Armthorpe - Our Lady of Sorrows and St Francis

Mere Lane, Armthorpe, Doncaster, DN3

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A post-war church built to serve a mining community, a design very much of its time and retaining many of its original furnishings.

Markham Main Colliery opened at Armthorpe at the beginning of the twentieth century, and a number of housing developments followed in the 1920s and 1930s. With an increasing Catholic population in the area, a temporary wooden structure was built as part of Mere Lane School and was in use as a Mass centre from 1921-2, served by priests from St Peter, Doncaster. In 1929, a Motor Mission visited Armthorpe and began a fundraising campaign for a new church. The church of St Francis of Assisi was built in 1930, replacing the wooden structure, and in 1935 the parish of St Thomas of Canterbury (Armthorpe and Kirk Sandall) was erected.  

In 1957 a parish reorganisation resulted in Armthorpe becoming the centre and St Thomas of Canterbury at Kirk Sandall a chapel-of-ease, a reversal of the previous arrangement. Construction of a permanent new church dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows and St Francis began on 1 May 1958 and the completed church was opened by the Bishop of Leeds on 14 March 1959. This was designed by Evan E. Morgan FRIBA of Park Row, Leeds and built by Messrs C. Earnshaw (Rotherham) Ltd; it seated 240 and the approximate cost was £18,500. 

The present external appearance of the church is very little different from that of 1959. The original appearance of the interior is shown at figure 2; the high altar and its painted canopy, the panelled pulpit and communion rails were all removed in post-Vatican II reordering. The present appearance is described below. The church was dedicated on 14 March 1984. The former church of St Francis, which became a parish hall after the church was built, was demolished in recent years.

The church was built to the designs of Evan E. Morgan of Leeds in 1959. The external walls are faced with hand-made Leicestershire silver grey bricks, the roof is covered in copper and there are projecting artificial stone surrounds to the windows. The building is rectangular on plan, consisting of a small narthex with gallery over, nave, sanctuary, confessional and sacristy.

The west front has a recessed central bay with a six-light window with sections of cream coloured tiling above and a facing bronze cross; above this, a copper fleche surmounted by a cross. An entrance canopy supported by fluted bronze pillars encloses entrance doors of walnut and ebony with vert royal marble surrounds. The north and south sides have four large vertical windows and a high circular window before the entrance to the sanctuary. To the south is a small projection forming the Lady Chapel while to the north is a small block containing sacristies and linking the church to the presbytery.

The interior has plainly painted walls, a flat ceiling with acoustic tiles, carpeted circulation areas and African walnut parquet flooring beneath the oak pews. The west gallery is raised over a small entrance area or narthex and has a canted, timber-clad front; it is reached by a concrete spiral staircase. The sanctuary is of similar width to the gallery and is raised by three steps, with a forward stone altar and a further step to the tabernacle stand against the east wall. Dado panelling in the sanctuary includes a pair of raised segmental-headed panels, the backdrop for two shrines, with a central reredos in timber, painted burgundy and a modern catalogue carving of the Risen Christ. The nave is lit by four large tall windows of Flemish glass. There are two modern stained glass windows (artist/maker not established), one to the right of the sanctuary and another at the west end, with coloured hexagonal panels on a clear background.

Diocese: Hallam

Architect: Evan E. Morgan

Original Date: 1959

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed