Building » Derby – St Mary

Derby – St Mary

Bridge Gate, Derby DE1

  • Arran Bee, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Parish website

One of the most important examples of A.W.N. Pugin’s developing style, his first large parish church, his most ambitious essay in the Perpendicular idiom and his first collaboration with the builder George Myers. The building is of exceptional significance in the history of English church architecture in the nineteenth century generally, and in English Catholic church architecture in particular. The chapel addition by E. W. Pugin is of architectural importance and the building contains fixtures and fittings of high quality by Hardman, E. W. and P. P. Pugin and others.

The scheme for building St Mary’s was promoted by Rev. Thomas Sing, one of Pugin’s early clerical supporters. Pugin had become architect by appointment to the Midland Vicariate under Bishop Walsh from 1838, though the preparation of the scheme for St Mary had started in 1837. The church was opened in 1839. One of the benefactors was the Earl of Shrewsbury, Pugin’s most important patron. The church was hailed by Nicholas Wiseman as marking ‘the real transition from chapel to church architecture among us.’ It was also the first building on which Pugin and the builder George Myers collaborated. E. W. Pugin added a Lady Chapel in 1855, when a new altar and reredos, stained glass and a screen were introduced to the main building. The church was redecorated in the 1890s, and in 1927-8 the tower was found to be unsafe and a restoration took place, including work to the interior. An extensive restoration and refurbishment  took place in 1986-9 when reordering by Martin Goalen included provision of a forward altar.


The church stands on high ground overlooking the north side of the centre of Derby, from which it is separated by St Alkmund’s Way, with a footbridge link over the road.  Although the road has dramatically altered the character of the area, for travellers using it St Mary’s forms a conspicuous historic landmark. The approach from the centre and the footbridge, which is aligned with the (liturgical) west front of the building is memorable.  The Convent of St Philomena (listed Grade II), now the Convent of Mercy, forms part of the setting of the building.

The extraordinarily brief list description is below. The building is executed in revived Perpendicular style with a (liturgical) west tower, clerestory, vaulted and canted apse and large Lady Chapel, a later addition of 1855 by E. W. Pugin. The interior is characterised by the soaring height of the slim arcades of the narrow five-bay nave, and the great richness of the chancel and sanctuary. There is a handsome timber roof and the sanctuary is framed by a wooden arch supporting a rood with figures of the Virgin and St John. The ornate Caen stone altar is by E.W. Pugin, replacing his father’s original. Glass in the sanctuary is by Powell’s, replacing an earlier scheme by Warrington, and there are canopied and gilded sedilia. The large Lady Chapel by E.W. Pugin is in Decorated style, with arcaded screens, an altar designed by Peter Paul Pugin and fine windows by Hardman. The scheme of stencilling and gilding of the chapel and sanctuary belongs to the 1980s restoration and represents partial recreation of the original stencilling scheme and new designs of similar type. Other furnishings, paintings and details are generally of high quality. It should be noted that attributions of authorship of some elements of the interior and interior fittings varies in different accounts and further study may be required to establish the attributions beyond doubt.

List descriptions



1838. Architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Ashlar C15 Gothic style. Nave with apse and aisles. West tower (ritual west; in fact south) with tall slender spire. No 11 and the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary form a group with St Helen’s House King Street. Listing NGR: SK3511836792

St Philomena’s Convent


Consists of 2 wings, that on left early C19 and that on right probably late C16. Later alterations. Red brick; 3 storeys; 9 windows, formerly sashes, all replaced by modern windows; 2 bands; recessed doorway with moulded wood doorcase and divided door; painted stone Roman Doric portico in antis, having 2 columns and 2 pilasters, and triglyph frieze with paterae; plain eaves on left-hand side, stone-coped parapet to right wing; slates. Modern additions at rear. No 11 and the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary form a group with St Helen’s House King Street. Listing NGR: SK3509536768

Heritage Details

Architect: A. W. N. Pugin; E. W. Pugin; Gerard Goalen & Partner

Original Date: 1837

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*