Dulverton - St Stanislas

High Street, Dulverton, Somerset, TA22

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A small brick and timber-framed church, converted in 1955 from a disused agricultural building. The building is more significant for its associated personages and fittings than for its architectural qualities, which are modest. Unexpectedly, the architect for the conversion was Professor Albert Richardson, who was commissioned by his friend, Mrs Mary Herbert of Pixton Park, the mother-in-law of Evelyn Waugh. The church contains a number of high quality furnishings, including a crucifix by Eric Gill, a stained glass window by Evie Hone, and a statue by Septimus Waugh, son of Evelyn Waugh. The church and the adjacent former presbytery make a positive contribution to the conservation area.

The mission was founded during the Second World War, initially using a stable, then a former laundry building on the Pixton Park estate. After the war, Mrs Mary Herbert of Pixton Park approached her friend Professor Albert Richardson, who in 1946 prepared designs for a new church with an attached presbytery. These were abandoned when in 1954 a more centrally-located property in the High Street was acquired, comprising a house known as The Retreat, which had a large disused outbuilding. The outbuilding was converted into a church by Richardson, who waived his fee for the commission. The church opened in 1955. Several furnishings were brought from the former chapel, including a crucifix by Eric Gill. The dedication to the Polish saint Stanislaus reputedly derived from the involvement of Mrs Herbert’s son Auberon in the re-settlement of Polish soldiers after the Second World War.

The church faces southeast, but the following description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

The building was converted in 1954-5 from a former outbuilding. The plan is oblong with a small west porch, and a small former baptistery to the southwest. At the northwest is a link to the sacristy in the adjacent house. The west front, the porch and the north elevation are of brick; the porch roof is clad in copper. Wheel windows in the east and west gables provide a neo-Romanesque and ecclesiastical touch.

The structure is timber-framed, with narrow side aisles and collar-beam trusses. The barn-like interior is divided by the trusses into five bays, and is the setting for some furnishings of note. The east wall has a Portuguese dossal displayed within an architectural framework of pilasters and cornice. On either side are a sixteenth-century Hungarian statue of St Stanislaus, and a statue of St George by Septimus Waugh, a son of Evelyn Waugh. (Evelyn Waugh had married the youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Aubrey Herbert of Pixton Park.) The unpainted crucifix is by Eric Gill. The Stations of the Cross are small oblong plaster casts. The former baptistery at the southwest has a bright mural depicting the Baptism of Christ (by Richard Rothwell). A historic statue of the Virgin Mary, of unknown origin, is placed in the southwest corner of the nave. Over the west door hangs a painting of the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (by Richard Rothwell). The narthex has a slate plaque commemorating Mary Herbert (1889-1970), a benefactress of the church.

The east and west wheel windows have abstract designs made at Buckfast Abbey. Of the four windows in the north wall three have stained glass by Chinks Grylls of Cannington, depicting the gifts of the Holy Spirit, St Stanislaus, and the Virgin Mary. The last is in memory of Margaret Fitzherbert and incorporates an earlier panel by Evie Hone (figure 3). The four windows on the south side depict the symbols of the four Evangelists (by Silas Wood of Birmingham). There are two roundels at the west end: the north one has the emblem of the Apostleship of the Sea, the south one incorporates a seventeenth-century Netherlandish panel depicting St John the Evangelist (on long-term loan to the church).

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Professor A.E. Richardson (conversion)

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed