St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the Missing Link of Barrow Skyline
Metal scaffolding tubes glistened in the sun as a missing link in Barrow’s skyline was restored to its rightful place atop St Mary’s Church, The Mail reported in September 1988.
The city’s oldest Catholic church on Duke Street would be submerged in scaffolding until Christmas, when it was hoped the £100,000 restoration program would be complete.
Works included a new fiberglass cross, electronic bell, fully decorated interior and a traditionally restored organ.
St Mary’s had suffered damage in a hurricane in February 1988 when the masonry of the steeple was scattered across nearby streets and crashed through the roof, ruining a new organ.
Architect Jonathon Pritchard said: “The wind lifted the whole roof and moved it across the church. It was amazing to see. It was actually swaying as we stood in the church.
Church authorities took the relatively unusual step of installing a fiberglass cross to replace the old cast-iron one, which would have turned 100 in October of that year.
“We need to look to the future and use modern materials,” Prichard said. “A fiberglass cross will resist the wind better and be easier to maintain than a cast iron cross.
“It’s an important part of the Barrow skyline – so we’re making sure we get it right.”
Structural damage had meant that the bells had remained silent for many years, but it was hoped that the installation of electric hammers would ensure a trouble-free future, although there would be old-fashioned ropes in case modern technology would break down.
In 1989, St Mary’s Church proudly wore the new fiberglass cross, made by Walney yacht builder Alan Newton and breaking new ground in his field.
“It’s something new and unique,” Mr. Newton said.
It replaced the cast iron cross destroyed during the gales of the previous year. It weighed over 500 pounds while the new cross weighed only 56 pounds.