High Street, Bloxwich, West Midlands WS3
A mid-Victorian brick Gothic Revival church, T. R. Donnelly’s first church design in the diocese. The building was substantially altered and extended in the 1950s, with a new west front and towers. This frontage makes a prominent contribution to the Bloxwich Conservation Area.
Initially local Catholics attended Mass at Yieldfields Hall, a Mass Centre served from Sedgley. Then in 1800 a small shop and room were purchased in Harden Lane for the purpose. The present church, built on land given by a Mr Charles Beech, was dedicated on 18 September 1869 and seated 150 people: its architect was Thomas Richmond Donnelly and this was his first church in a long career of working for the Catholic Church.
The expansion of Bloxwich in the interwar period created a need to extend the church. The war and the subsequent austerity meant that this could not be started until September 1952, with work being completed in June 1954. The architects for the additions were Jennings, Homer & Lynch, the contractors J. & F. Wootton Ltd. They involved a westward extension with two towers (one for the Angelus bell, the other for a carillon) and six feet being added to the sanctuary (taking the space from the nave). A chapel, seating 150, was added in front of the shrine of the Sacred Heart, and another, seating fifty, was created in front of the shrine of Our Lady.
The church is built of dark red brick in an Early English Gothic style and consists of an aisled nave, polygonal sanctuary, and north (Lady) and south (Sacred Heart) chapels. The scale of the south aisle, under a flat roof, is the result of the major expansion in the 1950s, as is the flat-roofed Lady Chapel. The west end contains a narthex and is flanked by two four-stage towers with pyramidal cappings. There is a clerestory of circular windows.
The interior is light and spacious. The widening of the nave in the 1950s gives it a distinct sense of asymmetry. There are seven arched bays to the aisles, the arches being formed by a simple, unmoulded step. The piers are circular and have big cushion capitals. Over the nave and sanctuary there are keel-shaped ceilings.
The panels of the nave roof are decorated with red crossed keys and floriated crosses. The sanctuary roof is richer in decoration, coloured in red, green and gold with repeated IHS emblems. The sanctuary walls are enriched by paintings of scenes from the life of St Peter, above which are series of roundels in white, red and gold, and below a band of gold stencilled palm, crossed keys and papal tiara ornament on a red ground. The wall paintings were restored by John Hardman Studios in 1954, and they were probably also responsible for the freshness of the ceiling painting too. The lower parts of the sanctuary walls are lined with buff Lunel Rubana marble and green Connemara marble. The alabaster quatrefoil panels on the rear altar probably come from the one installed in 1898 which appears to have been modified in the late twentieth century. There are four Victorian stained glass windows in the sanctuary and Sacred Heart chapel (maker not established).
Architect: T. R. Donnelly
Original Date: 1869
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed