Dudley - Our Blessed Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury

St Joseph Street, Dudley DY2

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An early and economically-built Gothic Revival design by A. W. Pugin, his first to be furnished with a rood screen (later removed). The church underwent a major and damaging reordering in the 1960s.

The mission was established from West Bromwich by the Passionist and aristocrat, the Hon. Fr Ignatius Spencer in 1835. Initially he celebrated Mass in a disused warehouse before hiring a Methodist chapel in King Street. In 1837 William Fletcher, a nailmaster in Dudley, acting on behalf of Fr Spencer and Bishop Walsh, bought the present site from the Bourne family. A. W. Pugin made the first designs for the church in 1837. The foundation stone was laid in the second half of 1839 and the church was opened on
29 December 1840, when Dr Wiseman preached. The church was consecrated on Easter Tuesday, 29 March 1842, with Pugin in attendance. The church was cheap (£3,165 including vestments, fittings and decoration) but was considered by The Tablet ‘a perfect specimen of old English parochial architecture’. It was the first Pugin church to be opened with a rood screen (a feature which he considered essential but which caused a great rift between him and the Church in the later 1840s – see the quote in the list description). The date of its removal is not clear, but it is absent in early twentieth century photographs of the sanctuary. Pugin’s glass, made by William Warrington, in the east window was transferred to the west end when the present east windows were installed in 1862 (the transferred glass has now been lost). Alterations took place in 1875 and a new high altar was installed in 1887.

In the early 1960s plans were formulated to ‘modernise’ (Catholic Building Review) the building under Jennings, Homer & Lynch. The open roof structure was covered by a ceiling, the choir gallery removed, the original sacristy replaced by a southeast chapel, access from the chancel to the side chapels created, and an external narthex built across the west end along with sacristies and confessionals on the south of the building. This was probably the time when the octagonal bellcote on the west gable was removed and also the stained glass of the west windows. The utilitarian clear glass skylights over the aisles, so inappropriate for such a church, were probably also installed at this time. The Victorian decorations were painted over and the reredos removed. The work was completed in 1965.

The presbytery was built in 1979 to designs by Jennings, Homer & Lynch. It is now occupied by Sisters of the Divine Love, with the parish being ministered from Tipton. As at 2014, attempts are being made to bring some colour back to the church.

The list entry (below) is brief. The church is built of sandstone. The style is largely Early English and extensive use is made of lancet windows.  Pugin’s building has an aisled nave and a chancel that is somewhat lower, since he insisted that all parts of a church should be structurally differentiated; he also provided a southeast sacristy and northeast chapel. To this have been added the narthex and, on the south, sacristies and confessionals. The clerestory consists of small lancet windows, one per bay. Pugin allowed himself a slight mixing of styles in that the three-light east window is Decorated and the arch to the north chapel is Perpendicular (a style he would later come to reject). There is no tower.

The interior is plastered. The open roof of the nave is now ceiled over; that in the chancel roof has its original four-sided profile. The nave is separated from the aisles by a five-bay arcade of double chamfered arches and fairly slender octagonal piers. The abiding impression is one of brightness which is the product of the 1960s work and is far removed from the original character of the building. The north chapel east window is by Pugin and made by Warrington, c.1840, and depicts the Virgin and Child. The three lights forming the east window in the sanctuary are by Hardman’s and were fitted in 1862. In an attempt to restore something of the colour that the church once had, the pulpit panels have recently been painted with the Crucifixion flanked by St John and St Mary, and a seven panel reredos has been created with the Crucifixion flanked by angelic figures: all this work was done in 2014 by a Burmese artist, Win Tin.

LIST DESCRIPTION:

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF OUR LADY AND ST THOMAS

List entry Number: 1343238

Grade: II

Date first listed: 14-Sep-1949

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Apr-1976

 

1. 5106 ST JOSEPH STREET Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Thomas (Formerly listed under St Thomas Street) SO 9490 SE 2/49 14.9.49.

 

II

 

1842. Architect, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Local stone. Early English style. Nave, aisles, chancel and south porch. Facade has triple lancets and rose window above, with bellcote surmounting gable. Frescoed chancel. Brass of 1853, etc. Pugin said of this church that it is "a complete facsimile of one of the old English parish churches, and nobody seems to know how to use it."

 

Listing NGR: SO9484890383

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: A. W. Pugin

Original Date: 1840

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II