Stow-on-the-Wold - Our Lady and St Kenelm

Back Walls, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire GL54

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A small and plain 1830s Tudor-style building which was originally a Church of England school with school house. Acquired for Catholic use in the twentieth century, it has been completely refitted in recent times and has a clean, light interior. The building makes a positive contribution to the local conservation area.

Before the First World War the Catholic churches in the area were at Chipping Campden (founded 1854) and Chipping Norton (founded 1836). Then, with an influx of displaced persons from Belgium, Mass centres were set up at Moreton-in-Marsh and at Stow-on-the-Wold. They were served from Chipping Campden but Mass was discontinued in 1917 after the number of refugees dwindled. But after the war a young French layman, Count George de Serionne, gained permission to establish a mission at Stow and rented the disused Church of England infant school, a building of 1836 which had closed in 1908 and become a builder’s store. The first Mass was said here in 1918. In 1921 he bought it and handed it to the diocese in 1941. At first the schoolhouse was used as the presbytery but after the building of a new presbytery in 1965, the ground floor was opened up to the church to create extra seating and the upper floor turned into a hall. The church was completely refitted in 2014.

The inclusion of St Kenelm in the dedication recalls the boy-king martyr of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, the chief centre of which was Winchcombe. 

The church is built of semi-dressed local stone with ashlar dressings under a Welsh slate roof and is lit by two-light mullioned and diamond-leaded windows with hoodmoulds (three on the south, two on the north). The nave is a small, plain rectangle with a western projection into the former school house.

Inside the walls are plastered and painted off-white (the finish dates from a major refurbishment in 2014). The roof structure seems original to 1836 and has tie-beams with crown-posts and struts. All the fittings are modern and of sensitive design, including a window of c.1950 by Donald Brooke, late Arts and Crafts in style.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Not known

Original Date: 1836

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed