Brierley Hill - St Mary

High Street, Brierley Hill DY5

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A mid-Victorian brick church in a freely treated thirteenth century style, and a late work by E. W. Pugin. The best feature of the interior is the painted timber reredos, but otherwise many historic furnishings have been lost. The church occupies a prominent position in the Brierley Hill High Street Conservation Area.

A mission, served from Stourbridge, was established here in 1854. The present church was designed by Edward Welby Pugin, the foundation stone being laid on 12 June 1872, with the opening (at which Bishop Ullathorne preached) on 15 October the following year. Even at the opening of the church there were reports that the foundations were cracking, on account of nearby mining operations. The mission was poor, there were various diocesan and national appeals for support in the 1880s.

According to the Pugin Society website, the high altar and reredos were given by Basil T. Fitzherbert of Swinnerton Park. The altar was removed, along with that in the Lady Chapel, the Sacred Heart shrine and the Alfred Emery pulpit, in 1960s reordering, when a new floor was also laid and the underside of the choir loft glazed in. New pews and Stations were also donated by parishioners. It has not been established whether the mural decorations shown in figure 1 had already been covered over at that time. 

A new parish centre was completed in 2004. The church is served from Kingswinford. 

The church is built of red brick with Bath stone dressings. The style derives from Early English work of the thirteenth century. The building consists of a nave, north aisle, short sanctuary, north Lady Chapel and a sacristy. A tower and/or spire was intended for the southwest corner but never completed. The west end has a triplet of lancet windows and a central doorway. Along the south side are four tall two-light windows with sexfoils in the heads: in the aisle there are three two-light windows. At the east end is a large circular window containing six sexfoiled openings.

The west doorway leads into a narthex under the broad west gallery. From here the nave has four bays with an arcade of polished Cornish granite columns and moulded arches with very individual capitals. Over the nave and sanctuary are the original arch-braced roofs. At the entrance to the sanctuary there is a very tall, attenuated arch carried on polished Shap granite responds. The walls are plastered and are painted a light cream colour. The carvings of the capitals and on the font unfortunately appear to have been blast-cleaned.

The high altar has been removed, but its wooden reredos survives, an ornate piece in two tiers with the Evangelists painted in the upper register. Otherwise, the church now retains few furnishings of note. Stained glass is confined to the east window (figures of angels) and the former Lady Chapel (floral motifs).

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: E. W. Pugin

Original Date: 1873

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed