Ascot - St Francis of Assisi

Coronation Road, Ascot, Berkshire

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Church built by Father (later Canon) Alexander Joseph Cory Scoles. Scoles (1844-1920) was one of two architect-priest sons of J.J. Scoles, eminent Gothic Revival architect and receiver of a number of important Catholic commissions, particularly for the Jesuits. He was a Franciscan Tertiary and before coming to Portsmouth diocese, was for twenty-three years in the diocese of Clifton, where he designed and built churches at Bridgwater, Trowbridge and Yeovil as well as the Carmelite church and Priory at Wincanton.

After falling out with the Bishop of Clifton, Scoles moved to Portsmouth diocese, where St Francis, Ascot was his first church. He went on to build St Swithun, and St Joseph, both in Portsmouth (1901 and 1914 respectively) and also worked on the west end of the Cathedral. His best work was Holy Ghost, Basingstoke.

The founders of the church were Charles Joseph Stonor and his wife who had already built a chapel at their house, Llanvair (blessed Nov. 1886) where local Catholics were allowed to attend Mass. Stonor had come into contact with French Franciscans of the Province of Aquitaine and set about bringing them to Ascot. On 1 May Father Bernadin Ibald and Fidelis Bouille arrived and took charge of the mission. The foundation stone was laid on 8 May 1888 by Bishop Virtue who processed from Stonor’s private chapel. Bouille had been at Clevedon church which Father Scoles had designed and this no doubt helps explain the choice of architect. The builders were Goddard & Son and the cost amounted to about £2,500. The Friary was opened on 28 May and the first Mass was said in the unfinished church on Christmas Day. On 4 July 1889 the Bishop consecrated the church and dedicated it to St Francis. On 5 June 1901 Ascot technically ceased to be a mission and the boundaries of the parish were finally drawn.

There was some remodelling of the church, probably the sanctuary reordering, by Edward Campling in 1969.

It was looked after by the Franciscans until the closure of the friary, being handed to the Diocese of Portsmouth in 1980.

The church is built of red brick with Bath stone dressings in an Early English style. Concrete tile roof. It has north and south aisles and under their own gables and so presents a triple-gabled façade to the road. The west windows of the aisles have tw0-light plate tracery windows and the nave three graded lancets. A statues of the Virgin and Child is placed in the apex of the nave gable

The six-bay south elevation has a blind west bay (with a statue of St Francis in a niche) and paired lancets in the remaining bays. The eastern parts of the building comprise the chancel (containing a chapel) with a three-sided apse, Lady Chapel (south), and vestry (north), under a hipped roof. The chancel windows are single lancets but a gable with triple graded triple lancets rises over the western parts of the chancel. The Lady Chapel has a sexfoil circular window in its eastern wall and a pair of lancets on the south. A timber bell-turret sits on the chancel roof ridge.

The interior has five-bay arcades with octagonal piers, moulded capitals and double chamfered arches: there is also a sixth, blind bay. The nave roof is six-sided, those over the aisles four-sided. At the west end of the nave is a timber gallery for the organ.

The high windows above the western part of the chancel provide excellent illumination. The chancel has ribbed, timber vaulting and is divided by a stone screen behind which lies a chapel. This has seating (with misericords) round the east end and the altar is placed against the screen which on this side is faced with wood.

The fittings of most interest are seats, panelling and altar in the eastern chapel. The Lady Chapel contains a small south window signed by Mayer & Co of Munich (n.d.).

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1888

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed