Aston-le-Walls, Daventry, Northants
Built in 1827, this is an early (pre-Emancipation) example of a village Catholic church, paid for by the Catholic landlord, but much of its interest has been eroded by the changes wrought in 1912 and 1991.
In the late 17th century George Holman lived at Warkworth Castle (about 8 miles south of Aston le Walls) where he retained a Catholic chaplain. The castle descended to the Eyre family who sold it in 1805, providing a chapel and priest’s house at the adjoining hamlet of Overthorpe. The Catholic Plowden family owned the manor of Aston le Walls from the 17th century and in 1827 Edmund Plowden paid for the building of a Catholic chapel at Aston le Walls. A schoolroom was opened in 1832.
The church was restored in 1912, when the exterior was rendered in cement and marble chippings and the interior woodwork was varnished. In 1899 the Great Central Railway was opened with a junction at Woodford Halse (about 3 miles from Aston-le-Walls). With the influx of railway workers a Catholic church, St Joseph’s was opened in 1917. In 1991 an extension was added to the west end of the church and the bell turret added.
The altar faces northeast but for the purposes of this report all references to compass points will assume a due east orientation. The church comprises a nave and sanctuary in one with a two storey south porch, a small room in a projection within the angle between porch and nave, a louvred bell turret at the west end and a large sacristy projection on the north side of the sanctuary. The sanctuary has diagonal buttresses with two set offs. The whole of the exterior walls are covered in cement render with marble chippings. The roofs are covered in Welsh slate.
The porch entrance has a plain chamfered gothic arch with hoodmould, all cemented over. A crucifix above is set on a lozenge-shaped wooden panel beneath a gabled canopy. There are four windows on the south side, first a pair of gothic windows with stone dressings and Y-tracery, then two plain lancets (narrower to the sanctuary) with stone dressings. All have moulded hoodmoulds. On the north side there are four broad lancet windows, only the westernmost one with Y-tracery. The sacristy is a plain gabled structure of generous size, which just fits in between lancet windows. There is a domestic style external door. On the north side opposite the porch is a doorway with moulded lintel and a spherical triangle window above. There are no openings in the east or west walls.
The interior has no division between the nave and sanctuary, has plain plastered walls and has a varnished boarded roof with exposed trusses. There is a deep west gallery supported on two slender columns of 1820s character and a simple gothic balustrade. Access is via a generously proportioned metal spiral stair set within a blind gothic arch in the west wall, part of the 1991 alterations when the west wall was moved several metres further west. The sanctuary has poor quality gothic panelling and curious applied gothic arches against the east wall in a tripartite arrangement. Stone altar rails of elaborate gothic design. Sacred texts on the eastern truss. Stone altar with integral gothic canopy over the tabernacle. Statues on brackets to either side. The chief interest of the interior is the stained glass, with a number of windows, several signed by J. Vosch of Brussels, 1921. Hanging lamps of traditional oil lamp designs.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1827
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed