Watling Street North, Church Stretton, Shropshire SY6
A modest inter-war chapel with a white pebbledashed exterior and an attractive homely interior with segmental ceiling. A presbytery was built at the same time; both buildings have been significantly altered over the years
Until the building of the present church, Church Stretton Catholics travelled to Plowden to attend Mass (apart from some short-lived Mass centres in the town). It was the will of three determined women, Mrs Welch, Mrs Tomlinson and Miss Octavia Benson, which saw the church of St Milburga constructed. They were helped by Mrs Dutton of Shrewsbury, who paid for both the site (£443.00) and the construction. Built to the designs of Frank Hearn Shayler (1854-1954), St Milburga’s was officially opened on 19 May 1929. The dedication reflects the relative proximity of Much Wenlock, where St Milburga was Abbess. The presbytery, which stands some 20 yards to the north of the church, was completed at the same time. The bell in the new church came from the old Catholic school in Acton Burnell, which had closed in 1924.
In 1971 a shrine dedicated to St Milburga was set up in the north chapel, with a painting by Mrs Lochhead, decorated backcloth by Mrs Jenkinson and framed inscription by Mrs Acton, all non-Catholics. The church was reordered in the 1980s, when the altar rails were removed and a new forward wooden altar, president’s chair, tabernacle shelf and font were made by Paul Warren. It is understood that the carpeting and the stained glass windows in the sanctuary also belong to this reordering.
A more thorough scheme of improvement and alteration, undertaken in 2008-9, was again facilitated by an act of generosity by a local Catholic. The roof was re-covered with new machine-made pantiles, the small original west entrance porch was removed and replaced with a larger extension incorporating an entrance area with a store to one side and an accessible WC. As part of this scheme the cast iron and wooden backed benches were replaced with upholstered chairs and kitchen facilities installed in the sacristy. It is thought that a number of works to the presbytery – including the installation of UPVC windows – were also undertaken at this time. St Milburga’s is a small church built on a cruciform plan. Projections to the north and south accommodate a chapel dedicated to St Milburga and confessional, and the sacristy-cum-kitchen respectively.
Externally the walls are of whitewashed pebbledash, with a pantiled roof. Behind the modern gabled entrance addition, the west front rises to a bellcote housing one bell, brought here from Acton Burnell school. The external elevations are punctuated by windows alternating with simple buttresses. The whitewash, pantiles and bellcote combine to present a building more reminiscent of Greece than Shropshire. Although it is clearly of the same date and architect, the presbytery is simpler in design and retains some mildly Arts and Crafts fittings, such as the door plate.
Inside, the church is a single volume, with a segmental ceiling punctuated by almost square sectioned ribs. The sanctuary, defined by virtue of its being raised on a dais, projects into the space which marks the crossing between the nave and the side projections. The sanctuary is lit by small round-headed windows. Whilst of the same proportion, the windows of the side projections and the nave are more generous.
Architect: F. H. Shayler
Original Date: 1929
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed