Building » Crowle – St Norbert

Crowle – St Norbert

Fieldside, Crowle, near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire DN17

A church and contiguous house by Hadfield & Son, one of several Catholic churches built in North Lincolnshire by these architects and paid for by Thomas Young of Kingerby Hall. The church was served by Norbertines or Premonstratensians, this being the first community to be established in England after the Reformation. The church contains a number of furnishings of note and with the house forms a good group in the conservation area.

The  mid-nineteenth century saw the industrial development of the old market town of Crowle and its rural hinterland, and the influx of a large number of Irish labourers, whose nearest Mass centre was then at Gainsborough. An Italian immigrant named Girolamo Vaccari, who anglicised his name as James Walker and who was foreman of the local gasworks, approached Thomas Arthur Young of Kingerby Hall, near Market Rasen for help with establishing a mission and building a church. Young was from an old Catholic family and was a great supporter of Catholic church building projects in North Lincolnshire. The Diocese did not feel able to support a new parish in this remote location, with a scattered Catholic population, and instead Young invited the Canons  Regular  of  Premontre (Premonstratensians or  Norbertines), based in Antwerp, to establish a community at Crowle and run the mission. This was the first Premonstratensian  house to be established in England since the  Reformation. Designs for the church and priory house were commissioned from M. E. Hadfield & Son of Sheffield, one of several collaborations between these architects and Young, and the contractor was Mr George Sinclair. The foundation stone was laid on 7 July 1871 and the church (nave only) was solemnly opened on October 15 1872, with Mass said by the Abbot of Mount St Bernard’s.

In 1873 a new elementary school was built, and in 1874 a 28ft sanctuary and sacristy were added to the church at Young’s expense, presumably from designs by Hadfield & Son, and further rooms added to the house.

In c1949 an oak framed belfry housing a new bell and a copper-covered spirelet was built on the ridge at the east  end  of  the nave, from designs by Robert  Godfrey, Surveyor and Clerk of Works at Lincoln Cathedral.

The Norbertines left in 1985, and the parish has since been served by diocesan priests.


The church and adjacent house (St Norbert’s Priory) are contiguous and were built at the same time. Both are built of red brick under tile roofs, with tumbled brickwork in the west gable and a sparing use of stone for the dressings in the church. The church is in a simplified Decorated style, with paired of triple windows with trefoil heads to the flank walls, and three-light windows with Geometric bar tracery at the ends; the house is also Gothic in its picturesque massing, but astylar in its detailing. Its original sash windows have been replaced in uPVC and its entrance porch enclosed. Together the church and house comprise an L-shaped plan, enclosing an informal open quadrangle in front. The church consists of a long aisleless nave and (slightly later) long square-ended chancel. A copper-clad spirelet housing a single bell is placed on the central ridge at the east end of the nave; this is an addition of c1949.

The church is entered via an open, gabled timber framed entrance porch giving off the south side of the western bay of the nave. The interior has painted brick walls and was evidently cheaply built, with the aim of subsequent embellishment. The roofs of the nave and chancel are arch braced and ceiled below the purlins. A chancel arch separates the nave and chancel. There is a good collection of furnishings of later nineteenth and twentieth century  date,  upon  which  detailed  information  is  at  present lacking. Features of note include:

  • The  high  altar,  with  central  raised  aedicule  for  the monstrance, flanked by blank Gothic  arcading with  alabaster  infill;  a fine alabaster tabernacle with inlaid metal doors is placed upon a small plinth, but the mensa itself has been detached  and  brought  forward  as  part  of post-Vatican II reordering. This too has Gothic arcaded panels with alabaster infill.
  • Wall paintings (Christ in Majesty flanked by Angels) and lettering (Ave Rex) over the chancel arch; of uncertain date and authorship. They may be the work of the studio of Nathaniel Westlake, and can be compared to their early twentieth century work at St Mary’s Grimsby (qv). Photographs in the parish centenary  history  show  additional painted  panels  on  the  chancel  wall  on either side of the east window, but if these survive they are now painted over.
  • A small font at the west end with richly carved foliated base, marble stem and octagonal bowl.
  • Side altars with statues of St Norbert and Our Lady in timber Gothic aedicules on either side of the chancel arch.
  • Extensive stained glass, mostly of mid-twentieth century date.
  • Sanctuary chairs, hefty, dark and Jacobean in style, given by Mrs V. S. Booth in 1946.
  • Oak benches in the nave and choir stalls in the sanctuary, the latter with open trefoil-headed fronts and carved ends (Agnus Dei).
  • Similarly detailed ambo/lectern in sanctuary.
  • Dado panelling around nave and sanctuary walls.
  • Tiled floor in the nave (central alley and west end) and sanctuary.
  • Large, robustly modelled and coloured Stations of the Cross.

Entry amended by AHP 18.12.2020

Heritage Details

Architect: M. E. Hadfield & Son

Original Date: 1872

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed