Wooton Wawen - Our Lady and St Benedict

Alcester Road, Wooton Wawen, Warwickshire B95

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The Catholic mission of Wootton Wawen is one of the oldest in England and for many years after 1677 Jesuit priests were chaplains to the Carrington family. The present church is a modest early twentieth century brick design, built as a replacement for the early nineteenth century chapel in Wootton Hall. The building has a varied and interesting collection of fittings, some brought from the earlier chapel and others (such as the fine reredos by A. H. Skipworth) from elsewhere.

After the Reformation, Mass was celebrated intermittently at Wootton Hall. The mission of Wootton Wawen is one of the oldest in England and for many years after 1677 Jesuit priests were chaplains to the Carrington family. A Greek Revival Catholic chapel was built (and survives) behind the house in 1813 for the Dowager Lady Smythe, possibly from designs by John Tasker. In 1852 a Catholic cemetery was opened near the hall, with a cross designed by A. W. Pugin. A cemetery chapel was built in 1872.

When the family sold the hall and estate at the end of the nineteenth century, a site for the present church and presbytery was given by the Dowager Lady Maria Smythe, who is buried beneath the nave. The church was opened by Bishop Ilsley in 1904. The architect was Thomas Richmond Donnelly. Some fittings from the late Georgian chapel were transferred to the new church, and there has been subsequent importation of fittings from other sources.

The church is in a simple Gothic style, with external walls of red brick laid in English bond, Bath stone dressings and roof coverings of Welsh slate. The building comprises a short, wide aisleless nave under a tall pitched roof, a short chancel, a northeast sacristy and a modern single-storey brick porch. The west front of the nave has a central pointed doorway flanked by single windows with cusped heads. The doorway is now enclosed by the modern hexagonal porch, which has a low tented roof and the main entrance canted towards the northwest. Above the porch in the west end wall of the church is an image niche with a statue of Our Lady. The niche is flanked by lancet windows with cusped heads and there is a triplet of similar lancets in the head of the gable. The nave side walls are divided into four bays by plain buttresses. On the south side the three eastern bays have pairs of cusped lancet windows. On the north side the west bay has a single lancet, the two middle bays have paired lancets, while the eastern bay is occupied by the sacristy. The sacristy has two pairs of lancets on the south side.  The east end wall is blind and the north wall abuts the presbytery.

The interior has plain plastered walls, a timber west gallery with a narthex beneath and an open timber hammerbeam roof. Seating consists of modern upholstered chairs. The tall, chamfered, pointed chancel arch is flanked by two lower niches with cusped heads containing figures of Our Lady and St Benedict. The sanctuary is raised three steps above the nave and has a rafter roof with a timber canopy set on the side purlins. The south wall has two windows of paired lights. The east end wall is blind.

Fittings of interest include the large triple reredos of painted timber with alabaster figures, which was made by A. H. Skipworth (a pupil of G. F. Bodley) for the Anglican church of St Leonard, Newark-on-Trent, where it was installed in 1888. It was brought to Wootton in 1978.  The chancel stained glass windows were brought from the chapel of Grove Park, Hampton on the Hill, when the house was demolished about 1972. The original east window from the chapel at Wootton Hall, an Annunciation, signed and dated ‘Saml Lowe 1814’, was cut down and adapted to fill the three lights of the west window. In the sacristy is a 1960s stained glass panel, in the style of Evie Hone, which was brought from the Carmelite Convent at Yardley.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: T. R. Donnelly

Original Date: 1904

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed