Cresswell - St Mary

Cresswell Old Lane, Cresswell, Staffordshire ST11

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A modest red brick Gothic church in a rural setting, attached to an earlier (seventeenth century) house. The church is important as an early, pre-Emancipation example of Catholic church-building - the first to be built in north Staffordshire after restrictions were lifted in 1791. The interior is plain, with a gallery at one end. Most of the furnishings are modern, but the church possesses important vestments and sacred vessels from the chapel of the now-demolished Painsley Hall, and a window by A. W. Pugin to Lady Stourton, who financed the construction. The churchyard cross and (less certainly) the font are also attributed to Pugin.

There was a long history of priests serving as chaplains to the Painsley estate in the centuries after the Reformation. One such was Alban Butler (1710-73), author of Lives of the Saints (1756-59). The present ‘handsome Gothic chapel’ (Kelly) was built by the Rev. Thomas Baddeley in 1815-16 and funded by Lady Mary Stourton; it is thought to have cost £800. It was the successor to the chaplaincy at Painsley Hall (which does not survive) and possesses vestments and a chalice from the house chapel. For a while, from late 1817, the presbytery (an adapted seventeenth century house) acted as a small seminary, where there were eight pupils in 1818. It united with Longton for some time and both the Cheadle and Uttoxeter missions were founded from here.

A churchyard cross and a ‘richly carved font’ (so described by White) are attributed to A. W. Pugin, as, more certainly, is a stained glass window to Lady Stourton. Until 1960s reordering the church interior was far more elaborate, and included a rood beam supported on two posts, with Gothic arcading (figure 2). 

Since 2012 the parishes of Meir, Caverswall and Meir have been clustered. 

The church is a plain Gothic design, built of red brick with render on the gable ends, and has a nave and chancel under one slate roof. Five bays on either side are separated by attached brick buttresses, with lancet windows with simple wooden tracery in between. The entrance porch is a later, probably early twentieth-century, addition. At the sanctuary end, the church adjoins the presbytery. 

The interior is a long rectangle and owes much of its character to a process of simplification in the 1960s, from which time many of the fittings date. A rood screen put in as a memorial to Lady Stourton has been removed. The walls are mostly painted in magnolia, with a pale blue for the sanctuary end wall, replacing an earlier and more elaborate stencil scheme. At the west end there is an organ gallery carried on a pair of wooden quatrefoil columns, with a Gothick staircase to the upper level.  The gallery front is covered with a modern painted panel with scenes from the life of Christ. The low-pitched ceiling is plastered. There is one stained glass window of 1848, designed by A. W. Pugin and made by Hardman. It depicts the Annunciation and was given in memory of Lady Stourton. Opposite is a modern window (unsigned) showing the Visitation. The marble altar with mosaic and opus sectile panels is quite a good twentieth century piece. White’s Directory (1851) states that the font is by A. W. Pugin. The present font is untypical of Pugin in being square, Romanesque and somewhat crude in the detailing (although in can be noted that Pugin countenanced a square font at St James, Reading, using salvaged material from the nearby abbey). Michael Fisher (pers. comm. 15 December 2014) suggests that it could be the work of a member of the Bailey family, stonemasons from Alton who worked for Pugin at St John’s, Alton and elsewhere.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Not known

Original Date: 1816

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed