Tilsbury - The Sacred Heart

Station Road, Tisbury, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP3

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A modest Gothic church of the 1890s designed by Canon A. J. C. Scoles and largely paid for by the Arundell family of Wardour. The interior is well detailed and several of the original fitting survive. The church makes a pleasing contribution to the local conservation area. 

From 1540 until 1944 the Arundell family of Wardour provided a local Catholic focus, always with at least one Jesuit priest in their household. In 1776 the eighth Lord Arundell built a handsome Catholic chapel as part of his new mansion house of New Wardour (qv), designed by James Paine. In 1837 the chapel was registered for the solemnisation of marriage and in 1850 Wardour became a mission in the new diocese of Clifton.

In 1860 the railway reached the nearby town of Tisbury, whose population began to increase as a result. A collection for a new church was made by Fr Justin Dupuy from Wardour and a site purchased, but the money was insufficient and the site was later sold and new site given in 1896 by the twelfth Lord Arundell and his wife Lady Lucy, who also gave the building stone for the construction. Horace Chapman of Donhead House was another major benefactor. The new church was designed by Canon A. J. C. Scoles of Yeovil in his favoured lancet Gothic style. The builder was James H. Kitch of Bridgewater. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Brownlow on 13 October 1897, and the church was opened by the bishop on 3 November 1898.

During the 1920s the Dowager Lady Arundell sought to make Wardour a private chapel, with Tisbury as the parish church, but her efforts were unsuccessful. In 1934 the Jesuits withdrew from both Wardour and Tisbury, to be replaced by secular clergy. Tisbury then became the parish church, and was consecrated at this time. An early nineteenth-century house next to the church was purchased by Lady Arundell to serve as a presbytery, connected by a new link to an extended sacristy. An adjacent shop in the High Street was also acquired, to provide income (it is now a parish room).

After the death of the last Lord Arundell in 1944 the mansion at New Wardour was sold, and acquired by the Jesuits with the intention of setting up a Noviciate Centre.  In the event this use never materialised, and the building was again sold in 1959 to Cranborne Chase School. However, the Jesuit connection with the parish continued and was formally revived from 1966. In 1979 the church was reordered. The Jesuits left in 2003 and the parish has since been served by secular priests of the diocese.   

The church is a modest building in the Early English Gothic style, with walls of rock-faced Tisbury stone and roof coverings of red tiles. On plan it comprises an aisleless nave and sanctuary under a continuous roof, with a northeast Lady Chapel and a southeast sacristy, extended and linked to the presbytery by a red brick corridor in 1934. A gabled bellcote housing one bell is placed on the ridge at the junction of nave and sanctuary. The gabled west end towards the High Street has three small lancet windows in the lower part with a stepped triple lancet window above. The south wall of the nave is divided into five bays by plain buttresses, with a plain pointed doorway in the western bay. The four eastern bays have two-light trefoiled windows with a quatrefoil in plate tracery. The north wall has three windows, and the Lady Chapel under its own pitched roof. 

Inside, the walls are plastered and painted, with window surrounds and dressings of Bath stone. At the west end of the nave is an original timber gallery with a lobby beneath. The nave has a canted and boarded ceiling and the clear-glazed nave windows are set in chamfered reveals under a continuous hood moulding. At the east end of the north side, two tall moulded and pointed stone arches open into the Lady Chapel; the openings are now filled by timber and glass screens (c.1980). The chamfered and pointed stone chancel arch is carried on demi-octagonal pilaster responds with moulded capitals and bases. The sanctuary has a boarded and pointed timber ceiling and the side walls have two tall blind arches on full-height wall shafts, with two-light windows in the eastern bay on both sides.

The fittings include the original marble high altar and alabaster reredos, both given by Lucy, Lady Arundell; the present forward altar and pulpit of 1979, incorporating stone from the old altar rails; the stained glass in the east windows (Sacred Heart, Virgin Mary and St John, in the style of Lavers & Westlake) and the alabaster reredos in the Lady Chapel both date from c.1915; the present organ in the west gallery (1964 by J. W. Walker & Sons) was acquired from the Anglican church of St Nicholas, Rochester and installed in 2006; the nave benches may be the original ones.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Canon A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1898

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed