St Luke's Church

Churches and Chapels by Atticus (Contents)

With the district in which this Church is situated we are not much acquainted. With even the Church itself we have never been very familiar. It is in a queer, far-of unshaven region. Aged sparrows and men who like ale better than their mothers, dwell in its surroundings; phalanxes of young Britons, born without head coverings, and determined to keep them off; columns of wives, beautiful for ever in their unwashedness, and better interpreters of the 28th verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis then all the Biblical commentators put together, occupy its district. Prior to visiting St. Luke’s Church we had some idea of its situation; but the idea was rather inclined to be hazy when we desired to utilise it; we couldn’t bring it to a decisive point; and as we objected to the common business of stopping every other person in order to get a perplexing explanation of the situation, the question just resolved itself into one of “Find it out yourself.” Exactly so, we mentally muttered on entering Ribbleton-lane; and we passed the thirty feet House of Correction wall to the right thereof, with an air of triumph, redolent of intrepidity and independence. To the left of the lane entered we knew St. Luke’s was located; but doubt overshadowed its precise whereabouts. The first street in that direction down which we looked contained, at the bottom, six coal waggons and a gate. Those unhappy-looking waggons and that serious gate couldn’t, we said, be St. Luke’s. Another street to the left; but at the end of it we saw only a tavern, some tall rails, and an old engine shed. Convinced that St. Luke’s was not here, we proceeded to the head of the third street, and down it were more rails, sundry children, a woman sweeping the parapet, and the gable of a mill. At the extreme end of the next a coal office and a gate met us. Number five street showed up the fading placards of a news shop, and the cold stillness of a Sunday morning factory. Down the sixth avenue we peered eagerly, but “more factory” met us. The termination of its successor consisted of pieces of timber, three arches, and some mill ends. We had hope as to the bottom of the next; but it was blighted and withered in its infancy as we gazed upon 25 tree trunks, a mill, and two tall chimneys. Additional wood, an office, and an entire mill formed the background of the street subsequently encountered. Extra mill buildings closed up the career of the road beyond it; ditto beyond that; partially ditto afterwards, the front of the picture being relieved by a few thirsty souls, looking plaintively at a landlord, who stood with a rolling eye upon door step, anxious to officiate as the “Good Samaritan,” but afraid to exercise his benevolence. After this there would surely, we thought, be something like the church we were seeking. But not so; a swampy wide road and more of the irrepressible mill element constituted the whole of the scene presented. It is, however, a long lane which has no turning, and at last we got to a small corner shop, below which were two clothes props, one being very much out of the perpendicular, an open piece of ground, numerous bricks in a heap, and a railed round edifice rising calmly, sedately, and diminutively.

This was St. Luke’s – the shrine we had been looking for, the Mecca we had been in search of. Plenty of breathing space has the church now: on three of its sides there is a wide expanse; but the cottage homes of England are steadily approaching it, and in time the building will be tightly surrounded by innumerable dwellings, whose occupants, we hope, will feel the spiritual salubrity of their situation. St. Luke’s has a serene, minutely-neat exterior; is proportionate, evenly balanced, and devoid of that tortuous masonry which some architects delight to honour. It is a meekly-conceived, yet substantially-built little church, with a rural placidity and neatness about it, reminding one of goodness without showiness, and use without sugar-coated detail. A modest spire, very sharp-pointed, rises above the tower at the western side. At the angles of the tower there are pinnacles, supported not by monstrosities of the common gargoyle type, but by pleasant featured angels, duly pinioned for flying. There appears to have been a “rage” for windows at this said western end. From top to bottom there are fifteen; four being moderately large, and the bulk of the remainder remarkably small. The interior of the church is particularly plain; is stone-coloured all round; has an unassuming, modestly-serious, half-rural appearance; has no tablets, no ornaments, and no striking colouring of any kind on its main walls. It consists of a nave (depending upon fourteen arches) and two aisles. The centre is pretty high, has a narrow, open roof, and is moderately crowded with timber. The sides are small, but in sitting in them you do not experience that buried-alive sensation, that bewilderment beneath a heavy ceiling elaborated with hugely awkward prop-work and pillars, which is felt in some church aisles.

Here, as at St. Mark’s, there is a strong belief in the healthiness of red curtains at the various entrances. The chancel is high and open, and has rather a bare look. Within it there are three windows, filled in with stained glass, of sweet design, but defective in representative effect. The colours are nicely arranged; but with the exception of a very small medallion in the centre, referring to the Last Supper, they give you no idea of anything living, or dead, or yet to be made alive. The windows were put in by the late T. Miller, Esq;, C. R. Fletcher Lutwidge, Esq.; and J. Bairstow, Esq., and they Cost £90. At the western end there are three stained-glass windows, which look well. The colours are rich, and the designs artistic. Two of them, we believe, were fixed in memory of the late Mrs. Winlaw. The vestry stands on one side of the chancel, and in the doorway of it there is a red curtain, intended to keep out the tail end of whirlwinds and draughts in general. When we looked into this vestry, the idea flashed upon us that its occupant must be a specially studious and virtuous gentleman, for upon the mantelpiece there were 14 large Bibles, surmounted by three sacramental guides. But earth is very nigh to heaven, and when we saw a series of begging boxes flanking the books, and a looking-glass, which must at some time have cost tenpence, we retreated. From the centre of the chancel, the church looks very imposing: indeed, you get a full view of all its architectural details here, and the conclusion previously arrived at, through what you may have seen from other points – namely, that the edifice is simple, bucolic, and prosaic – is entirely changed. The reading desk is a commendable article, and with care will last a considerable period. The pulpit – circular-shaped, and somewhat small in proportions – has a seemly appearance; but it looks only a homely-built affair when minutely inspected, and might be pulled in pieces quickly by a passionate man. Two or three curious articles are associated with it. At the base, there is quietly lying an aged gutta percha pipe, the object of which we could not make out; and in the pulpit there is another gutta percha pipe, with an elongated, funnel-shaped top, put up, probably, for some very useful purpose – for whispering, or speaking, or sneezing, or coughing – which alone concerns the preacher, and need not be further inquired into by us. There is a thermometer opposite the pulpit, which, probably, is intended to test the atmosphere of the church, but which may, for aught we know, be serviceable to the minister in moments of extreme mental coldness, or in periods of high clerical enthusiasm. If he can regulate the sacred temperature of either the reading desk or the pulpit by this thermometer, and can, in addition, utilise the gutta percha tubes as exhaust pipes, then we think he will derive a tangible advantage from their presence.

Near the entrance to the centre aisle there is a somewhat handsome stone font, octagonal in shape, carved on four of its sides, and resting upon a circular pedestal, which is surrounded by eight small pillars. Not far from and on each side of the font there is an official wand, carried at intervals, with a decorum akin to majesty, by the beadle. St. Luke’s Church was opened on the 3rd of August, 1859; the cost of it – land, building, and everything – being £5,350. The late J. Bairstow, Esq., was an admirable friend of St. Luke’s; he gave £700 towards the building fund, and £6,000 for the endowment. The church will accommodate 800 persons. Three-fourths of the sittings are free. The average attendance on Sundays, including school children, is 250. Considering that there are about 5,500 persons in the district, this number is only trifling. When we visited the church there were 280 present, and out of this number 160 were children. We fancied that the weather, for it was rather unfavourable, might have kept many away, but when we recollected that we had passed groups of men standing idly at contiguous street corners, discussing the merits of dogs and ale, as we walked to the church; and saw at least 40 young fellows within a good stone throw of it as we left, hanging about drinking-house sides, in the drizzling rain, waiting for “opening time,” and talking coolly about “half gallons,” we grew doubtful as to the correctness of our supposition. If men could bear a quiet drenching in the streets, could leave their homes for the purpose of congregating on the sides of parapets, in order to make a descent upon places essentially “wet,” we fancied that moderately inclement weather could not, after all, be set down as the real reason for a thin congregation at St. Lukes. The fact is, there is much of that religion professed by the horse of Shipag in this district – working on week days and stuffing on Sundays is the creed of the multitude.

The congregation worshipping at St. Luke’s is formed chiefly of working people. In summer the scholars sit in a small gallery at the west end; in winter they are brought into 28 seats below it. They seem to be of a rather active turn of mind, for in their management they keep two or three men and a female hard at work, and continue after all to have a fair amount of their own way – not, perhaps, quite so much of it as three youths who sat before us, who appeared to extract more pleasure out of some verses on a tobacco paper than out of either the hymns or the sermon – but still enjoying a good share of personal freedom, which children will indulge in. There is a service at St. Luke’s every Wednesday evening; but it is not much cared for. Only about 30 attend it, and it is not known to what extent they enjoy the Proceedings. The instrumental music of the church has apparently been regulated on the Darwinian theory of “selection.” What it was at the very beginning we can-cannot say; but towards the commencement it appears to have been emitted from a small harmonium; then a little organ was procured, and it came from that; then a large organ was obtained, and from that it now radiates. Some day a still larger instrument may be procured; but the present one, which used to do duty in Christ Church, Preston, is a respectable, good-looking, tuneful apparatus; and it is played with ability by an energetic, clerical-looking young gentleman, who receives a small salary for his services. The members of the choir manifest tolerable skill in their performances; but they lack power, and are hampered at line ends by the dragging melody of the scholars.

The incumbent of St. Luke’s is the Rev. W. Winlaw – a grave, sharp-featured gentleman, who comes from the north, and, like all his fellow-countrymen, knows perfectly well what time it is. Mr. Winlaw was originally an Independent minister, and he looks like one to this day. He was a fellow-student of the Rev. G. W. Clapham, formerly of Lancaster-road Congregational Chapel, Preston, and now a minister of the Church of England. Mr. Winlaw was the successor of the Rev. J. H. Cuff (father of Messrs. Cuff, of this town), at an Independent Chapel in Wellington. In 1855 he was ordained by the Bishop of Manchester to St. Peter’s, Ashton-under-Lyne. In 1867 he came to Preston, as curate of St. Paul’s, and in 1859 he was appointed incumbent of St. Luke’s. Mr. Winlaw is a slender, carefully-organised, cute, sharp-eyed man; is inclined to be fastidious, punctillious, and cold; is a ready speaker; talks with grammatical accuracy and laboured precision; is rather wordy and unctuous; can draw out his sentences to a high pitch of solemnity, and tone them off in syllabic whispers; has an active physiognomical expression – can turn the muscles of his face in all directions; shakes his head considerably in the reading-desk and pulpit, as if constantly in earnest; is keenly susceptible, and has strong convictions; couldn’t be easily persuaded off a notion after once seeing it in his own light; seems to have smiled but seldom; has sharp perceptive powers – looks into you with a piercing eye; cares little for the odd or the humorous – has a strong sense of clerical dignity; would become sarcastic if touched in the quick; is earnest, cautious, melancholy, and felt-hatted; has good strategic powers; can see a considerable way; is vigorous when roused, maidenly when cool, cutting when vexed, meek when in smooth water; is generally exact in composition, and clear in style; but preaches rather long sermons, and has a difficulty in giving over when he has got to the end. In one of his sermons we heard him say, after a five-and-twenty minutes run, “In conclusion,” “Lastly,” and “Finally;” and we had almost made up our mind for another sermon after he had “finished,” but he decided to give over without preaching it. Mr. Winlaw, in the main, is a fair speaker, with a rather eccentric modulation, is a medium, gentlemanly-seeming, slightly-inflated, polished, precise minister, who has earned the confidence of his flock, and the goodwill of many about him. Like every other parson he is not quite perfect; but he appears to be suitable for the district, and with a salary of £300 per annum is, we hope, happy. Day and Sunday schools adjoin the Church. At the former, there is an average attendance of 180; at the latter of 400. A capital library is attached to the schools. Orange and other societies for the maintenance of Protestantism, and the support of “Our glorious Constitution,” exist in connection with the church, and the members, who are rather of the high-pressure type, enjoy the proceedings of them muchly.