Maryvale - Our Lady of the Assumption

Old Oscott Hill, Maryvale, Birmingham B44

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A good, fairly late example of the work of the Birmingham architect G. B. Cox, in stripped Romanesque style, its broad west tower incorpo-rating a large statue of Our Lady of the Assumption, by Peter Bohn. The broad and light interior is an attractive space, but original sanctuary furnishings of note have been lost. The church was built to relieve the pressure on the chapel at Maryvale House.

By the 1950s the chapel of the Sisters of Mercy at Maryvale House, which had been in use as a public place of worship since the 1770s, was far too small for the rapidly increasing population of this part of suburban Birmingham. A large new church to seat 450 was built in 1956-7 from designs by G. B. Cox and Bernard James of Harrison & Cox, a short distance from what was then the orphanage at Maryvale House, run by the Sisters of Mercy. At the request of the parish priest, the design was traditional in style and construction. The church was sited above old coal mining workings and the foundations were designed to minimise the risk of damage from subsidence.

The church is in an austere modern Romanesque style. The plan comprises a broad west tower, nave and chancel under a continuous shallow-pitched roof and flat-roofed aisles with eastern chapels. The external walls are faced with buff-coloured loadbearing brick laid in Flemish bond with stonework restricted to the door surrounds. The shallow-pitched nave roof and the pyramidal tower roof are covered in copper, with steel roof trusses in the nave.

 

The tower is set across the west end of the nave. It is of three stages with a central round-headed recess containing the principal entrance in a moulded stone surround, and with a large low-relief statue of Our Lady above, by Peter Bohn (1957). The doorway is flanked by pairs of small windows, the statue by a single long window on each side. The bell stage has five round-headed openings on the west side and two on each of the other sides. The tower is flanked by lower flat-roofed elements with additional entrance doors and apsidal projections to north and south for the gallery stair and the baptistery. The north and south sides are identical with four-bay flat-roofed aisles widening at the east to form side chapels. The aisles have a single rounded-headed window to each bay. Above is continuous clerestory of six bays with paired round-headed windows. The east wall is blind, with a single-storey ambulatory linking north and south sacristies.

The interior is broad and light, with a parquet floor, plain plastered walls with some stencilled decoration and clear-glazed windows. There is a gallery in the west tower with a wide round-arched opening to the nave and nave arcades of six bays of round-headed arches on square piers. The arcades open onto passage aisles. A trabeated ceiling runs the full length of the nave and chancel. The side chapels and sanctuary have round-arched altar recesses. An early photograph (figure 1) shows a baldacchino over the high altar, but this has gone and both the altar and the present reredos are clearly more recent. The octagonal stone font has been moved into the southeast chapel.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Harrison & Cox

Original Date: 1957

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed