Abbeydale, Sheffield - Mother of God and St Wilfrid

Abbeydale Road, Abbeydale, Sheffield, S7

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Built in Early English Gothic style by the Sheffield architects Hemsoll & Paterson, the church opened in 1901 as Abbeydale Congregational Church. It has been in Roman Catholic use since 1952, and was extensively reordered by John Rochford & Partners in 1980. The church and adjoining former school (by the same architects) are prominent features in the local townscape.  

St Wilfrid’s was the last Sheffield mission to be established in the late nineteenth century, following St Vincent’s and St Catherine’s. In the 1870s, Canon Walshaw founded a mission from St Marie’s to serve the inner suburbs south of the city centre, in Heeley, Highfield and Sharrow. The Duke of Norfolk paid for the purchase of a large site on the corner of Queen’s Road and Shoreham Street, for school buildings, built to the designs of M. E. Hadfield & Son (the building to the rear in figure 1). The site was large enough to allow for a future permanent church and presbytery, but these were not to be realised. High Mass was celebrated for the first time in the school chapel on 15 October 1879 by Bishop Cornthwaite of Leeds, and the schools were blessed and opened on 23 November 1879 by Fr Julius de Baere.

During the Second World War the school buildings and associated buildings were damaged. Fr Dunlevy said Mass in a temporary weekday chapel at the presbytery and at other temporary venues including the Abbeydale Cinema, and also arranged for the purchase of 9 Machon Bank Road to serve as a presbytery and small Mass centre.

More satisfactory provision became possible with the purchase in the early 1950s of a former nonconformist chapel on Abbeydale Road. The foundation stone for this had been laid on 26 June 1899 and it had opened as Abbeydale Congregational Church in 1901. Neighbouring the church is the former school built in 1883-84. Both buildings were built to the designs of Sheffield architects Hemsoll & Paterson. The chapel opened for Catholic worship in 1952. It was extensively reordered c1980 by John Rochford & Partners , when the sanctuary was moved forward and the sanctuary arch enclosed. Behind this a Lady Chapel was created in the former sanctuary, with two inserted floors above providing parish rooms. In the main worship space, the pews were rearranged to provide a central alley and the ceiling was renewed.  

The former Congregational church was designed in Early English Gothic style by Hemsoll & Paterson in 1899-1901. It opened for Catholic worship in 1952, and was reordered and adapted c1980. It is built in rock-faced sandstone with chamfered plinths, steeply-pitched Welsh slate roofs with coped verges. On plan it comprises a narthex, west gallery with stair towers, four-bay aisleless nave with transepts, sanctuary and eastern Lady Chapel. The sanctuary is orientated roughly to the north-west and in this account liturgical compass will be used.

The symmetrical west front facing Abbeydale Road is slightly elevated above road level, emphasising the verticality of the design. The flat-roofed narthex projects from the main body of the church, framed between large raking buttresses with gablets. The entrance is a pointed doorway with oak doors, flanked by narrow buttresses and triple lancet windows. On the narthex roof is a crucifix and figures of St John and Our Lady. Above the narthex, the west window is set within a large pointed arched panel and consists of a three-light pointed window flanked by two-light windows, all with plate tracery. The west elevation is flanked by flat-roofed polygonal stair turrets with stepped buttresses and cusped lights, containing staircases to the west gallery. The entrances have square-headed stone doorways, the north one inscribed ‘Ladies Bible Class’ and the south ‘Men’s Bible Class’, associated with the former Congregational church. The nave side elevations have three triple-lancet windows at high level, set within pointed arches between stepped buttresses marking the bay divisions, and  four-light mullioned windows below, with segmental heads. The gabled transepts each have corner buttresses  and a large pointed high level window similar to the west window, a pair of thee-light windows separated by a small buttress below. The eastern bay has a four-light mullioned window and to the south side, a chamfered doorway with hood mould. The east end is plainly detailed, and lit by a five-light pointed window now containing five contemporary windows installed as part of the reordering in 1980.

Internally, the main entrance leads into a narthex. The wide, well-lit aisleless nave has a hammerbeam-type roof supported on stone corbels, with exposed rafters and purlins. The flooring is carpeted. There is a choir gallery at the west end supported on four oak posts, containing a pipe organ by Albert Keates, 1892. The nave walls are plastered above tongue and groove dado panelling, which is also a feature of the choir gallery. The spacious sanctuary platform is raised by four steps, in front of the chancel arch which was infilled as part of the reordering of c1980. This work, by John Rochford & Partners, included strips of glazing within the arch infill in the form of an asymmetric cross, and a double-sided tabernacle serving both the sanctuary and Lady Chapel behind. The sanctuary is side-lit by the transept windows, with a forward marble altar and stone font. The Stations of the Cross are in arched frames in low relief. The church retains its original oak pews, rearranged in 1980 to allow for a central alley. 

Diocese: Hallam

Architect: Hemsoll & Paterson

Original Date: 1901

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed