Taunton - St George

Billet Street, Taunton, Somerset, TA1

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A fine, large urban church in Decorated Gothic style, with a prominent and slightly later tower. The stately interior contains a number of important furnishings and fittings, including the reredos (attributed to C. F. Hansom), a stained glass window by Morris & Co., and a west window by Patrick Reyntiens. The church forms a good group with the adjacent rectory.

The Taunton mission was established in the 1780s by the Rev. George Baldwin. It received further impetus after the arrival in 1808 of Franciscan nuns from Bruges, via Winchester. Fr Baldwin’s successor, the Rev. Samuel Fisher, built a small classical church in The Crescent which was dedicated to St George (1821-2, now the Masonic Hall, listed grade II*). By the 1850s, this had become too small as well as unfashionable in style, and plans were made for a larger church. The present site was bought by the nuns and Bishop Clifford laid the foundation stone on 19 August 1858. The architect was Benjamin Bucknall (who built a similar church at the same time at Abergavenny), and the builder was John Spiller of Taunton. The completed church was opened by Dr William Vaughan, Bishop of Plymouth, on 24 April 1860. In 1875, the tower was added but the spire planned by Bucknall had to be omitted for structural reasons. The church was consecrated on St George’s Day 1912.

In about 1969 the church was reordered and refurbished by Shirley-Smith & Gibson of Taunton and Bridgwater. The altar was moved forward and the sanctuary rails modified, while a new narthex was installed with a cry room. Outside, the roof was re-covered with asbestos slates, the stonework repointed, and worn tower pinnacles replaced in artificial stone. In 1991, the current parish centre replaced the parish hall of 1933.

On 4 October 1997, the body of Joseph William Hendren OSF, first Bishop of Clifton and later Bishop of Nottingham, was reinterred in the grounds of St George’s church. For the church’s 150thanniversary, a west window designed by Patrick Reyntiens was made and installed by his son, John.

The church is briefly described in the list entry (below). The following corrections and additional comments follow conventional liturgical orientation (the church actually faces southeast).

  • The church was built in 1858-60, not 1861 as stated in the list description. It also omits to mention the later (1875) date of the tower
  • The stately nave arcade is carried on clustered columns, and above this corbelled wall shafts rise up to a scissor-braced roof
  • Inside the glazed timber narthex of c.1969 is the parish First World War memorial, in the form of a large crucifix. The Second World War memorial takes the form of a stained glass window in the north aisle (depicting Saints Thomas More and John Fisher)
  • The Gothic pulpit with figures of St Mary Magdalene, St George, the Good Shepherd and a bishop is supported on coloured marble shafts
  • Opposite the pulpit, on the south side of the chancel arch is a large statue of the Sacred Heart on a pedestal with marble shafts
  • The forward altar on a Gothic arcade is the original altar which was separated from the reredos in c.1969 and given a new mensa of polished Ashburton marble
  • The original altar rails also have Gothic arcading; they were adapted in c.1969, with a widened central opening
  • The reredos with eight statues in gabled niches on either side of the tabernacle is attributed to C.F. Hansom (Buildings of England). It is flanked by matching wall arcades with larger statues of saints
  • The north side chapel has the relocated carved octagonal stone font, a Gothic reredos of five empty niches, and an altar frontal depicting the Death of St Joseph
  • The Lady Chapel at the south has a similar Gothic reredos with statues of the Virgin Mary and female saints, as well as reliefs depicting the Adoration and the Visitation
  • The designers and makers of the most of the stained glass windows are largely unknown. At the east end of the north aisle is a window of Saints Philip and James signed by William Morris & Co. The west window depicting Christ in Majesty is by Patrick Reyntiens (2009, photo bottom right at top of report). The large east window of c.1860 depicts the Virgin Mary and St George flanked by Saints Dunstan, Joseph, Walpurga and Boniface
  • The Stations of the Cross are by Tom Preater of Taunton (1977).

 LIST DESCRIPTION:

Name: THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ST GEORGE

List entry Number: 1231201

Grade: II*

Date first listed: 04-Jul-1975

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

 

Details

 

5365 BILLET STREET (South End)

 

ST 2324 SW14/172 The Roman Catholic Church of St George

 

II*

 

Quite a large church with ambitious west tower looking down Billet Street. 1861 by B Bucknell. In an early C14 style. Red rubble with ashlar dressings. Clerestoried nave with aisles, chancel with side chapels. West tower with corner buttresses, a large Decorated style west window and long traceried bell openings. Openwork parapet with corner pinnacles. Organ gallery under vault of west tower. Decorated cast window with colourful stained glass. Large and elaborate stone reredos. Nave aisles have lean-to roofs. Open timber roofs supported by wall shafts to nave and chancel. Carved angels playing musical instruments on corbels of nave roof.

 

Listing NGR: ST2303824292

 

Rectory

 

Name: RECTORY ADJOINING THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURHC OF ST GEORGE

List entry Number: 1060068

Grade: II

Date first listed: 04-Jul-1975

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

 

1. BILLET STREET 5367 (South End) Rectory adjoining the Roman Catholic Church of St George ST 2324 SW 14/173

 

II GV

 

Set well back from the road to the west of the church and attached. Probably after 1861. In a late medieval or Tudor style. 2 storeys with gabled wing coming forward on right. White brick with ashlar dressings. Patterned slate roofs, weathered string over ground floor. Large stacks with chimneys set diagonally. 4 windows with small gabled dormers to 1st floor. Paired lights under rectangular dripmoulds, 2 storey porch in centre with diagonal buttresses. Large 4-centred entrance arch.

 

St George's Roman Catholic Church and the Rectory form a group.

 

Listing NGR: ST2302124269

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Benjamin Bucknall

Original Date: 1860

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*