Droitwich - Sacred Heart and St Catherine

Worcester Road, Droitwich, Worcestershire WR9

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An impressive Early Christian basilican-style brick church dating from the early interwar years, made exceptional by its rich internal fitting out, notably the superb mosaic decoration by Gabriel Pippet. 

In 1909 Fr Joseph Dospital of the Sacred Heart (Betharran) congregation was sent to open a mission in Droitwich. Mass was initially said in private houses but in due course a small church was built. The present one was a gift of Walter Loveridge Hodgkinson of Rashwood Court, Droitwich, and was dedicated to the Sacred Heart and St Catherine to honour the Sacred Heart fathers and his late wife, Catherine. The architect was Frank Barry Peacock, a partner in the Birmingham practice of Peacock & Bewlay, and the contractors Messrs Parnell & Sons, Rugby. The foundation stone was laid on 25 November 1919 and the first Mass was said on 24 November 1921. The consecration took place on 29 September 1932.

The architects ‘endeavoured to capture the spirit of the early Christian basilicas in Rome and Ravenna’ (Tablet, 29 September 1923). The decoration of the church was protracted, beginning in 1922 and largely, but not entirely completed ten years later. The designer was Gabriel Pippet of Solihull and Oxford, who did the carving himself; his mosaicists were Maurice R. Josey and Fred Oates. The chapel of St Richard de Wyche was added on the middle of the south (ritual) aisle in 1938 and the chapel of St the Basque saint Michael Garicoits (in the corresponding position on the north) was added shortly after the Second World War, with its mosaics being added in 1963 by Hardman Studios.
The sanctuary was reordered in 1970. The parish hall was built in 2000 to designs by ALP Architects of Cirencester.

LIST DESCRIPTION

Grade: II*

Date first listed: 11-Dec-2013

 

A Roman Catholic church, designed by F Barry Peacock and commissioned by Walter Loveridge Hodgkinson. The church was opened by November 1921. An extensive series of mosaics covering the upper walls as well as the vaults of the four side chapels and the baptistery was started in 1922 and the majority of these were completed by 1932.

 

Reasons for Designation

The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart and St Catherine of Alexandria, Droitwich, of 1919 -21 designed by FB Peacock with mosaic decoration by G Pippet, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

  • Decoration: the building contains a remarkable, comprehensive and striking set of mosaic decorations of high quality in their design and execution;
  • Architectural interest: the church is a good example of the early Christian style, by the noted Birmingham architect Frank Barry Peacock;
  • Intact survival: little has been changed in the building since the completion of the decoration in 1932, except for the addition of two side small chapels in the same style.

 

History

The church was commissioned by Walter Hodgkinson and designed by F Barry Peacock. The foundation stone was laid in 1919 and the church opened in November 1921. Decoration of the interior with an extensive series of mosaics started in 1922 to the designs of G J Pippet, who also sculpted the capitals and statues in stone and the Stations of the Cross in wood. The South aisle chapel was added in 1938 and the north aisle chapel was completed in 1963, with mosaics by Hardman Studios. The sanctuary was reordered in 1970 with the altar moved forward and the tabernacle taking its place against the east wall. The font was also moved there from the baptistry at the same time. Glass screens dividing the narthex from the nave appear to have been inserted in the later C20.

 

Details

A Roman Catholic church, designed by F Barry Peacock and commissioned by Walter Loveridge Hodgkinson. The church was opened by November 1921. An extensive series of mosaics covering the upper walls as well as the vaults of the four side chapels and the baptistery was started in 1922 and the majority of these were completed by 1932. They were designed by Gabriel Pippet and executed by Maurice and Thomas Josey and Fred Oates. Pippet also designed and carved the capitals of the nave arcades and fittings such as statuary and relief panels on the altar, font and lectern, as well as the Stations of the Cross. The building is in an early-Christian style with Byzantine, Roman and Lombardic elements in its design.

 

MATERIALS: the building is of brown brick, laid in Flemish bond with stone dressings and a pantile roof.

 

PLAN: the church is oriented with its ritual east end facing west. All descriptive terms used here refer to ritual compass directions. The building is basilican in plan, with a nave and side aisles of eight bays and a choir gallery above a narthex at the west end and an apse at the east. A baptistery, with an apsidal end, projects from the north wall of the narthex. Projecting side chapels at the east flank the sanctuary and both have apses to their eastern sides. There are small side chapels projecting from the north and side aisles and a south-western tower.

 

EXTERIOR: the western end is gabled with a central doorway at ground level, which has a round-arched top with a stone tympanum showing Christ enthroned, flanked by St Catherine with her wheel and St Richard. There are stone capitals to either side below the springing of the arch and small, round-arched windows to either side. Above is a central rose window. At the top of the walling is a Lombardic frieze. To the left, and slightly recessed, is the flank of the baptistery and to the right is a side door which has a tympanum showing the Annunciation, carved by Pippet in 1954. A wheelchair ramp has been added. The tower, to right again, has four stages of diminishing height, with round-arched lancets to the two lower stages, paired lancets to the third stage and three openings with dividing piers to the belfry. The pyramidal roof has an iron cross finial.

 

The flanks of the church have arched panels to the upper walling, each bay set with a round-headed clerestory window. Below this the aisles have lean-to roofs. The side chapels at the east end each have a round-arched window to their west end and another to their outer flanks. Both have apsidal ends. These side chapels, and those off the nave aisles, together with the baptistery, all have recessed panels to their walls, with a Lombardic frieze to the top of each bay. The Eastern apse has a similar arrangement of panels and blind arched windows. The rectangular, sacristy projects in front at ground level.

 

INTERIOR: the nave arcades have monolithic limestone columns with double cushion capitals of Byzantine type. The walls are lined with panels of blue and green marble below the dado, including verde antico. Above these the walls and the ceilings of the side chapels are decorated with an extensive series of mosaics. These depict the Life of the Virgin on the north side of the nave, below the clerestory, and the Life of St Richard Wyche on the south. Above, between the clerestory windows, are the Fathers and Doctors of the church and Ancient Patriarchs and Prophets. Christ with outstretched arms is depicted on the semi-dome of the apse. The Waters of Life flow before him and feed palm trees and figures of harts, which form a frieze. Above the sanctuary apse is the Resurrection. On the west wall, above the choir gallery, a large mosaic shows the Nine Choirs of Angels in flight. In the aisles are figures of saints and beati.

 

The Chapel of Our Lady, to the north-east, has mosaics showing St Francis of Assisi and St Theodore and the Coronation of the Virgin above the altar. The Chapel of St Catherine shows scenes from her life and the groin vaults of both these chapels are also decorated with mosaic.

 

Selected Sources

 

Pevsner, N and Brooks, A.,The Buildings of England: Worcestershire, 2007, p. 264

Harrison, Gerard, The Church of the Sacred Heart and St Catherine of Alexandria, Guide Book, 1994

Makepeace, JF, Handbook, The Church of the Sacred Heart and St Catherine of Alexandria, 2009

Author: Ballard, Phillida (ed), Birmingham's Victorian and Edwardian Architects, 2009, p. 224

 

National Grid Reference: SO8948362317

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: F. B. Peacock

Original Date: 1929

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*