Chesterfield - The Annunciation

Spencer Street, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 4SD

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An interesting and important work of J. A. Hansom, which although built incrementally retains architectural coherence and a powerful presence. The interior is visually striking and incorporates good quality stained glass and statuary, although post-Vatican II reordering was unsympathetic. With Samuel Rollinson’s presbytery and former school, the church forms a distinctive group in the Spencer Street Conservation Area.

The church of the Annunciation was founded from Spinkhill, where the church of the Immaculate Conception (qv) had been built in 1844-6. In 1851, the Rev. Thomas Hill of Spinkhill led a mission to Chesterfield. At this time Catholics had been attending services at the chapel at Wingerworth Hall (demolished) and later met at rooms in the Chesterfield suburb of Birdholme. Joseph Aloysius Hansom, architect of the Spinkhill church, drew up plans for a church on Spencer Street, near the centre of Chesterfield, for which the foundation stone was laid in 1852. The building was opened in 1854. A chancel was added in 1856. Major improvements of unspecified nature were undertaken in 1868, and some sources suggest the church was consecrated in 1862. By 1873 the local Catholic population had increased greatly partly as a result of the growth of local industry. Hansom was re-engaged to enlarge the church to twice the size. He added the Lady Chapel and south aisle in 1874, and the church, including the added west end, was complete in 1877. In 1889 William Arkwright of Sutton Scarsdale Hall donated furnishings, vestments and a statue. He had donated the east window in 1884.  A new pulpit was added in 1887. Various stained glass windows were installed, mainly by the Hardman firm, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A war memorial taking the form of a crucifix was unveiled in 1919. 

The church was completed incrementally, but is cohesive and architecturally successful, incorporating what Nikolaus Pevsner described as Westwork, or a big broad tower-like structure at the west end. It is thought that a full tower or spire was intended, but never built. The Lady Chapel and south aisle, later additions, are expressed externally as a row of low transverse gabled bays, the first time Hansom used this motif. Other typical details of the architect are the use of Decorated-style window tracery and spherical-triangular clerestory windows.

Inside, the incremental building history is revealed in compartmentalisation of the roof elements and in the manner in which the nave narrows towards the east end, before broadening out again. There is a narthex beneath a west gallery, which houses the organ. A double colonnade separates the sanctuary from the Lady Chapel, which retains fine brass and ironwork altar rails. Furnishings include an elaborate canopy of coloured marbles which is said to have been part of the high altar, used as a setting for a statue. The altar was installed in the late nineteenth century and is attributed in the church guidebook to Sebastian Pugin Powell. Stained glass, largely by Hardmans, is generally of high quality. A good window in the south aisle is dated 1949 and signed Earley of Dublin (lower right photograph at top of report). In the narthex there is scheme of stained glass of circa 2000 made to the designs of Michael Murphy. The church has good statuary, including a figure of St Patrick by Wall of Cheltenham (1889), a Sacred Heart by Mayer of Munich, a white marble Pietà after Michelangelo and a marble statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The organ is a fine example of a ‘Father Willis’ instrument built in 1881. Mosaic Stations of the Cross are probably those installed in 1921, obtained from the Benedict Ecclesiastical Art Company, which supplied the war memorial.  There is bench seating, probably of early twentieth century date. 

LIST DESCRIPTION:

II

 

1854. Architect Joseph Hansom. West end added in 1874. Coursed stone rubble with quoins and string courses. Tall tower-like west end with hipped slate roof and corner turret with short spire above a band of Gothic windows. West end has large window flanked by buttresses with 1, 3 and 1 windows above. Aisles have gabled windows. Porch and rear Chapel. Interior of unusual design with aisles curving into centre, trefoil clerestory windows and narrow chancel.

 

Listing NGR: SK3799671541

Diocese: Hallam

Architect: J. A. Hansom

Original Date: 1854

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1856; 1874-7

Listed Grade: Not listed