Baddesley Clinton - St Francis of Assisi

Rising Lane, Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire B93

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The moated manor house of Baddesley Clinton Hall was a major local Catholic recusant centre. In 1800 a chapel was built on the site of the present church, replaced by the present building in 1870. This was built to the designs of Benjamin Bucknall as part of an extensive rebuilding of the Convent of the Poor Clares, who came to Baddesley Clinton in 1850.  The church is a modest building, but well-designed. The interior has been simplified but a painted triptych at the east end and the Stations of the Cross painted by Rebecca Orpen are worthy of note.

Catholicism was fostered during the penal years by the Ferrers family of Baddesley Clinton Hall, where in 1756 the Rev. George Bishop, a Franciscan, took up residence. A Franciscan Academy moved from Edgbaston to Baddesley Green in 1785 and buildings were erected on the present site in 1793. A chapel was added c.1800 and a cemetery was opened in 1845. The academy was closed in 1829 and the chapel became the centre of a mission. In 1850 the Order of Poor Clares arrived from Bruges in Belgium and took over the buildings, which were in poor repair. They were eventually rebuilt with funds given by Sister Mary Clare Dymock and Sister Agnes Mary Clifford, daughter of the Hon. Charles Clifford (brother of Hugh Charles, Seventh Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, Devon). Agnes Clifford’s parents also provided funds and are buried before the sanctuary of the present church.

In 1870, the old chapel, standing on the site of the present Sisters’ choir, was demolished, and replaced by a new church, opened by Bishop Ullathorne on 4 October 1870. A large convent was built east of the church and a school nearby. All these were designed by Benjamin Bucknall of Swansea, who also designed the other buildings. The church was opened on 4 October 1870. The presbytery was added in 1882, possibly to Bucknall’s design (Scarisbrick gives it to Edward Hansom).

The connection with the Ferrers family remained strong during the later nineteenth century. Marmion Edward Ferrers (1813-1884) gave or leased the land on which the convent was built, and his wife, Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, adorned the sanctuary with paintings and executed the Stations of the Cross. Members of the family were buried by the side of the church.

In 1963 a side chapel was added for the Sisters (hitherto they had attended Mass in their own choir) and the sanctuary was altered in 1970.

The school continued to function until 1990. The convent closed in 2011, though the buildings are still occupied. The cemetery is still in use. Baddesley Clinton Hall is now a property of the National Trust.

The church is in the French thirteenth century Gothic style and has walls of brindled red brick laid in English bond with stone dressings and a steeply-pitched roof with coverings of Welsh slate. The plan comprises an aisleless nave with a projecting west porch and a shallow sanctuary. The east end of the building is continued beyond the sanctuary as the Sisters’ Choir, which forms part of the convent.

The single storey west porch with its pitched hipped roof extends almost the width of the main front and has a wide central doorway with jamb shafts and pointed arched head. On either side above a stone string are window openings, each of two shouldered lights, divided by a central colonette. There are similar windows on the returns. Above the porch in the main west wall are three stepped lancet windows. The west gable has stone copings and kneelers. The side elevations have stone plinths and strings and five broad lancet windows set high in the walls. The roof slopes are carried beyond the walls on carved eaves brackets. At the west end of the roof ridge is a hexagonal timber bellcote with a slated base. There is a second, stone, bellcote on the south slope of the east gable.

The interior is broad and well-lit. The walls are plastered, with a panelled pine dado.  The boarded waggon roof rests on heavy timber brackets brought down onto wall-shafts between the windows. At the west end is a simple open timber gallery with a small chamber organ. At the east end the shallow sanctuary has a boarded waggon roof and paired lancets in the side walls; the east end wall which abuts the sisters’ choir is blind. Comparison with an early photograph of the sanctuary  shows that the original stencilled decoration has been painted out and other ornament lost. New openings have also been made to the Sisters’ choir and the marble retable probably dates from the 1970 reordering. Other fittings include a painted triptych in the east wall and the Stations of the Cross, all painted in oil by Rebecca Ferrers, nee Orpen. The stained glass in two of the south windows is probably by Tony Dury c. 1870; the rest of the glass is by Hardman. The timber nave benches are probably original to the church.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Benjamin Bucknall

Original Date: 1970

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed