The first stone of the church was laid on the 4th. Oct. 1838 and the building was opened with great solemnity on 22nd. August 1839. The church was the work of Fr. Morgan who obtained many backers amongst them the principal benefactor, John, 16th. Earl of Shrewsbury. The architect was Augustus Welby Pugin who carried out work on Alton Towers and later worked on the Houses of Parliament. The Catholic Church at Cheadle was also his work.
The church has undergone a number of alterations since it's opening. In the late 1870's Pugin's church had become too small for the congregation and it was decided to lengthen it by the addition of a chancel. A Lady Chapel was also added on the left side of the chancel - now the organ chamber - in which stood the confessional: also an upper floor, as marked by the over-arches, was made for worshippers. The three lancet windows were moved to the end of the chancel and stained glass installed. A choir gallery was added beneath the Rose Window, at the west end of the church, in which a new organ was installed. The church re-opened in 1879. The first picture shows the Balance Street elevation prior to 1913 and the second the nave and chancel in the same period.
In 1912 thought was given to enlarging the church again, a task made difficult due to the very narrow building resulting from the 1870's changes. However in 1913 work started on the addition of two side aisles, the narthex, Lady Chapel and sacristy as well as linking up the Presbytery with the Church by a long passage leading to the sacristy. The choir gallery was taken down, the organ removed to the old Lady Chapel and the pulpit was moved from the right hand side of the altar to the left. Recent work carried out in 1998/99 saw the altar rails removed, the chancel steps brought forward a little into the nave and the pulpit replaced in its original position.
Few Catholic churches of comparable size have such a wealth of stained glass as St. Mary's. The Rose Window at the west end of the church dates back to 1839 and is by Messrs. Wailes stained glass workshops. The three lancet windows above the main altar contain glass by Mayer and Co. of Munich and London and were inserted in 1887. In the Lady Chapel are to be found windows by Hardman Studios commemorating the 150th. Anniversary of the church in 1988. The south aisle has windows by Woodroffe erected in the period 1915 to 1938; the War memorial window in the narthex is also his work. In the north aisle is a window by Hardman commemorating the son of a parishioner killed in action in 1940.
Information for this brief
history has been taken from a booklet compiled and edited by the late Paul
F. Wilson, a parishioner of St. Mary's. Thanks to Anthony Baxter for the loan