Coventry - St Elizabeth (The Good Shepherd, St Elizabeth and St Helen)

Eld Road, Foleshill, Coventry CV6

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An early church by G. B. Cox in a nicely-detailed Arts and Crafts Gothic style. Following wartime bomb damage, the east end and side chapels were rebuilt and extended in a fairly respectful mixture of Gothic and modern idioms by Harrison & Cox. The church has a series of stained glass windows by the Hardman firm.

The parish was founded in 1912. Initially, it was planned to build a two-storey building which could be used as church and school but a donation of £5,000 in 1913 by Miss Mary Thorpe enabled the parish to build separate buildings. By the end of July 1914, work on site had started. The foundation stone was laid on 3 October 1914 by Archbishop Ilsley, who opened the completed church on 4 June 1916. The architect was George Bernard Cox of Harrison & Cox and the builders were J. Bowen & Sons of Balsall Heath. The opening account in the Official Catholic Directory for 1916 mentioned that planned future additions would include a tower and a west gallery.

At Easter 1941 a new marble high altar was to be installed. A few days before the occasion, the east end and sacristy were severely damaged on 11 April by a bomb which exploded just outside. The church was restored in 1960-2 by Bernard V. James of Harrison & Cox (builder: James O’Flanagan). The original foundation stone was re-laid by Archbishop Grimshaw on 6 November 1960 and the church reopened for its Golden Jubilee on 14 June 1962. The new east end (figure 2) was larger than the previous apsidal one, the altar rails were moved east to increase the seating capacity, the new Lady Chapel was also set further back, a new sacristy block (linked to the presbytery) and southeast tower were built, and the marble altar of 1941 was used to create a new high altar and two altars for the side chapels. 

The church was built in 1914-16. It was partially rebuilt and extended in 1960-2 after wartime bomb damage. The materials are red brick in English bond with stone and terracotta dressings, a plinth of black and red bricks, and a tiled roof. The plan is longitudinal, consisting of an aisled and clerestoried nave, with a porch at the northwest, and a lean-to narthex containing ancillary spaces (including the former baptistery) at the west. The northeast chapel, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, is a narrow, flat-roofed structure, while the Lady Chapel at the southeast is expressed as a south transept with two transverse roofs and a flat-roofed block. The tower of 1960-2 is between the Lady Chapel and the sacristy. Nave and chancel are under one continuous roof.

The older part of the church is in Decorated Gothic, with cusped ogee windows to the aisles and narthex, and more complicated intersecting tracery to the clerestory and west windows. Each bay along the side elevations is separated by gabled buttresses. The west elevation has a lean-to narthex with a projecting central porch. Above the moulded arch of the doorway are the arms of Archbishop Ilsley, who laid the foundation stone. Above are three stepped lancets with cusped vesicas and thick hoodmoulds. The finely moulded gable coping has an intermediate step with a horizontal stone band. Below this step and the curved gable ends are small gargoyles.

The rebuilt and extended east end is much plainer, albeit in similar brick and in sympathetic forms. The beginning of the chancel is marked by a taller buttress on the north side which projects above the roofline. The three windows beyond this on the north elevation continue the same tracery as in the older parts but without the hoodmoulds. The buttresses are plainer, as are the windows and buttresses of the northeast chapel. The narrower chancel has thin lancets to the sides and a giant recessed blind arch to the east with a large crucifix. The square tower has a clock, three plain oblong bell openings to each side, a tiled pyramidal roof and a weathervane in the shape of a ship. There is one bell (1961, John Taylor & Co of Loughborough).

Internally, the break between the old and the new work is more obvious, due to the different materials used. Each of the six nave bays has two pointed and moulded arches of white brick under a giant terracotta arch which frames the tall clerestory window. The clerestory spandrels are of red brick. The principal trusses of the open timber roof of scissor-brace construction are decoratively painted. The passage aisles are very narrow with pointed transverse arches. The pews for the congregation probably date from 1962 (earlier photographs, e.g. show chairs).

Beyond the chancel arch, the boarded ceiling is painted with horizontal and vertical ribs and golden angel corbels bearing shields. The sanctuary has parts of the original Gothic marble altar rails although the central section and gates have been removed. The lectern is of similar materials and Gothic detailing and may have been made from parts of the former pulpit. The altar and tabernacle stand are modern and plain. On either side of the narrower part of the chancel are the foundation stone and a stone niche or piscina. Set within this recessed and side-lit section is a high canopy above a large modern Risen Christ sculpture carved from Austrian oak set in front of a patterned background. The octagonal stone font is carved with fleurs-de-lis, waves and the dove.

The two easternmost nave arches on the south side are giant arches which lead into the south transept with two timber panelled transverse roofs on a carved bressumer. The Lady Chapel is just to the east, below a mullioned organ loft. It has a statue on a stone pedestal, a plain stone altar, a timber lectern, timber rails and stone piscina.

The north chapel is narrow and plain, with a small piscina, and a large Sacred Heart statue on a carved timber pedestal. (The original marble altar and timber canopy have been removed.)

The chancel, the side chapels and the south transept have stained glass windows of 1962 by Hardman. Above the confessional doors in the south aisle are small fanlights of decoratively leaded glass. The Stations of the Cross are fine plaster reliefs in stone frames (signed B. Creswick, 1920-22).

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: G.B. Cox of Harrison & Cox; Bernard V. James of Harrison & Cox

Original Date: 1916

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1960-2

Listed Grade: Not listed