Guild Street, Burton-on-Trent, West Midlands DE14
A landmark brick building on the edge of the town centre, its tall tower topped by a short stone spire prominent along Guild Street. The interior is a noble space with good quality decoration and furnishings by local artists as well as more widely known practices such as Boulton of Cheltenham and Mayer of Munich.
Thomas Lord Paget (d.1590) was a celebrated recusant resident in Burton, who patronised the court musician William Byrd. He fled abroad after the Throckmorton plot and his son was brought up a Protestant. A small number of Burton recusants were fined over the next two centuries. Once the chapel of St Francis de Sales was established eight miles away at Woodlane, Yoxall in 1794, Burton Catholics probably travelled there. From the 1830s the priest from Yoxall, James Jeffries, travelled to Burton to celebrate Mass, first in a malthouse at the back of the Crown, High Street, and then in a cottage behind the Old White Lion on the corner of Lichfield Street and Fleet Street, both in the centre of town. Fr Jeffries twice tried to buy a plot for a school-chapel from the Marquess of Anglesey, claiming a congregation of 120 in 1843. His successor, Rev. Patrick O’Sullivan finally bought the present site, and a small Gothic brick school-chapel dedicated to St Modwen (the dedication of the medieval parish church) was opened in June 1852. It was orientated north-south parallel to the street, with a north porch and bellcote; a presbytery was built in front of it on Guild Street by Mr Telford in 1855.
Kelly’s centenary history attributes the design of the present church to Dunn & Hansom of Newcastle. An anonymous handwritten chronicle in the presbytery states that Fr C. McCabe asked those architects to design a new church, sending them an older sketch proposal by a Mr Young of London (possibly John Young Junior, architect for the restoration of the church of St Etheldreda, Ely Place in the 1870s). When Dunn presented his estimates, the client considered them excessive; Dunn responded by saying that if the size of the building was reduced, then he could meet their budget. Instead, the church returned to Young’s plans which ‘it was thought with some modification, could be carried out with the aid of a local architect at much less cost’. They then instructed J. Knight Morley ‘who had been ten years with Mr Pugin’ to prepare new drawings. Morley was chief superintendent of the South Eastern Works which manufactured stone and wood carvings and other items for E. W. Pugin, for projects in Ramsgate and elsewhere. He was described in the Kent Coast Times as ‘the highly intelligent and respected manager of the works’ (information from Catriona Blaker, pers. comm.) He was not an architect, and had no connection with Burton-on-Trent, so far as has been established. The builders were Messrs Lowe and Sons.
The foundation stone was laid on 16 May 1878 by Bishop Ullathorne, in ‘torrents of rain’. The work was delayed awaiting the arrival of ‘Connemara marble columns’, but the church was opened on 27 August 1879, with Cardinal Manning preaching. Construction was funded in part by F. M. Spilsbury of Willington (Derbyshire), a former Anglican priest and Catholic convert. His portrait can be seen in the bottom left hand corner of the east window. As the church is correctly orientated, it stands at right angles to Guild Street. It was flanked by houses, so there are no aisle windows. The final cost was about £4,000. The original school-chapel was retained until replacement by a new school (the present parish centre) in 1910. A presbytery was added to the southwest of the church in 1880.
Fitting out took place as and when funds allowed. The high altar was carved by John Roddis of Birmingham for £210, and he was responsible for the eight nave statues erected in 1882. The chancel dado was completed to the design of the priest at Yoxall, who painted it with Mr Alfred Emery and Monsieur Duhamel ‘a French priest who was the guest of Fr Flynn at the time.’ This must be the artist who signed the east window, ‘Duhamel-Marette, Peintre et Verrier, Evreux’, inserted in 1888 for £208 plus £23 for fixing.
Black marble and alabaster altar rails and a pentagonal stone and marble pulpit were erected in 1883. In 1889 the sanctuary walls and the Assumption scene over the chancel arch were painted by Jeffries Hopkins for £215; he also coloured the aisle walls for £20.
In 1897 the tower was completed by the builder Mr Hodges to the design of the local architect Mr Mills, for £1,055. The following year Boultons of Cheltenham supplied the altar of the Sacred Heart chapel and in 1901 a new Lady Altar. The chapel windows were filled by Meyer of Munich in 1902 and they painted the plaster Stations of the Cross (purchased in 1883 from Union Rustique of Paris for £64 18s 10d) for £25. The roofs had originally been of local tiles, but the north aisle was re-tiled in 1891 and the main roof in 1905. All were replaced by slates after 1923.
The rood beam with figures was erected as a World War I memorial and a brass with thirty six names can be seen at ground level. The other War memorial, a large wooden Crucifix, stood outside at the west end until 1962, when a new west door was punched through, replacing two two-light windows. That same year the nave floor was relaid in concrete with electric underfloor heating and a Granwood floor finish. Unfortunately the floor cracked eleven years later, breaking the wiring. In 1963, the railed and gated southwest baptistery was dismantled as the congregations were so large that more seating space was needed. A stained glass window of Christ’s Baptism, by John Hardman & Sons, designed by R. Hickling AMGP and painted by D. Cowan, was put into the west window by parishioners as a centenary gift in 1979.
In 1975, reflecting the requirements of the Second Vatican Council, the high altar, font, pulpit and altar rails were removed and replaced by the present fittings ‘quite plain and nicely proportioned’ (Kelly, 1979) on a raised wooden floor that extended into the nave. The underside of the west gallery was glazed to form a narthex in about 2000 and the organ on it (by W. Hawkins and Son of Walsall Wood) was restored in 2003. The stencilled chancel has also been cleaned recently.
The church was built in 1878-9 under the direction of J. Knight Morley, possibly adapted from designs prepared by John Young of London. It is built of red brick with Stanton stone dressings and slate roofs. The northwest tower of brick and a stone spire is mainly of 1897, by another local architect, Mr Mills. The plan consists of a five-bay aisled nave and sanctuary with north and south sacristies, broadly in a Decorated Gothic style. The west facade to the street has a large round traceried window in the gable, over two canopied niches containing statues of St Mary and St Modwen. The northwest tower was the original west entrance, but in 1962 a large pointed west doorway of reconstructed stone replaced two windows. The tower has a door in the south face and two-light window to the west above a battered plinth (possibly added) between the clasping corner buttresses. The upper two stages of 1897 are in a ‘Free Gothic’ style, with the two levels of openings linked by a stone frame. The corner buttresses die into the top of the tower above the windows by chamfered and diminishing brick courses (what the Buildings of England calls a ‘tricky top’). The short stone spire (based on Perpendicular Gothic pinnacles such as those on Bell Harry tower at Canterbury Cathedral) resembles a stone thurible emerging from flat corner broaches.
When built, the church was flanked by houses and shops on Guild Street, so the nave aisles have no windows, except the two-light west window of the south aisle, which lit the baptistery behind. Both aisles are finished externally with render and slate roofs. The south aisle door is approached by a wooden porch that also serves the adjacent presbytery, enriched with French stained glass displaced from the east window because the heraldry colours were wrong.
Clearance to the east to create car park space enables the steep gables with apex crosses of the east end to be viewed. The large chancel east window has five lights below a central roundel with three foiled circles. The chancel has a two-light window to the north and similar windows exist in the east wall of each flanking chapel. The flat-roofed brick north sacristy was added in 1960. On the south the small original brick vestry with two windows and a transverse slate roof has been extended south. The priest’s sacristy overlapping the nave and chancel and linked to the presbytery to the west is of brick with a lean-to slate roof, with at least two flat-roofed twentieth century extensions into the presbytery garden (one is the presbytery kitchen).
The five-bay nave is in early Gothic style of c.1300; it is tall and spacious, with a large wooden west organ gallery (now glazed below for a narthex) and a steeply pitched roof divided into five bays by six arched trusses rising from short wooden wall posts sitting on gilded stone corbels just below the prominent clerestory string course. Each bay has two clerestory lancet windows with trefoil tracery above tall four-centred moulded arcade arches that rise from large round moulded capitals atop slender polished granite columns, said to be from Connemara but as they are mottled pink and not green, more likely from Aberdeen. In each spandrel of the arcades a short pink granite column rises from a gilded foliate corbel to a gilded foliate capital on which stands a large painted statue looking to the east; Evangelists to the east, Doctors of the Church to the west. The aisles have no windows, but the aisle wall is articulated by shouldered arched recesses and the lean-to roof is divided by triangular roof trusses rising from the arcade capitals and wall plate. The former baptistery in the southwest corner retains only a twentieth century tiled floor and stained glass; the northwest bay is the original west lobby entrance under the tower.
At the east end of each aisle is a small chapel; each with a Boulton of Cheltenham marble and stone altar and reredos (1898 Sacred Heart on the south, 1901 Lady Chapel to the north). The two-light windows were filled with glass in 1902 by Meyer of Munich and include portraits of the sons of the families who paid for them.
The tall chancel arch rises from moulded capitals on a corbelled pink marble shaft, its mouldings enriched with gilded square foliate paterae. The present wooden sanctuary platform is of 1975; it comes through the chancel arch and partly obscures the 1878 foundation stone at the base of the north chancel arch. The stencilled roof is divided into two bays by a pointed arched truss rising from a foliate stone corbel; there are two purlins and ridge with curved arch braces at each stage, twelve in all. The five-light east window originally had a large stone and marble reredos and high altar below it, replaced in 1975 by three reconstituted stone shelves, the central tabernacle shelf standing on a plinth on a wooden platform of three steps. The stencilling around them and in the side chapels is of c.2000. A small pointed arch door leads to the north sacristy; the equivalent on the south is now glazed. Taller moulded stone arches rise from marble columns giving access to the side chapels. There is a two-light north window and a stone piscina to the southeast corner.
The chancel stencilled dado was in place at the opening in 1879, completed to the design of the priest at Yoxall, who painted it with Mr Alfred Emery and Monsieur Duhamel ‘a French priest who was the guest of Fr Flynn at the time.’ This must be the artist of the signed east window, ‘Duhamel-Marette, Peintre et Verrier, Evreux’, inserted in 1888. In 1889 the sanctuary walls with their figures of saints and martyrs and the scene of the Assumption over the chancel arch were painted by Jeffries Hopkins. The carved timber rood beam with painted figures is a World War I memorial and the names of the thirty six persons it commemorates are on a brass to the southwest.
List description (the church was listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Roman Catholic church of 1878-9, by J Knight Morley to designs of John Young of London, in a Decorated Gothic style. Tower by local architect Mr Mills and completed in 1897; interior re-ordered in 1975.
Reasons for designation: The Church of St Mary and St Modwen in Burton-upon-Trent, a Roman Catholic church of 1878-9 by J Knight Morley, which underwent some minor re-ordering in 1975, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the composition is fairly conventional, but it is elegantly massed with lofty proportions and some good detailing; * Interior: the spacious interior is well-handled and richly embellished with murals to the east end. Furnishings include altars by John Roddis of Birmingham and Boultons of Cheltenham and chapel windows by Meyer of Munich; * Degree of survival: the church remains substantially intact and the reordering does not detract significantly from the overall interest.
History: From the 1830s Fr James Jefferies travelled to Burton from the Catholic chapel (Grade II) at Woodlane, Yoxall to celebrate mass, which is said to have initially taken place in an old malthouse in the town. Due to the increasing number of Catholics in the town, largely the result of immigration from Ireland, Fr James’ successor secured land on the east side of Guild Street for a small Catholic school-chapel which opened in 1852. The present church, dedicated to St Mary and St Modwen, was built in 1878-79, partly funded by F M Spilsbury of Willington, Derbyshire, a former Anglican priest and a convert to Catholicism. Kelly’s centenary history attributes the present church to Dunn & Hansom of Newcastle. A handwritten chronicle states that they were asked to design the new church and were sent an older sketch proposal by a Mr Young of London (possibly John Young, Jnr.), however Dunn’s estimate was considered excessive and Young’s plans were returned, to which ‘it was thought with some modification, could be carried out with the aid of a local architect at much less cost’. J Knight Morley was then instructed to prepare new drawings. The builders were Messrs Lowe and Sons. The base for a tower was built as part of the original design and was completed, together with a spire, in 1897. Fitting out took place as and when funds allowed. The roofs, originally tiled, were replaced with slates after 1923. The north-west tower was the original west entrance, but in 1962 a large doorway was added to the west end of the nave. The following year the railed and gated south-west baptistery was dismantled to provide additional seating space, and in 1975 the interior was re-ordered to comply with the provisions of the Second Vatican Council. The high altar, font, pulpit and altar rails were removed and replaced by the present fittings. In 2000 the space below the west gallery was glazed to form a narthex. The original 1852 school-chapel building was retained until 1910 when it was replaced by a new school (latterly the parish hall) on the north side of the church. A presbytery was added to the south-west of the church in 1880.
Details: Roman Catholic church of 1878-9, by J Knight Morley to designs of John Young of London, in a Decorated Gothic style. Tower by local architect Mr Mills and completed in 1897; interior re-ordered in 1975. MATERIALS: constructed of red brick, rendered to the aisles, with Stanton stone dressings, under slate roofs. PLAN: the church is orientated north-west to south-east and consists of an aisled nave of five bays, aisles, a sanctuary with north (added in 1960) and south sacristies, and a north-west tower. There are C20 extensions to the south sacristy. EXTERIOR: the west façade to the street has a large round traceried window in the gable, over two canopied niches containing statues of St Mary and St Modwen. The large pointed west doorway was inserted in 1962, replacing two windows.; it has a reconstituted stone surround. The tower has clasping corner buttresses, a door in the south face, and a two-light window to the west above a battered plinth. The upper two stages of 1897 are in a ‘Free Gothic’ style, with the two levels of openings linked by a stone frame. The short stone spire has flat corner broaches. The nave aisles, which were originally flanked by buildings, have no windows, except the two-light west window of the south aisle. The south aisle door is set back and is approached by a wooden porch that also serves the adjacent presbytery, enriched with French stained glass, probably displaced from the east window. The chancel east window has five lights below a central roundel with three foiled circles. There is a two-light window in the north wall of the chancel and similar windows in the east wall of each flanking chapel. The flat-roofed north sacristy was added in 1960. On the south, the original vestry has a gabled roof and two windows; it has been extended southwards. The priest’s sacristy overlaps the nave and chancel and is linked to the presbytery to the west and has C20 flat-roofed extensions. INTERIOR: the nave is in the early Gothic style of c1300, with a large west organ gallery (now glazed below for a narthex). The canted wooden gallery front has a clock at the centre, also in a canted wooden casing, and the C20 organ is by W Hawkins and Son of Walsall Wood. The steeply-pitched nave roof is divided into five bays by six arched trusses rising from short wooden wall posts sitting on gilded stone corbels just below the clerestory string course. Each bay has two clerestory lancet windows with trefoil tracery above tall four-centred, moulded arcade arches rising from round-moulded capitals and polished granite columns, said to be from Connemara, Ireland but as they are mottled pink and not green, more likely from Aberdeen, Scotland. Within each spandrel of the arcade is a short pink granite column with a gilded foliate corbel and capital on which stands a painted statue. The eight statues of 1882 were carved by John Roddis of Birmingham. The aisle walls are articulated by shouldered-arched recesses and the roof trusses are triangular. The former baptistery in the south-west corner has a C20 tiled floor and stained glass window; the north-west bay is the original west lobby entrance under the tower. At the east end of each aisle is a small chapel; each with a Boulton of Cheltenham marble and stone altar and reredos (1898 Sacred Heart on the south, 1901 Lady Chapel to the north). The two-light windows were filled with glass in 1902 by Mayer of Munich. The font and pulpit to the east end of the nave are late C20. The tall chancel arch rises from moulded capitals on a corbelled pink marble shaft, its mouldings enriched with gilded square foliate paterae. The carved timber rood beam with painted figures is a First World War memorial. The original reredos and high altar were replaced by three reconstituted stone shelves in 1975. The stencilling around them and in the side chapels is of c.2000. The stencilled dado is of 1879, and the sanctuary walls with their figures of saints and martyrs and the scene of the Assumption over the chancel arch were painted by Jeffries Hopkins in 1889. A small pointed-arch door leads to the north sacristy; that to the south is now glazed. There is a two-light window in the north wall and a stone piscina to the south wall. Taller moulded stone arches rise from marble columns giving access to the side chapels. The stencilled chancel roof is divided into two bays by a pointed-arched truss rising from a foliate stone corbel.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the linked presbytery and the former school building and boundary wall are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Books and journals: Scarisbrick, JJ, History of the Diocese of Birmingham 1850-2000, (2008), 114. Websites: Burton-upon-Trent: Roman Catholicism. A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Victoria County History, 2003 , accessed 27 November 2015 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol9/pp130-131.Other: Kelly, R A, St Mary and St Modwen Catholic Church, Burton-on-Trent 1879-1979 Centenary Souvenir; 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)
Architect: J. K. Morley, from designs by a Mr Young of London
Original Date: 1879
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II