The White Church is a familiar sight to those travelling along the old road to Blackpool through Lytham St Annes. It is one of a number of Anglican and Non-conformist churches vying for prominence along the route, set back from the road in the nineteenth century seaside grid. Most of the other churches choose a variation on Gothic. The White Church, originally Fairhaven Congregational Church, is intended to be Byzantine but flirts with Moorish and Edwardian Baroque. As Pevsner points out in the North Lancashire volume of Buildings of England the church: “stands out, by size, by colour, by style, only not alas by quality.” Commenting on the odd mixture of styles, among which he spots “South West French Romanesque”, Pevsner goes on to say: “It needed some courage to put up such a building.”
The building works as a landmark but few people stop for a look. Closed most of the time, the white faience is cold and uninteresting up close. Inside is a different matter. Entering the church on the diagonal you are brought into a square nave with a generous arched bay to each side. The square shape and the low dome produce a surprisingly warm and intimate space for the congregation. One arched bay is occupied by the communion table and the viewer is oriented to this focal point by the slope of the floor. The interior is relatively plainly decorated and the stained glass windows to each side of the church predominate. They provide a vivid narrative of early Christianity, the Reformation and the history of Non-conformity (including a dramatic depiction of the embarkation of the Pilgrim Fathers).
This weekend (13-14 September) the building is open to the public from 10.30-16.00 on Saturday and from 13.30-16.30 on Sunday.
Fairhaven Congregational Church, now URC. Completed 1912
Architect: Briggs Wolstenholme and Thornley of Blackburn, Lancashire.
Cost of building £12000.