Mouldsworth - St Cuthbert by the Forest

Station Road, Mouldsworth, Cheshire CH3

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A late, distinctive and little-altered rural church by the notable post- war Catholic architect F. X. Velarde. The brick-faced interior with its wide pointed arches has an Arts and Crafts character, reminiscent of the churches of Prior and Lethaby. The church contains good sculptural detail. The campanile is a local landmark and a characteristic Velarde design.

In response to an influx of Irish seasonal farm workers, Mass was first said in Mouldsworth by priests from St Werburgh’s in 1926, in a pavilion at the back of the Station Hotel, then owned by the Spann family. Margaret Spann bought the site for the church from the Northgate brewery and presented it to the Diocese. Plans were produced in 1953, and successful fundraising carried out in the community, with contributions from non Catholics as well as local Catholic families. The church was opened in September 1955 by Bishop Murphy, at a final cost of £7,000. The detached campanile, designed in 1954, cost £1,000; a large pieta planned for the elevation facing the road was not installed.

Mouldsworth was served by priests from St Werbergh’s until c.1958 when St Cuthbert’s became part of Tarporley parish. In 1976 the altar was moved forward and one of the sanctuary steps removed.

St Cuthbert’s is designed with a conventional plan form but with post-war detailing that provides its distinctive character.  The church is orientated with the sanctuary to the west, but for this description this will be referred to as the liturgical east end. The building is faced in Blockley Park Royal bricks laid in stretcher bond, with reconstituted stone detailing, and a pitched roof of red Staffordshire tiles with three large decorative metal crosses on the ridge. The church is entered from the north side into a narthex. The north elevation is four bays long, with paired lancet windows between substantial brick buttresses. Each window has a reconstituted stone or concrete angel figure to the window million. The south elevation is identical, but with three window bays and a hipped-roof sacristy with square-headed lancets near the east end. The double gabled narthex fronts the west end, with two diamond-shaped windows. The sanctuary has a semi-circular apse, blind to the east and lit by paired north  and  south  windows. The detached campanile,  faced  in  matching brick, is located at the northwest corner of the church, with a doorway opposite the main door into the church.  The north wall is slightly battered, with a stone or concrete-faced bellcote and pyramidal copper roof surmounted by a metal cross; the design is a smaller version of those used by Velarde at St Teresa, Up Holland (1955-7; grade II) and St Alexander’s Bootle (demolished). An electronic loudspeaker system has replaced the bells.

The aisleless interior is faced with fair-faced grey bricks (Buckley Junction mixed) for the walls and the large pointed arches that define the four bays of the nave. The windows  are  the  same  internally  as externally, with reconstituted stone angel carvings. The metal-framed lancets have attractive clear and turquoise double-rolled Cathedral glass. Two doors to the south lead to the sacristy and confessional, with cast-concrete lintels with a simple design of three crosses. The narthex at the west end contains a small chapel, open to the nave, and the entrance porch with modern timber  double doors. The narthex windows have clear  glazing.  The nave floor is carpeted and the ceiling boarded and painted between the rafters. The apsed sanctuary contains an altar with a simple gilt relief design, possibly by Velarde (compare  with  the  altar and  font at Up Holland);  the  sanctuary  floor,  originally terrazzo  (seen on a photograph on the church website) is  now  carpeted.  Timber furnishings include a simple modern timber ambo and a crucifix suspended from the sanctuary arch. The pine bench pews were installed in 1980 and are the third set of seating (the first seating was apparently second-hand and not by Velarde). The organ also dates from 1980, and the light fittings and timber doors may be of a similar date. A brass plaque on the west wall commemorates Margaret and George Spann, benefactors. The Stations of the Cross, carved in the South Tyrol, date from the 1950s.

Diocese: Shrewsbury

Architect: F. X. Velarde

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed