The Monastery of St Francis in Gorton is one of the most beautiful buildings in one of the poorest areas of Manchester.
The red brick Franciscan church – recognised as one of the city's finest examples of High Victorian Gothic Architecture – was designed by Edward Pugin (whose father designed the facade of the Houses of Parliament) and built between 1863 and 1867. It and the adjoining monastery were active for more than a century. In the 1970s the surrounding terraced housing was demolished and the community re-housed in neighbouring areas. The move displaced generations of people with links to the Monastery and without its congregation the monastery soon faded. The last mass was said in 1989.
The awe-inspiring interior of the church of Saint Francis as it is today and as it appeared in 1968
Since then it has become almost derelict – in the mid 1990s the statues of saints that were carved in a special workshop built in the Friary grounds were discovered on sale at Sotheby and retrieved by the city council.
In 1996 the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust was founded and a year later the site was included in the World Monuments Fund's list of 100 most Endangered Buildings. The Trust has been given £173,800 lottery money towards converting the building into an environmentally friendly hotel and conference venue, with an extra £2.8 million funding earmarked for capital costs of restoration.
The first stage is to construct the Angels Healthy Living Centre project, named after the neo-gothic stone angels around the Monastery facade, and intended to meet the health needs of local Gorton people.