High Street, Bewdley, Worcestershire DY12
A delightful late eighteenth-century building with a long and varied history, having passed through several denominations and secular use before being rescued and adapted for Catholic use in the 1950s. The building is apsidal at either end, and retains a gallery at one end. It makes a notable and positive contribution to the Bewdley Conservation Area.
Until the twentieth century local Catholics were served by the resident priest at Kidderminster. Then, in 1952, at the instigation of Wing Commander Alfred Howell, the Archdiocese acquired a former Nonconformist chapel dating from about 1778 (but on the site of an earlier chapel, said to have dated from 1696). The chapel had been built for Presbyterian use and was subsequently used by the Unitarians until 1894, when it passed to Baptist use. It is also said to have been used by Wesleyan Methodists. During the early twentieth century it ceased to be used for religious purposes and from 1930 was occupied by a builder for his store and workshop. During this time the panelling and other furnishings were stripped out but the west gallery fortunately remained. It was also during this time that the building was scheduled as an Ancient Monument.
A Catholic parish was established and the church opened in 1953. During this process a restoration was undertaken which involved the renewal of the window surrounds (the design was not altered) and the enclosure of the external stair to the gallery, using old bricks. The architect was J. T. Lynch of Jennings, Homer & Lynch of Brierley Hill.
In 2013 a circular meeting room extension with associated access improvements was opened (architects Dean-Walker Bateman of Bewdley). The church is served now from St Wulstan and St Thomas of Canterbury in Stourport (qv).
The list description (below) provides details about the building and repetition is unnecessary. The altar, its reredos and canopy no doubt date from 1953. The coloured terracotta plaque depicting the Holy Family on the reredos was found in a garden adjoining St Ambrose, Kidderminster, and restored by Hardmans of Birmingham. The recent circular addition is sensitively designed, of brick with a shallow lead roof.
Presbyterian chapel, now Roman Catholic Church. c1778 with early C19 addition and some mid-C20 alterations. Brick, stone slate roof. Rectangular plan with apse at each end, aligned north-east/south-west, with an early C19 addition to the north, and an external staircase to the south-east. Side walls: one storey, moulded stone cornice, two windows: semi-circular headed with stone architraves which have impost blocks and keystones, multi-paned casements; similar window to south-west and north-east end: centrally placed entrance with stone architrave and C20 door of six raised and fielded panels; staircase to left formerly open with roof supported on slender wooden Doric columns, now enclosed by a mid-C20 wall with semi-circular headed openings. Interior: curved gallery at north-east end supported on two Doric columns. Original fittings have been removed. Scheduled as an Ancient Monument.
(VCH 4, p 300; BoE p 86).
Listing NGR: SO7861175180
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1778
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II*