St Walburge's: iconic Preston church aspires to offer more to the community

Preston's iconic St Walburge's Church has submitted plans for the major refurbishment of one of the historic buildings in its grounds.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which took over the running of the landmark Catholic complex with its towering spire from owners the Diocese of Lancaster in 2014, wants to upgrade the adjacent St Walburge's Centre to improve its use by the community and as an educational facility.

Plans have been submitted for a two-storey extension to house a new staircase and lift. Replacement windows are included in the scheme as well as repairs to its leaking roof, reconfiguration of its vacant first floor rooms and new equipment and resurfacing for the outdoor playground – described as “bare and child unsafe.” New perimeter fencing should also act as a deterrent to “loitering parties” of drug users.

Read More
TV's Huw Edwards welcomes Easter cash boost to help mend leaky roof at Preston's...
The St Walburge's Centre is in need of a major refurbishment.The St Walburge's Centre is in need of a major refurbishment.
The St Walburge's Centre is in need of a major refurbishment.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The St Walburge's Centre was built in 1894 as a new wing for the Talbot Schools next to the church, its adjacent parish centre hall and the former Talbot Library. While the ground floor is occupied by Preston Bridge Club, the upstairs has been empty since its last tenant - the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) - closed its office in 2020 at the start of the first Covid lockdown.

A planning document submitted to the city council says: "The Catholic Shrine Church of St Walburge provides both a place of worship as well as a focal point for the community, and a tourist attraction. The current stewards of the Shrine, the adjacent St Walburge’s Centre, and pastors to St Walburge’s parishioners offer a wide range of cultural, community and educational events.

"In order to maintain and build upon this role, the applicant wishes to enhance the community and educational aspects of St Walburge’s Centre. To this end the applicant is seeking permission to adapt the first-floor of St. Walburge’s Centre and improve the adjacent car parking facilities and playground area, all of which will enhance the Centre’s communal worth, a key aspect of its current significance."

The Institute says that any impact on the adjacent Grade I Listed St Walburge's Church and its other buildings would not be significant. "Whilst the Talbot School may have once possessed high local significance as a ‘living’ place of education at the heart of Maudland district of Preston, since 1994 St Walburge’s Centre has been first and foremost an office building with some use as a social club, which is expressed in its external and internal design and fitting out.

The Centre, right, was originally built as a new wing for the local Catholic school.The Centre, right, was originally built as a new wing for the local Catholic school.
The Centre, right, was originally built as a new wing for the local Catholic school.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Whilst the ground floor currently occupied by the Preston Bridge Club enjoys occasional gathering of its members, the first floor remains vacant, greatly minimising its contribution to the life of the nearby and wider community.

"In addition, the area surrounding St Walburge’s centre, particularly the car park, frequently attracts loitering of parties who engage in illegal substance abuse, the installation of a fence around this is likely to serve as a deterrent and will increase the security of the site, but also enhance the overall safety of the area.

"And the resurfacing of the playground and installation of playground equipment will be an improvement, as the current playground is bare and child-unsafe, the new surface will increase safety and the equipment will provide much-needed recreational facilities for the children attending various parish activities."

Related topics: