Trowbridge - St John the Baptist

Wingfield Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire BA14

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An early church by A. J. C. Scoles, and unusually for him in Decorated Gothic style. Originally built in part to serve the needs of soldiers in the Trowbridge garrison, the building has seen several phases of enlargement and alteration, most recently in the 1990s. These have considerably changed its character, but the building remains of local interest, and makes a positive contribution to the conservation area. 

Trowbridge had few if any resident Catholics in the first half of the nineteenth century, but there were Catholics among the soldiers in the military garrison, and the army arranged to provide a regular Mass from 1873. One of the visiting priests was the Rev. Everard Arundell, who persuaded his brother, Lord Arundell of Wardour, to purchase a site in Wingfield Road for a purpose-built church for the town. The building, originally comprising a three-bay nave and short sanctuary, was an early design by Fr (later Canon) A. J. C. Scoles; F. & G. Brown of Frome were the builders. Mrs Helen Brymer, a convert, was a major benefactor. The foundation stone was laid on 11 November 1875 and the church opened on 27 June 1876. For a time it was served from Bath, and it appears that there was no resident priest in Trowbridge until the arrival of Dom George Hubert in 1902. He procured the building of a new presbytery immediately east of the church and in 1907 employed A. J. C. Scoles to enlarge the church by adding one bay to the west end of the nave and replacing the original timber south porch with one of stone. Scoles also designed a new Caen stone, marble and alabaster high altar and reredos. 

No further significant alterations were made to the church until 1957, when the architect Hugh Bankart of Kingsdown, Box, added a western narthex with a new main entrance, converted the south porch to a baptistery, replaced the timber west gallery in concrete, and added a Lady Chapel. New benches were also provided.

A major reordering was carried out in 1973, when Canon Scoles's altar and other furnishings were removed, although the reredos was left in place. A new altar designed by Robert Townsend of Durrington, Salisbury, was consecrated by Bishop Alexander in June 1976, at the time of the church’s centenary.

Shortly after the appointment of Fr O'Driscoll in 1990, the church was considerably enlarged. The sanctuary was extended by one bay and flat-roofed transepts added on either side. This work entailed the demolition of the presbyteryand the building of a new one behind the church. The architect for all these works was Anthony Stocken of Salisbury. At about the same time the nave benches were replaced by chairs and an elaborate marble font, pulpit and altar were imported from the redundant church of St Luke (Church in Wales), Pontypool. Bishop Alexander consecrated the church and altar on 18 May 1992. In 1996 a link was built between the new presbytery and the sacristy.

The original church was designed in fourteenth century-Gothic style (unusually for Scoles, who tended to favour a lancet Gothic style) and most of the later additions have a more or less Gothic flavour. The plan of the building now comprises an aisleless nave with a western narthex, two porch projections on the south side of the nave, a Lady Chapel on the north side and a chancel with modern flat-roofed north and south transepts. The external walls are of stone ashlar for the older work and artificial stone for the 1990s additions, with the earlier stone window surrounds re-used. The pitched roof over the nave and chancel is covered in tiles. The steeply-gabled west end has diagonal buttresses, a three-light traceried window and a bellcote at the gable head.  Below the window is a flat-roofed narthex projection with canted corners and a pointed entrance doorway on the south side. The south side of the nave itself is of four bays, with two-light traceried windows in the first and third bays, the former south porch in the second bay and a modern flat-roofed porch in the fourth bay. Beyond the porch is the rectangular projection of the south transept which is three bays long with a re-used two-light window in the central bay. The new east wall of the enlarged chancel has a large rose window in the gable, reset from the original east wall, and the east walls of both flanking transepts have reset two-light windows.

The interior is plastered and painted. The four-bay nave roof is boarded and has arch-braces carried down onto stone corbels. The western bay contains the gallery inserted in the 1950, which spans across the church with no supports. A pointed arched opening in the northeast bay leads to the Lady Chapel. The tall stone chancel arch is carried on marble wall shafts resting on carved stone corbels. The chancel itself has full-length openings on either side to the modern transepts and the chancel ceiling is also modern. Canon Scoles's reredos has been reset on the east wall, slightly lowered. Stained glass is mostly of the 1960s and 70s but there is a two-light window to Margaret Paton, depicting the Virgin and Child and St Margaret, by the Chipping Campden artist Paul Woodroffe, dated 1922, and another two-light window (Baptism of Our Lord, Christ Preaching) in the style of Harry Horwood. Otherwise, most of the fittings and furnishings are modern, or have been imported recently; the latter include an elaborate marble font with openwork ogee wooden cover, marble pulpit and altar with clustered marble colonettes. The seating consists of chairs rather than benches or pews and the floors are carpeted.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: A. J. C. Scoles; Hugh Bankart; Anthony Stocken

Original Date: 1876

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1907; 1957; 1991-2

Listed Grade: Not listed