Building » Axminster – St Mary

Axminster – St Mary

Lyme Road, Axminster, Devon

A small church of considerable character designed by William Wardell and built under the direction of George Goldie, both distinguished mid-nineteenth century Catholic architects. The interior is simple, but contains some furnishings of note. The attached presbytery is contemporary with the church.

The existing building replaced an earlier chapel on the Lyme road which had been erected in 1830-1 by George Bragg, a local builder. The designs for the present church and presbytery were apparently commissioned by Henry Knight from the London architect William Wardell in 1854 but Wardell emigrated to Australia in 1856 and the church was completed under the supervision of George Goldie and opened in 1862. This is not the only instance of Goldie overseeing the completion of a project initiated by Wardell; it also happened at Our Lady and St Edmund at Abingdon, Oxfordshire (Diocese of Portsmouth). The site for the church, presbytery and the adjacent school were all given by the Knight family, who are commemorated in the church.


The church is a simple structure in the Decorated Gothic style, with walls of local buff-coloured rubble sandstone and bands of red sandstone, which is also used for the window arches. The roof coverings are of Welsh slate. The plan consists of an aisleless nave with a northwest porch, and a short chancel which is linked to the contemporary presbytery, built of the same materials. The west gable wall has stepped corner buttresses. In the centre of the wall is a carved Crucifixion of Portland stone with the inscription Per crucem et passionem tuam, libera nos, Domine, a memorial to the Knight family. Above is a rose window with elaborate cusped tracery. The south wall of the nave has three two-light windows with trefoils in the tracery; the north wall has two similar windows east of the projecting timber porch. The north wall of the chancel has similar two light windows; the south wall abuts the presbytery. The east wall has a four-light window with elaborate intersecting tracery.

The interior is very simple, with plain plastered walls and a five-sided boarded timber ceiling. There is a central aisle with red and black quarry tiles with timber floor coverings on either side. A pointed arch on stubby wall shafts leads to the short chancel which has a four-sided timber ceiling and a blocked first floor gallery on the south side which may originally have been intended for the organ. Noteworthy fittings include the plain benches in the nave, which may be original, and a central alley of encaustic tiles. Stained glass in the east window is in the manner of Wailes and may be original, while the 1950s glass in the south windows is probably from the Buckfast studio. Both altar and font are modern.

Heritage Details

Architect: Designed by William Wardell, erected by George Goldie

Original Date: 1862

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed