr. Ignatius Scholes. The old galleries went and the interior was transformed by the erection of five pairs of giant granite columns. These are central to the classical basilican interior of the Church.
 
   
 
Rich marble was used for the pilasters and walls and emphasis is given to the entrance to the Sanctuary. The architect skilfully created an apse that appears to be much more spacious than it really is. The work cost over 12000.
 
St. Wilfrid Externally the Church remained much as it was but in 1890 extensive work in Accrington brick and brown terracotta was undertaken, and the re-opening in May 1892 was just in time for the centenary.
 
   
 
 
Work this century has included the decoration of the Baptistery and Lady Chapel, the mosaics in the aisle, the unusual War Memorial and the re-ordering of the Sanctuary following the liturgical reforms of the Vatican Council.

St. Wilfrid's is served by priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, who have worked in Preston since at least 1700. The Jesuits form the largest missionary order in the Church and Mr. Dunn's 'very liberal congregation' now generously supports the work of British Jesuits in Guyana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Pevsner calls St.Wilfrid's a 'proud and sumptuous Church' but its position off Fishergate still is an eloquent reminder of the difficult days before 1793.

 
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