Three Shires Oak Road, Bearwood, Birmingham B67
A well-detailed and little-altered neo-Georgian design of the 1930s (an unusual choice of style for a Catholic church), notable for the quality of its internal oak and marble furnishings. The architect Philip Chatwin (whose practice was mainly Anglican) was the brother of the parish priest.
Mass was said in Bearwood from 1899 by a priest from the Birmingham Oratory, in a former coach house behind properties fronting Three Shires Oak Road. Bearwood became an independent mission in 1909, and the Galton family gave some land for the building of a church. However, following a dispute Major Hubert Galton withdrew his support, funding instead the building of the nearby church of St Hubert at Warley (qv).
The present church and presbytery were built from the designs of Philip Chatwin, who was from a notable local firm of (mainly Anglican) church builders, and whose brother, the Rev. Geffrey Chatwin, was the parish priest and rector at Bearwood. The builders were Maddox & Walford of Gravelly Hill. The foundation stone was laid on 3 May 1933 by Archbishop Thomas Williams, and the church opened in 1934. It seated 350 and cost £8,300 (excluding the marble high altar). An account in the parish file in the Diocesan Archives, probably written by the architect, described the design as ‘an adaptation of the kind of work common in the reign of Queen Anne’, an unusual stylistic choice for a Catholic church.
A neo-Georgian design of 1933-4 by Philip Chatwin, of red brick laid in Flemish bond, with sparing use of stone dressings on the front elevation, and Roman pantile roofs. The building is in fact of steel-framed construction, the stanchions at the sides encased in brickwork and the construction of the roof concealed internally by fibrous plaster. The windows are metal framed. The church consists of an aisleless nave and sanctuary under one roof, with a double height lean-to southwest entrance wrapping around two sides of a set-back tower, containing a stair to the internal gallery. Beyond this is the side (Lady) chapel (giving off the south side of the nave). A modern (mainly glazed) link towards the east end on the south side connects the church and sacristies to the presbytery. The architectural treatment is mainly reserved for the pedimented entrance front, which has a projecting central bay with shallow projecting brick quoins and a central segmentally pedimented aedicule containing a stone statue of St Gregory the Great. The entrances below are of more 1930s character, with brick on edge surrounds. Above the main entrance is an octagonal mosaic and opus sectile panel bearing the papal arms, with another similar panel, depicting the Virgin and Child, over the south door; both have lost some detail. The tower, less obviously Queen Anne in derivation, is set back somewhat apologetically, and has round arched belfry openings with keystones and a pyramidal tile roof. It houses a boiler room in its basement. The side elevations are articulated by brick pilasters, mostly overlaid on the south side by the tower and chapel. The north elevation has a shallow projection in the fourth bay (from the west, for an internal shrine); it incorporates the foundation stone at its centre.
The interior consists of a single volume nave and sanctuary, with a narthex/gallery at the west end and a side (Lady) chapel giving off the south side. The nave consists of six bays (including that for the western narthex with gallery over), with the bays marked by plaster Tuscan Doric pilasters, sitting on a high oak dado. The gallery has an oak panelled front, and is carried on oak panelled piers, with glazed screens with wrought iron grilles in between. Above this, a large pipe organ with an oak classical case is placed centrally. In the fourth bay of the nave (north side) is an oak and gilded side altar/shrine to the Sacred Heart, within a richly carved open pedimented surround. Double pilasters mark the entrance to the sanctuary. The original high altar was set in antis within a pilastered recess at the east end. Here there is an elaborate oak baldachino with much gilded detail, on a marble base, and a pilastered oak reredos. Oversailing the whole interior is a shallow segmental fibrous plaster vault (more Regency than Queen Anne in character), with coffering with rosettes over the sanctuary. The square openings to the three-bay Lady Chapel have been glazed. This space also has a segmental vault and oak dado, with oak rather than plaster pilasters around its altar. Apart from the glazing of the openings to the Lady Chapel and the bringing forward of the marble high altar, the church interior has been little altered. The font has been moved from the narthex to the sanctuary (the ghost of its original fixing can still be read on the narthex floor, and there is a window depicting the Baptism of Our Lord over it). This, and all the stained glass (which is confined to the narthex and Lady Chapel) is by Hardman & Co., who had premises nearby at Lightwoods House; it is more recent in date than the church – one window in the chapel is dated 1960. The nave has a woodblock floor and the seating still consists of the original chairs. The original oak pulpit and balustraded communion rails (with metal gates) survive at the entrance to the sanctuary. The sanctuary retains its marble paving and steps, but these have been adapted, and the baldachino too, in a post-Vatican II reordering to allow for the bringing forward of the green and grey-veined marble altar. However, this work has been carried out with sensitivity.
List description (the church was listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
A Roman Catholic parish church, 1933-4. Designed by Philip Chatwin in the neo-Georgian style and built by Maddox & Walford of Gravelly Hill. Not including in the listing are the late C20 link building between the sacristry and the presbytery, the presbytery, and the boundary wall, railings and gates to the west end of the church.
Reasons for designation: The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel and St Gregory the Great, designed by Philip Chatwin and built in 1933-4, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a dignified and accomplished design in the neo-Georgian style with good detailing, and by a significant regional architect; * Interior: the internal space is well-composed with good massing and sophistication in the quality of its detailing; * Degree of survival: the church remains little altered since its completion and the reordering, which is minimal, does not detract from the overall interest; * Fixtures and fittings: the contemporary fixtures and fittings are of high quality in their design and execution, and together form a complete suite of furnishings.
History: From 1899 Mass was said in a former coach house behind properties fronting Three Shires Oak Road in Bearwood. In 1909 Bearwood became an independent mission and the Galton family gave some land for the building of a permanent Catholic church. However, following a dispute, Major Hubert Galton withdrew his support and instead funded the building of the nearby Church of Our Lady and St Hubert, in Warley. The church and the presbytery at Bearwood were designed by Philip Chatwin. Chatwin was from a notable local firm of, mainly Anglican, church builders, and his brother, the Reverend Geoffrey Chatwin, was the parish priest and rector at Bearwood. The builders were Maddox & Walford of Gravelly Hill. The foundation stone was laid on 3 May 1933 by Archbishop Thomas Williams, and the church opened in 1934. It seated 350 and cost £8,300 (excluding the marble high altar). An account in the parish file in the Diocesan Archives, probably written by the architect, described the design as ‘an adaptation of the kind of work common in the reign of Queen Anne’.
Details: A Roman Catholic parish church, 1933-4. Designed by Philip Chatwin in the neo-Georgian style and built by Maddox & Walford of Gravelly Hill. MATERIALS: steel framed and faced in red brick laid in Flemish bond, with brick and stone dressings. The roofs are covered in double Roman tiles and the windows are metal framed. PLAN: the building has its ritual east end at the northern end of the church, but the ritual compass points are used throughout the description. The nave and sanctuary are under a single roof, and at the west end is a narthex with organ gallery above. To the south side of the church is a tower, Lady Chapel, and sacristy. EXTERIOR: the west elevation is of three bays with raised brick quoins to the corners. The quoins are repeated to the set-forward central bay. The recessed, central entrance is flanked by three single-light, stained glass windows. Above the entrance is a niche containing a stone statue of St Gregory the Great. The niche is framed by a stone aedicule with a segmental pediment. Beneath is an octagonal opus sectile panel depicting the papal arms. To the flanking bays are 24-light windows. The pedimented gable has an oculus to the tympanum. Attached to the right is a double-height lean-to, with an additional west entrance. Above the doorway is a further opus sectile panel depicting the Virgin and Child. The lean-to continues across the south elevation and wraps around the square tower with pyramidal roof. To each of the tower’s four sides is a round-arched belfry opening with keystone. To the south face of the lean-to is a brick flue which serves the boiler house at the base of the tower. To the right is a single-storey lean-to with central door flanked by glazed panels. Attached to the right is the single-storey Lady’s Chapel, with pitched roof. There is a further lean-to at the right-hand end housing the sacristry. The side elevations of the church are of seven bays, articulated by brick pilasters in the position of the steel stanchions; these are mostly overlaid on the south side by the tower, chapel and lean-tos. The north elevation has a shallow projection in the fourth bay from the west, which is for an internal shrine, and incorporates the foundation stone at its centre. The window surrounds are of rubbed brick. INTERIOR: the shallow barrel-vaulted ceiling extends over the nave and sanctuary and has plastered transverse ribs. The narthex with organ gallery above is at the west end, and has an oak panelled front supported on oak panelled piers with wrought iron grilles and doors in between. The nave consists of six bays, including the narthex, and is articulated by plaster Doric pilasters sitting on dado-height oak panelling. To the pilasters are fixed wooden carvings of the Stations of the Cross. The clerestory window to each bay is of 24-lights with coloured glass, and has a cornice and cill both supported on brackets. In the fourth bay of the nave (north side) is an oak and gilded shrine to the Sacred Heart set within a richly carved open-pedimented surround. To the north-east corner of the nave is an oak panelled pulpit. Double pilasters to each side of the nave mark the entrance to the chancel, which has a balustraded oak communion rail with metal gates. The vaulted ceiling to the chancel is coffered and has rosettes, and the floor is wood block and marble. The marble font has been moved from the narthex, where it was located beneath a stained glass window depicting the Baptism of Our Lord, to the sanctuary. At the east end is a panelled oak reredos with Corinthian pilasters, and an elaborate oak baldachino, supported on Corinthian columns, all with gilded detail and surmounted on a black and grey marble base. The marble altar has been moved forward. To the south wall of the sanctuary is a marble piscina, and a door to the sacristry. The two-room sacristry has a wood block floor, and a modern roof-light has been inserted. To the south side of the nave is the south porch with a confessional to the left of the lobby, the Lady Chapel, and a further confessional. The square openings to the three-bay Lady Chapel on the south side of the nave have modern glazing. The Lady Chapel has a shallow barrel-vaulted ceiling, and oak panelling to the walls. The pilasters are of oak. To the east end is the green and white marble alter with an oak and glazed tabernacle set into the wall above. To the south wall is a marble piscina and an oak aedicule containing a statue of St Joseph and Child. At the west end is a door to the confessional beyond. The stained glass windows, which are confined to the Lady Chapel and the narthex, are by Hardman & Co, and are more recent in date than the church; one window in the chapel is dated 1960. The nave and the Lady Chapel have a wood block floor. In the narthex and west porch are marble holy water stoups and the floor is tiled. The panelled oak doors survive throughout.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the C20 link building connecting the sacristry to the presbytery, the presbytery, and the boundary walls, railings and gates to the west end of the church, are not of special architectural or historic interest and are not included in the listing.
Books and journals: Scarisbrick, J J (editor), History of the Diocese of Birmingham, 1850-2000, (2008), 74. Other: The Architectural History Practice Limited: Churches in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham: An Architectural and Historical Review Prepared for English Heritage and the Archdiocese of Birmingham (2015); The Tablet, 13 May 1933; 5 May 1934.
Architect: Philip Chatwin
Original Date: 1934
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II