Bank Street, Cheadle, Staffordshire ST10
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
Image copyright Alex Ramsay
One of A. W. N. Pugin’s greatest achievements and the pinnacle of his work for the sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury. The church stands as a symbol of the Catholic and Gothic revivals in early Victorian Britain. With the adjoining school, convent, churchyard and boundary features, it forms part of a historic complex at the centre of the conservation area. The church is very little altered and is, quite simply, one of the most important built in nineteenth century Britain.
A mission was founded here in about 1820 in a private house in Charles Street by the Rev. William Wareing, a future Bishop of Northampton. The first resident priest was appointed in 1827, the same year that John Talbot (1791-1852) succeeded as the sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury; he made Alton Abbey, five miles distant, into his principal residence, renaming it Alton Towers. He was seen as England’s leading Catholic layman and it was he who first brought A. W. N. Pugin to north Staffordshire in 1837 to complete the building and furnishing of the Towers. The two men shared a vision of promoting both the Catholic and Gothic Revivals, which they saw as inextricably linked. Pugin completed the designs for St Giles’s church by the end of December 1840 and the church was built between 1841 and 1846, bankrolled by Lord Shrewsbury. Pugin found himself in the rare and happy situation of not being squeezed for funding which, he ruefully declared, had so often meant he could not build as he wished. St Giles’ was opened and consecrated on 31 August 1846 in the presence of fifty-three priests, eight deacons, thirteen bishops and their chaplains, and two overseas archbishops (of Sydney and Damascus). The sixteenth earl died before he endowed the church, and his successor, Bertram, died four years later, aged twenty-three. The eighteenth earl was not a Catholic and consequently responsibility for the upkeep of the church fell to the parishioners and townspeople of Cheadle. Pugin designed the building down to the last detail and made use of the best craftsmen of his day, notably William Wailes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the stained glass, John Hardman of Birmingham for metalwork, John Roddis of Sutton Coldfield for sculpture, and Herbert Minton of Stoke for ceramics. Otherwise the interior decoration was supervised by Thomas Kearns, Lord Shrewsbury’s painter and decorator, who lived in Alton. It seems that the intense coloured decoration of the walls and pillars is to a large extent due to Lord Shrewsbury. Pugin noted ‘it was quite an afterthought of its noble founder to cover it with coloured decorations’ (quoted in Fisher, 2012, p. 203); Pugin seems to have intended something rather plainer.
The list description (below) describes the church in considerable detail and repetition is unnecessary.
The stained glass by William Wailes, which fills sixteen windows in the church, is catalogued in precise detail in Shepherd (2009). The largest is the Jesse window at the east end. In the mid-twentieth century plain glass replaced some of the coloured backgrounds of the windows in the aisles.
Roman Catholic Church. 1841-6 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for the Earl of Shrewsbury. Red Hollington sandstone ashlar and carved dressings; lead roofs of steep pitch with cast iron, fretted, crested ridge; verge parapets with corbelled kneelers and crested pinnacled at apices. High Decorated style; the plan consists of west tower and spire, nave, aisles, vestry, chapel and chancel; the layout virtually abandons the ritual axis in favour of capitalising on the compact urban site. Tower and steeple: square of four tall stages set on a triple drip-moulded plinth; four-stage angle buttresses with figures in niches to the west facing bottom stages, string around first stage; paired, two-light, pointed, bell-chamber openings set in deep reveals; labelled, pointed 3-light west window set over west door; pointed with low relief carving in spandrels, deeply moulded reveals with a band of ball flower; double doors have applique brass rampant lions. Spire on a corbelled band, octagonal with crocketed ridges; a rather extenuated lower section has slim diagonal pinnacles clasped to its sides; two-light lucarnes to base and tiny single light placed further up. Aisles consciously divided from nave by a change in roof pitch, both on a fleuron eaves band, lower pitch to aisles and a tiny (unlit) clerestory band. Both aisles are of five bays on plinth divided by bulky two-stage buttresses gableted at the head; the south aisle has labelled, pointed 3-light windows all with different (but authentically Decorated) tracery; the north aisle has similar 2-light windows with a 3 light at the east side only. Both aisles have similar gabled, single-storey porches but the detail on the south is finer with squat two-stage diagonal buttresses, solid stone, ribbed roof, a niche in the apex bearing an effigy of the Virgin, flanked by two low relief medallions set over a deeply moulded pointed entrance reveal with two bands of ball flower and crested extrados on 3 clustered pinnacles; the interior has a ribbed vault; both aisles stop just short of the nave to the east, their pent roofs divided by a verge parapet revert into smaller pitched roofs clasped against chancel sides (presenting a triptych of gables to the ritual east) to the south. There is a chapel of two bays, similar but smaller in pace than the aisles with single-light windows, the east has three lights; its partner on the north the vestry breaks the line of aisle roof by an additional storey reached by an external staircase on the west of pure medieval derivation; a triple- shafted castellated chimney breaks the eaves on the north, set asymmetrically over a gabled single-storey projection lit by two lancets and a trefoil in the apex; the Tudor arched vestry entrance, reached by steps, is packed into the space between stair turret and gable; the vestry composition almost aedicular, stands on its own, more domestic than ecclesiastical but of exceptional balance. Chancel of approximately two bays part screen by chapel and vestry; only marginally lower than nave; diagonal buttresses clasp the angles; the north and south lit by small two-light pointed windows; the east gable has three sculpture niches to apex and alongside buttresses. Three low relief medallions lie below, large five-light pointed east window with curvilinear tracery. Interior: the entire interior of the church is painted from the floor up with gold, blue and red predominating in an intensely patterned scheme. Nave of 5 bays; octagonal columns painted in chevron pattern; pointed moulded arches, with carved lions in spandrels; large studs on corbels carry scissor-brace collared trusses, fretwork in apices, single purlins and large curved windbraces; aisles have painted plaques of Life of Christ (16 in all); purlin lean-to roofs; pointed chancel arch with Last Supper painting over; pointed covered barrel vault to chancel; reredos depicts coronation of the Virgin with 6 angels; sedilia and piscina with spire finials over and Easter sepulchre to north; ogee-headed opening with poppyhead finial and pinnacles at sides. Font octagonal on corbelled vase with fretwork spire cover all set in an ornate brass railed enclosure. Pulpit: large and octagonal on stand with religious scenes cut deep into panel-recesses. Screens crested arcaded screen to chancel and brass screen to tower. Glass by Wailes.
W. G. Short: Pugin’s Gem: A History of St. Giles Catholic Church, Cheadle, Staffordshire, 1981. B.O.E., p. 97.
Listing NGR: SK0083843186
Cross. 1841-6 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for the Earl of Shrewsbury. Red Hollington sandstone. Square four-tiered, stepped plinth; niched and crested surbase, square shaft with crocketed, diagonal angles; crucifix (set approximately 4m above ground) with pitched hood and flanked by figures on branches of cross head.
Listing NGR: SK0081443189
Churchyard wall, gates and gateways
Churchyard wall, a pair of gates and gateways. 1841-6 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for the Earl of Shrewsbury. Red Hollington sandstone ashlar. The wall has a deep, steeply pitched coping with roll moulding to apex; the gateways set towards extremities have hipped solid stone rooflets on a fleuron eaves band set on corbels, also with roll moulded ridge and with twin lucarnes to centre under a crucifix finial; square pillars set the roofs over wrought iron gates with large quatrefoils over narrowly spaced uprights with poppy head finials.
Listing NGR: SK0086443205
Convent. A late C18 domestic building altered and considerably extended by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin circa 1845. Red brick with stone dressings; tiled roofs, banded and with crested verge parapets to Pugin’s additions. In three distinct parts, a U-shaped building around an inner courtyard fronted to the street and churchyard. On the west side of the street frontage the C18 building of 3 storeys and two windows; glazing bar sashes with painted wedged heads; the top floor has half-dormer gablets over large pane sashes. Attached to the east and fronting church and street, a single-storey range by Pugin; blind to the street except for a stone dressed Tudor arch door to the right; the projecting gabled east return has a labelled pointed 2-light window continuing into a long blind range flanking the churchyard. Facing east into the courtyard is a two-storey, four-window range by Pugin, attached to the street front by a tall square steeply gabled tower.
Listing NGR: SK0079343171
School. 1841-6 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Red brick with stone dressings; tiled roof with crested ridge and verge parapets. Castellated triple- shafted stack to right-hand apex. Two-storey, six-bay front divided by stone-capped two-stage buttresses with three-light stone dressed windows to upper floor over four-light to ground floor, all with trefoil heads; slightly set away from the right hand end: a bell tower with pyramidal two-stage lead roof with timber framing to the bellcote and trefoil-headed window to first floor. The entrance bay projects under a low catslide roof between school and tower. Pent roof running flush to right clasps front of tower. The north front is highly asymmetrical and in contrast to the body of the building. A Tudor-arch first-floor window is set over pointed-arch entrance with doors set well back into reveal.
W. G. Short: Pugin’s Gem: A History of St. Giles Catholic Church, Cheadle, Staffordshire 1981, p.19.
Architect: A. W. N. Pugin
Original Date: 1846
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade I