Blackburn Cathedral

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Blackburn Cathedral
Cathedral Church of
St Mary the Virgin with St Paul
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The Cathedral from the west
Blackburn Cathedral is located in Blackburn town centre
Blackburn Cathedral
Blackburn Cathedral
Shown within Blackburn town centre
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Location Blackburn, Lancashire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Architect(s) John Palmer
W.A. Forsyth
Laurence King
Style Gothic Revival
Years built 1820–1967
Diocese Diocese of Blackburn (since 1926)
Bishop(s) Julian Henderson
Dean Christopher Armstrong
Precentor Andrew Hindley, Canon Sacrist
Canon(s) Ian Stockton, Canon Chancellor
Shannon Ledbetter, Community Canon
Director of music Samuel Hudson
Organist(s) Shaun Turnbull
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official name Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin
Designated 28 November 1951
Reference no. 1239147

Blackburn Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral Church of Blackburn Saint Mary the Virgin with St Paul, is an Anglican (Church of England) cathedral situated in the heart of Blackburn town centre, in Lancashire, England. The cathedral site has been home to a church for over a thousand years and the first stone church was built there in Norman times.


With the creation of the Diocese of Blackburn in 1926 (taken from the Diocese of Manchester) the impressive parish church of St Mary the Virgin was raised to cathedral status. The church, which was built in 1826 and designed by architect John Palmer, now forms the cathedral's nave.

In the early 1930s, fundraising began to enlarge the cathedral so that the building complemented its newfound importance. By 1938, enough money had been raised and work began on enlarging the new cathedral. Although work was interrupted by the war, it was resumed afterwards and continued through the 1950s and into the early 1960s. After the death of architect W.A. Forsyth in 1950, architect Laurence King joined the project and designed the distinctive lantern tower. The lantern tower, which consists of 56 different panes of coloured glass, with a modernist slender aluminium spire, was completed in 1967.

The cathedral was finally completed in 1977 and what had been built over the past decades was finally consecrated as Blackburn Cathedral that year.[1]

The North transept contains eight misericords dating from the 15th century. It is not known at what time they arrived at the Cathedral, but they are believed to have originated at Whalley Abbey. This could mean that they were removed to a builder's yard after the Dissolution, but with the cathedral not being built until the 19th century, this allows for the possibility that they had lain unused for some 300 years.

On 17 April 2014 the Cathedral hosted the Royal Maundy service. In keeping with tradition, The Queen handed out Maundy money to 88 men and 88 women. It was the Queen's first visit to the Cathedral.[2]



The Director of Music is Samuel Hudson.[6] and the Assistant Director of Music is Shaun Turnbull.[7]


The cathedral has seven choirs — Boys, Girls, Children's, Lantern Voices, YPC (Young Peoples' Choir), Men and Renaissance (Bach) Choir. On Sundays the Parish Communion is sung by the YPC and the Eucharist and Evensong by the Cathedral Choir (Boys and Men).

The current choral scholars are: Tim Braithwaite, Rob Pritchard and Andrew Armstrong. The organ scholar is Joseph O'Berry.[citation needed]

The exterior, with the distinctive aluminium spire


A scheme for an organ in the west gallery was submitted, by John Gray and partner Frederick Davison, two years before the consecration of the new church. The organ was opened on 28 February 1828 with a concert which included works by Handel - extracts from his Messiah and Israel in Egypt and his Occasional Overture played by the new organist Joseph John Harris.[8]

The organ was originally built by David Wood in 1994.[9]


Since 2011 the organist has been Samuel Hudson. Previous organists have included Richard Henry Coleman, Charles Hylton Stewart, Herman Brearley, Thomas Lucas Duerden, John Bertalot, David Anthony Cooper and Gordon Stewart.

Recent developments

In 1998 the lantern tower underwent restoration, being rebuilt in natural stone. The original 1960s tower had been constructed in concrete. The windows were also replaced.

Further work was carried out in 2000–01 to re-build the east end roofs and parapets and blend them into the existing structures. Upon completion of this work the cathedral was finally deemed to be finished after over 70 years of construction.

As well as this rebuilding a new piece of art was commissioned for the exterior of the building. The sculpture by Mark Jalland, The Healing of The Nations, measuring 35 by 26 feet (10.7 m × 7.9 m), is an abstract steel and copper circular piece containing thousands of interwoven fibre optics that create ever-changing patterns of light at night. It is deemed by many to be one of the most innovative pieces of modern sculpture at any English cathedral.

In 2009 the flagpole on the tower was renewed and topped with an ornate bishop's mitre finial painted and gilded in gold leaf by Mark Bridges of Sussex and bearing the Lancashire Rose emblem[10]

The cathedral still forms an important part of the community. It is open to visitors and has a gift shop and café as well as hosting numerous events. In February 2011 the Cathedral exhibited the Quaker Tapestry from Kendal.[11]


See also


  1. "Blackburn Cathedral | Scala". Retrieved 23 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Maundy Thursday: Queen hands out money at Blackburn Cathedral - BBC News". Retrieved 23 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. BBC News – Canon suspended after complaint (Accessed 5 January 2013)
  4. Blackburn Cathedral – Ian Stockton's Installation (Accessed 5 January 2013)
  5. Lancashire Telegraph – Former model installed new community canon at Blackburn Cathedral
  6. "Director of Music". Retrieved 6 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Shaun Turnbull". Retrieved 6 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. John Bertalot and Richard Tanner "The Organs of Blackburn Cathedral" (PDF). Retrieved 19 May 2013. Missing pipe in: |author= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Dr M D Sayers (2015). "Lancashire Blackburn,Cathedral of St. Mary [E00533]". The British Institute of Organ Studies 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "New ornate mitre tops off tower at Blackburn Cathedral" at
  11. Quaker Tapestry Exhibition at

Further reading

Canon Chris Chivers. Blackburn Cathedral. Scala Arts Publishers. ISBN 978-1-85759-645-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links