Norton-le-Moors - St Mary

Ford Green Road, Norton-le-Moors, Stoke-on-Trent ST6

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A fan-shaped design by Sandy & Norris, the evolution of which reflects the emergence of a new architecture in the light of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The design was pared down as it developed, and the result is an externally plain building, with a warm and welcoming interior space under a boarded timber roof.

In 1871 the parish priest of Cobridge built a school at Smallthorne and established a Mass centre from there. In 1985 Burslem, Smallthorne and Wolstanton missions separated from Cobridge, and were served from Burslem. In 1969 Smallthorne’s church and school were closed and the parish of Norton-le-Moors established as its successor with a new church, presbytery and school.

Plans for the present church were first drawn up in 1963 by Sandy & Norris & Partners of Stafford, and developed over a number of years. The gestation of the design coincided with the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) and its aftermath, when parishes and their architects were still finding their way as to the direction of the liturgical reforms ushered in by the Council. Plans and correspondence in the Diocesan Archives show that in 1964 the job architect Cyril Horsley was preparing schemes allowing for Mass to be said on either side of the altar, with the tabernacle located behind the altar or in a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel, and with various options for the placing of the presidential chair and the provision (or otherwise) of communion rails. Archbishop Dwyer took a keen interest in the design, and annotations on revised drawings of 1967 (‘what purpose does this tower serve?’ and ‘why these pseudo-pointed Gothic windows?’) suggest that the architect was being encouraged to dispense with elements resonant of traditional church design. 

The church was finally built in 1968-9, at a cost of £56,000, and was opened and blessed by Archbishop Dwyer on 17 September 1969. The church was dedicated on 7 October 1988. It was badly damaged by fire in 1996 which provided an opportunity for some refashioning of the building and reordering the sanctuary.

A modern design of 1968-9, job architect Cyril Horsley of Sandy & Norris & Partners, Stafford. The design went through a number of changes during its long gestation period and ended up rather simpler than indicated in the plans at figures 1-3. The main space is square with chamfered-off corners. The walls are faced with red-brown brick. There is a prominent copper roof, rising to a small apex giving light over the sanctuary area below. This and the small windows just below roof level are the only source of natural light. A large glazed narthex forms the entrance within the main footprint of the building. In the opposite corner from this is the sanctuary. 

Internally the walls are faced with light brown bricks. The seating is arranged to focus upon the sanctuary. Over the whole space is a boarded ceiling. There is a contemporary presbytery in matching materials to the north, connected by a brick link structure. There are no fittings or furnishings which merit particular mention (the plain octagonal font was brought from Smallthorne church, which closed in the year that St Mary’s opened).

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Sandy & Norris

Original Date: 1969

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed