Station Road, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire LE65
This is a very handsome church, paid for by and built under the auspices of two noble Catholic families with strong local connections. The designer, Frederick Walters, was a distinguished Roman Catholic architect who was responsible for a number of churches in the Romanesque style, of which this is considered the best. The design of the building is assured and the standard of finish is high. In addition, the building makes a strong contribution to the local townscape and the character of the Ashby Conservation Area.
In the late 19th century the Catholic congregation of Ashby worshipped in a temporary church in Prior Park Road. It is said that Flora Hastings, Duchess of Norfolk and daughter of the Countess of Loudon left a bequest of jewellery to be sold for the purpose of building a church at her death in 1887. Her husband, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, commissioned the architect F. A. Walters to provide the design. The site was purchased in 1910 and the foundation stone was laid in August 1913. Building was interrupted by the war and by the death of the Duke in 1917 but the church was finished and in use by 1920. Walters’s original drawings for the church are in the Duke of Norfolk’s archives at Arundel Castle.
In 1936 five stained glass windows (three in the chancel and two on either side of the altar in the Lady Chapel) were installed from designs by Patrick Feeny of Hardman & Co., the gift of the late Miss Annie Wood Redfern.
The presbytery was built in 1956.
See list description below (the description is brief, and inaccurate on several points). The plan of the church comprises a nave, south aisle, southwest baptistery, southeast tower with a porch on its west side, apsidal ended sanctuary flanked by two apsidal chapels and a rectangular sacristy and choir room attached to the northeast chapel. The building material is Weldon stone throughout with roof coverings of Swithland slate. The church is in the Romanesque style, doubtless derived from French models with which Walters was very familiar, and is scholarly in both massing and detail.
The tall gabled west end has flat pilaster buttresses and a slightly projecting gabled porch with round headed doorway on attached shafts and a doorway with a double shafted surround. Above the porch are two round headed windows with a stone wheel window in the gable. The side walls are divided into bays by pilaster strips with round headed clerestorey windows and a corbel table. The aisles have lean-to roofs while the baptistery has a separate ridge roof. The east end of the church is an elaborate composition. The tall square tower has three tiers of round headed archesand a short leaded spire. Attached to the east side of the tower is a plain apsidal chapel which is balanced by a similar chapel on the other side of the tall and elaborately ornamented apsidal sanctuary.
The interior walls are bare stone. A narrow south aisle is divided from the nave by a five bay arcade with wide round headed arches on alternate cylindrical and clustered piers with scalloped capitals and waterleaf bases. The clerestorey windows on both sides are set in broad shafted rere-arches. Over the nave is a timber barrel vaulted ceiling carried on stone principal arches which are brought down onto stone wall shafts. The aisle has a stone demi-vaulted ceiling. At the east end of the nave is a tall round-headed arch with jamb shafts, chevron ornament and three blind windows above it opening into the main chancel space which has a stone groin vault. Beyond another tall arch is an apsidal sanctuary with small windows high in the wall set in deep, shafted rere-arches. On either side are small apsidal chapel.
The east end of the church was re-ordered in 1997. The architects for the work were Stone Ecclesiastical of Bristol. The original high altar and retable of Portland stone remain against the east wall but the elaborate timber baldacchino painted with the arms of the Norfolk and Hastings families was brought forward to shelter the new altar. The Romanesque-style stone font originally in the southwestern baptistery has now been brought forward into the vestibule of the northeast Lady Chapel. Above the main west door (now partly hidden by a modern timber draught lobby) is a carved inscription recording the generosity of the benefactress. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were installed in 1936 and made by Patrick Feeny of Hardmans; they are a 20th century re-interpretation of 12th century stained glass. Most of the windows in the church are clear glazed. The oak benches in the nave are presumably original.
Architect: Frederick A. Walters
Original Date: 1913
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed