Minehead - Sacred Heart

Townsend Road, Minehead, Somerset TA24

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A small Gothic Revival church in Early English style, one of several churches in the diocese by Canon A. J. C. Scoles. Externally modest, the church has rich and elaborate sanctuary furnishings and a full set of stained glass windows by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. The church and the slightly later presbytery make a positive contribution to the conservation area.

The mission was founded by the nuns of the Third Order Regular of St Francis who had come to Taunton from Bruges via Winchester. In 1891, they rented a house with a thatched barn in Selbourne Place. The barn was blessed and opened as a chapel on 25 June 1891. In October 1895, a plot of one acre was acquired by the diocese from the Luttrell Estate for £450. The foundation stone for the present church was laid on 9 April 1896 by Bishop Brownlow who opened the completed building on 15 September the same year. The architect was Canon A. J. C. Scoles, and the builder was W. Harrison of Minehead. The cost of the building was £737. The presbytery was built shortly afterwards for £610.

On 10 September 1898, a new high altar and reredos were blessed. In 1900, a side aisle was added by Scoles, costing £300. Probably at the same time, the original Lady Chapel (now at the west of the new aisle) was converted into a baptistery. In 1901, an organ was installed. An important benefactress was Dame Charlotte Louisa van Straubenzee (died 1900) who left £1,200 in her will for the mission at Minehead. At some point after 1906, an additional arch between the sanctuary and the Lady Chapel was formed and the current Lady Chapel altar and reredos installed.

The parish hall was built in October 1927 (architect: Frank Wills & Sons, Bristol). Also during the interwar years a small flower sacristy was built behind the sacristy.

In 1982, the church was reordered and two years later it was extended with a flat-roofed narthex, while the old north porch was converted into a confessional. Recently, the font has been moved out of the baptistery, in preparation for conversion of the latter to a confessional. The north porch is used again as a porch for special occasions. 

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

The church was built in 1896, comprising a nave and apse, as well as a north porch and a small south chapel. In 1900 a new aisle was added. In 1984, the church was further extended with a narthex containing a WC, a small room and a new gallery stair.

The church was built using Alcombe red sandstone with Bath stone dressings. The pitched roofs have decorative ridge tiles and double Roman tiles, the same as used by Scoles at Yeovil (qv). In the centre of the nave roof is a metal ventilator. The plan is oblong, of a nave and south chapel. The west gable has a cusped rose window and a niche with a small statue of the Sacred Heart (a recent replica of the original) flanked by louvred ventilation openings. The 1984 narthex has stone dressings and render whose colour matches that of the church’s sandstone. The south elevation of the Lady Chapel has four pairs of lancet windows. The chapel’s east window is a small quatrefoil. The north side of the nave has three pairs of lancets, as well as the gabled northwest porch. Of the originally four lancets in the apse, three remain; one was lost following the formation of an arch into the Lady Chapel.

The nave and chapel both have waggon roofs. The organ gallery at the west end is accessed from the narthex by a modern (1980s) stair. Below the gallery is the octagonal stone font which now stands beside the entrance to the former baptistery (originally the Lady Chapel). This is a small space under a cross roof, with one lancet window to the west, a tiled floor and wrought-iron gates. It is separated from the aisle by a stone screen (c.1900s) of three crocketed ogee arches, of which the central one holds a carved panel of the Baptism of Christ. Two two-centred arches on octagonal pillars link nave and chapel.

The apse ceiling is painted with stars, religious monograms, the instruments of the Passion, vines and an inscription (pre-1906, by parishioner Arthur Lincoln Cox). The stone pulpit to the north is carved with a central Crucifixion scene. The altar rails (possibly of the interwar period) have cusped ogee arches alternating with statuettes in niches, under an alabaster rail (the metal gates are currently in store). The high altar has lost the original mensa but the frontal carving of the Last Supper has been reinstated below the reredos. The reredos has a triangular composition, with four angels flanking the tabernacle and canopied monstrance throne (the upper part of the canopy is currently in store). On either side are statues of the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary, under Gothic canopies. A fine brass sanctuary lamp (possibly by Hardman) with three angel figures hangs from the painted ceiling.

The post-1906 arch between sanctuary and Lady Chapel is filled by a wrought-iron screen with gilded fleurs-de-lys, Sacred Heart emblems and vines. The easternmost panels of the chapel ceiling are painted with angels and Marian scenes. Beside the altar rails (which match the sanctuary rails) is a statue of St Joseph on an elaborate pedestal and under a Gothic canopy. The frontal of the Lady altar depicts the Marian apparition at Lourdes. Above is a statue of the Virgin Mary in a vesica of coloured marble under a short Gothic canopy and flanked by angels on marble colonnettes and kneeling angels of alabaster.

The Stations of the Cross are painted plaster casts (possibly Belgian and of c.1910). All of the windows have stained glass (1899-1907) by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. Although only one window is actually signed, the attribution of all the windows to Hardman is convincing and accepted by The Buildings of England.

Last updated: 20.11.17.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Canon A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1896

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1900

Listed Grade: Grade II