Coleshill Street, Flint, CH6 5BQ
An attractive building of the 1880s in Early English Gothic style, faced in red brick inside and out. It was designed by Sinnott & Powell, a notable architectural practice active in the northwest of England in the late nineteenth century. Although the intended tower and spire were not built, and the original sanctuary fittings and furnishings have not survived, the building retains its robust and simple character. It also has historic significance for its links with the monastic communities at Pantasaph and Holywell, and the strength of its Irish Catholic base in the town’s industrial past.
Until the 1850s, the Catholics of Flint would journey to Holywell to hear Mass. In 1841 two local men, George Roskell, the first Mayor of Flint, and Edward Roberts, together with Fr Lythgoe SJ, Rector of Holywell, purchased a plot of land with the intention of building a church, school and presbytery. No progress was made for some while, no doubt due to lack of funds, but in 1852 the old lead smelting works at Flint were converted to an alkali factory, providing work for many incomers. Among these were Irish families who found houses in the area, where they formed a separate Irish-speaking community. Building operations began in 1854, directed by the Capuchin friars, who had taken up residence at Pantasaph two years previously. Even before the church was built they were saying Mass on Sundays in the upstairs rooms of local inns in Flint.
A school/chapel was registered for worship in 1855, and the first presbytery was completed in 1858. In 1876 an extension to the school/chapel was built. It included a belfry and a bell that was donated by Alderman Ellis Exton, Town Clerk and MP for Flintshire. The church followed at a cost of £2,000, designed by James and Bernard Sinnott of Sinnott & Powell, Liverpool. The builders were Messrs Reney of Connah’s Quay. The foundation stone was laid on 5 June 1884 by Dr Edmund Knight, Bishop of Shrewsbury, and the church was opened by Cardinal Manning on 30 August 1885. From that time the school/chapel was used solely as a school.
In 1890 the altar from Lord and Lady Denbigh’s oratory at Downing Hall (which had been dismantled) was given to Flint by the friars of Pantasaph and installed as a high altar (the former high altar was moved to the Lady Chapel). The Sacred Heart statue was introduced in the same year. At this time the present presbytery was erected alongside the church, paid for by the daughter of George Roskell, Mrs Elizabeth Harnett.
In 1936 the sanctuary was reordered with a new altar of Gwespyr limestone with matching sanctuary rail. The old Downing Hall altar then became the Lady Altar. In 1958 a further reordering involved the remodelling of the Lady Altar, Sacred Heart shrine and baptistery, and a new floor in the aisles, porch and sacristy. The parish hall was also built in the 1960s. There has been a further reordering of the sanctuary in recent years.
The church consists of a nave with a single aisle and Lady Chapel on the north side, and a polygonal apsed sanctuary. It is built of Ruabon brick with sandstone dressings in the Early English Gothic style with lancet windows and a steeply pitched slate roof. The architect’s original drawings show that it was intended to have a tower and broach spire, but only the base of this – serving as a northwest porch – was built.
The interior is faced in the same red brick, and the nave and aisle are separated by an arcade of three Yorkshire stone drum columns with plain capitals. Above are three round clerestory windows. Over the sacristy on the south side is a choir gallery. The nave roof is barrel vaulted in pitch pine, with the floors, doors, pews and other original joinery in the same material. The sanctuary floor is of oak blocks. Three lancet windows in the walls of the apse light the sanctuary, the central one of which has stained glass depicting Our Lady Immaculate, said to have been made in Berlin. The original sanctuary furnishings, and those of the Lady Chapel were replaced in the late twentieth century.
Architect: Sinnott & Powell
Original Date: 1885
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed