Kennilworth - St Augustine

Beehive Hill, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8

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A small building built by a member of the Catholic Amherst family and  an early work by A. W. Pugin, one of the leading architects of the English Gothic Revival. It is architecturally modest but retains some fittings designed by Pugin. The additions by Gilbert Blount are also modest but complement Pugin’s work. Blount also designed the presbytery and school building.

In the Middle Ages Kenilworth was the site of a major Augustinian priory. The small church of St Augustine of England was commissioned from A. W. Pugin in 1841 by the widowed Maria Louisa Amherst, of nearby Fieldgate House. The builder was Pugin’s favourite, George Myers. The original church, consisting of a nave and sanctuary with a transeptal sacristy, was illustrated as one of the three foreground buildings in the frontispiece to Pugin’s Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture, published in 1843. Between 1849 and 1852 the church was augmented to designs by Gilbert Blount, who added a carved stone bellcote, lengthened the nave and added a north aisle. He also designed the adjacent presbytery and school. O’Donnell suggests that Blount’s replacing of Pugin may have been occasioned by the latter’s attempted courtship of Maria Amherst (who became a nun).

The church was consecrated in 1904. The interior was reordered in the 1970s and in 1976 Pugin’s timber rood screen was taken down. More recently the stencilled decoration in the sanctuary has been renewed or re-created. The church is now served from St Francis, Kenilworth (qv), and the presbytery occupied by a retired priest. 

The building is described only very briefly in the list entry.  It is a small church in the Decorated Gothic style, by A. W. Pugin (1841-2), with additions by Gilbert Blount (1849-52). The external walls are of red brick laid principally in stretcher bond, with some blue brick patterning and stone dressings. The pitched roofs are covered with Welsh slate. The plan comprises nave, north aisle, south porch and sanctuary with transeptal sacristy.  The west gable wall of the nave has a pointed arched doorway with two trefoiled windows above divided by a canopied image niche. Windows and niche appear to be an insertion since they cut across the patterns in the brickwork. The lower gable north aisle has a two-light traceried window. The side walls of the nave and north aisle have paired two-light windows with ogee heads. The stone bellcote on the east nave gable is elaborately carved with an ogee-headed opening for the bell. The sanctuary has a three-light traceried window with headstops to the label. The east wall of the north aisle has a spherical triangle window with tracery.

The interior has plain plastered walls and modern linoleum floor coverings. The nave has a rafter roof with the principal trusses resting on timber wall-posts. The arcade to the north aisle is of four bays of four-centred arches (which sit oddly in this Middle Pointed church) with chamfered piers. The aisle itself has a simple rafter roof. The tall sanctuary arch is chamfered and has (modern) stencilled decoration and the sanctuary dado and roof have similar decoration, which replicates the decoration shown on photos of c1900 in the Diocesan Archive.

Original fittings include the altar, the crucifix in the sanctuary arch and the carved figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John and the cross in the sanctuary arch, by Pugin. The stained glass in the east window is probably by William Wailes and dates from 1841. The remainder of the glass is by Hardman and dates from the 1850s and 1860s, including one of 1869 commemorating members of the Amherst family (who are also commemorated in a brass in the north aisle). 

LIST DESCRIPTION:

List entry Number: 1035333

Grade: II

Date first listed: 01-Jun-1949

 

BIRMINGHAM ROAD 1. 1270 CHURCH OF ST AUGUSTINE Roman Catholic Church SP 27 SE 1/49 1.6.49 II 2.

 

Circa 1840 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Red brick, stone dressings, decorated style. Nave, chancel, south porch and vestry, north aisle.

 

Listing NGR: SP2841273099

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: A. W. Pugin; Gilbert Blount

Original Date: 1842

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1849-52

Listed Grade: Grade II