Wolverhampton -St Peter and St Paul

North Street, Wolverhampton WV1

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A highly important church in the history of Midlands Catholicism. It adjoins the early eighteenth century Giffard House, home of the Vicars Apostolic of the Midland District, including Bishop Milner, in whose memory the church was built, and who lies buried in the crypt. It is a major neo-classical design by Joseph Ireland, and underwent an exemplary reordering in 2009. With Giffard House it occupies a prominent position in the city centre conservation area. 

Wolverhampton has a long recusant history and for 200 years was the centre for the Catholic Church for the Midlands, East Anglia and the Welsh Marches. In this respect it owes much to the Catholic Giffard family of Chillington. Bonaventure Giffard (1642-1734) served as Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District from 1687 to 1703 and then of London until his death.  Soon after the succession of William and Mary in 1688 a Mass centre was established in North Street, at the home of Miss Elizabeth Giffard. This was on the site of the present Giffard House, the family’s town house built between 1728 and 1733 from designs by Francis Smith of Warwick, which served as a Mass house and priest’s residence.

In 1804 Giffard House became the headquarters of the Midland District and home to Bishop John Milner, Vicar Apostolic. Shortly before his death in 1826, Milner met the architect Joseph Ireland (then working on the designs for St Mary, Walsall, qv) to discuss the extension of the church, or a wholly new church. Milner was an antiquary and a leading figure in the archaeologically correct revival of Gothic; he built a chapel at Winchester from designs by John Carter. Ireland prepared designs for Wolverhampton ‘in the Gothic style of Henry VII’ (quoted in Little, p. 64), but Milner died before these could be advanced.  With the £1000 Milner had bequeathed, it was decided to build a large nave and two transepts onto the house, adopting a grand Grecian classical manner. The church was to be a memorial to Milner, who was buried in the crypt. Work was begun in 1826 and the church was opened on 8 May 1828, when Dr Weedall (future patron of Pugin) preached. 

In 1901 the south chapel and a sacristy were added, from designs by Edward Goldie. The north chapel dates from about 1920. 

In the 1960s there were proposals to build a ring road, which would have involved the dismantling of the church and its relocation elsewhere. These plans were fiercely resisted by local Catholics and many other townspeople. Eventually the plans were revised to allow for the retention of the church in situ, although the school was demolished along with Milner Hall (the parish hall). Construction of the ring road led to instability of the church structure, which experienced deterioration (e.g. dry rot in the woodwork), resulting in the interior being scaffolded for twenty years. However, it was repaired and reordered in 1986-9.

A further reordering took place in 2009 under the architect Stephen Oliver of Rodney Melville Associates, Leamington Spa, following a legacy from two brothers in the Armstrong family. This work won the 2009 President’s Award of the Ecclesiastical and Surveyors Association and was carried out by M. Parton, builders, of Wolverhampton; it incorporates artwork by Katherine Worthington and Rory Young.

See the detailed list entry, below. Since the preparation of this, the church has again been reordered (2009). This provided four wooden steps up from the nave to a tiled area which is followed by a white marble step to a buff marble floor on which stands a suite of new marble sanctuary furnishings by Katherine Worthington. This includes a grey marble altar on a massive fluted columnar base, lectern, credence table, and pedimented tabernacle. The font also dates from 2009, and stands on a fluted base. Over the tabernacle is a fine aluminium Christus Triumphans crucifix by Rory Young. 


List entry Number: 1201844

Grade: II*

Date first listed: 16-Jul-1949

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Mar-1992



SO9198NW NORTH STREET 895-1/11/272 (West side)


Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul




Formerly known as: Catholic Church of St Mary and St John. Catholic church. Sanctuary and transepts part of Giffard House (q.v.) adapted from chapel; nave, 1826-8, by J. Ireland; south chapel and sacristy, 1901, by E. Goldie; north chapel, c1920. Stucco with ashlar dressings, parapeted roof. Greek Revival style influenced by J. Soane. 4-bay nave to west and south chapel to south of Giffard House. (q.v.). Re-entrant 2-storey, 3 x 3-bay sacristy and south porch; north chapel to north of Giffard House. Nave has paired flat and angle pilasters to angles, entablature and clerestory with pilaster strips and cornice with blocking course; west window with battered architrave, frieze and cornice, small-paned fixed glazing, similar blind window to 2nd bay of south elevation; clerestory has lunettes with archivolts, that to west blind; porch has angle pilasters, entablature and coped parapet with statues of SS Peter and Paul; north elevation has altar with incised cross. South transept has similar treatment, south window has panelled sill and stained glass. Sacristy is similar, with 12-pane horned sashes. Iron area railings and 2 panelled piers. North chapel is plain, of brick with tile roof and skylight, round-headed windows.


INTERIOR: flat pilasters with honeysuckle capitals and tunnel vault with coffered ribs between roses, west gallery with organ. 4 paintings of Evangelists in architraves, late C18, Italian School; wall memorial brasses of kneeling figures and large brass to Bishop John Milner (d.1826), probably by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Altar apse has former high altar moved from sanctuary 1989, late C19, multi-coloured marble with tabernacle and throne. Sanctuary has coffered dome with entablature on pendentives and lantern with incised pattern; altar apse. South chapel has dome on Ionic columns with lantern; altar recess has coffered vault, rich sarcophagus altar with wood reredos with twisted pilasters, swan-necked pediment and shell vault; altarpiece moved here, 1901; marble altar rail with wrought-iron gates, from high altar; crucifix in rich wrought-iron setting to west. North chapel has 3-bay Tuscan arcade, tunnel vault and saucer dome to east end which has relief figures; 3 windows have stained glass, probably parts of C14 or C15 Jesse window (or could be early C19 work based on window in St Mary's, Shrewsbury).


An important early post-Reformation Catholic church with connections with Bishop Milner, who was an important figure in the era of Catholic emancipation and is buried in the crypt; the interior is one of Ireland's best works. The church forms an integral unit with Giffard House. (The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Staffordshire: London: P.316; Robinson JM: Report on the Church of St Peter and St Paul: 1979).


Listing NGR: SO9125798890

Presbytery (Giffard House)


List entry Number: 1282478

Grade: II*

Date first listed: 16-Jul-1949

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Mar-1992


WOLVERHAMPTON SO9198NW NORTH STREET 895-1/11/273 (West side)

Giffard House (Presbytery of Church of SS Peter and Paul (q.v.)




Shown on O.S. map as Presbytery. Presbytery and chapel, the chapel and rest of west part of building now part of Church of St Peter and St Paul (q.v.), 1727-9. By F. Smith of Warwick for Catholic church, but in name of P. Giffard. Brick with stone dressings; hipped tile roof with flat centre and brick stacks. Double-depth plan. Early Georgian style. 3 storeys; 5-window range with top cornice and quoins. Windows have brick segmental arches with fielded-panelled keys and horned sashes with moulded frames, of 15 panes to ground floor, 12 panes to 1st floor and 9 panes to 2nd floor; those to centre bay have architraves and keys. Central entrance has architrave, keystone and 6-pane overlight, 4-fielded-panel door with knocker. 2 large stacks; 2 rainwater heads with monogram and date of 1728, and square downspouts. Returns have attached chapels to church (q.v.), with mid C20 housekeeper's cottage to right.


INTERIOR has elaborate open string stair with 3 barley sugar column-on-vase balusters to the tread and ramped handrail. The house contains the earliest remaining post-Reformation public urban chapel for Catholics, now forming the sanctuary of the church, and was the home of Bishop John Milner, from 1804 until his death in 1826, an important figure in the Catholic church of the early C19 who had an important role in the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829; he left money for the building of the church, which became his memorial and burial place. (Shell County Guides: Thorold H: Staffordshire: London: 1978-: P.186; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Staffordshire: London: 1974-: P.319; Rowlands M: Wolverhampton Millennium: The Catholic Aspect: Wolverhampton: 1985-: P.10-12).


Listing NGR: SO9127198898


Gates and railings


List entry Number: 1207385

Grade: II

Date first listed: 03-Feb-1977

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Mar-1992


WOLVERHAMPTON SO9198NW NORTH STREET 895-1/11/274 (West side)

Gates and railings to E of Giffard House (q.v.)




Gates with short length of railings either side. Listed as early C18 but probably altered late C19. Wrought iron. Paired gates with enriched panels and gatepiers with urn finials; railings to either side have decorative heads to alternate balusters. Included for group value.


Listing NGR: SO9128198892

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Joseph Ireland; Edward Goldie

Original Date: 1828

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1901

Listed Grade: Grade II*