Building » Gosport – St Mary

Gosport – St Mary

High Street, Gosport, Hampshire

The history of the church is uncertain, with many conflicting dates and at least two significant phases of construction, the 1850s work, the Gothick character of which suggests an earlier date, and the late nineteenth century work which is in the mainstream Gothic of the period. The earlier work is distinctive and good of its kind, whilst the later work is competent but not exceptional.

The Baptismal register for Gosport Catholics goes back to 1759 when there was already a chapel in South Cross Street. The 1834 Strangers’ Guide to Gosport refers to a small Catholic chapel behind the Independent Chapel in Middle Street (now High Street). The present site was acquired by a member of the Earl of Shrewsbury’s family in 1776 and a chapel built behind cottages fronting Middle Street, two years before the first Catholic Relief Act of 1778. Catholics from Portsmouth would come to Mass in Gosport, as in Portsmouth, a Borough, only the established church could function. The small chapel was enlarged in 1830 and 1834 when the Spanish queen Donna Maria Francesca D’Asis De Bourbon died at Alverstoke Rectory. Her remains were interred in the sanctuary until 1885. Dr Angelo Baldaconi was appointed in 1849 and he is credited with starting the present church sometime between 1849 and 1855. His architect was Robert Edward Philips. The church was completed by Baldaconi’s successor, Canon Doyle, in 1878. In 1897 the west end was rebuilt.

The church has a gabled nave and gabled liturgical south aisle, with no more than a small front area to the High Street. Sanctuary with chapels on either side. The church is hemmed in by buildings on its west and east sides and the significant elevation is the liturgical west front to the High Street. This has a tall narrow nave with a four-light window with Decorated tracery above a pointed arched doorway with a trumeau between two doors with a corbelled shaft supporting a niche containing a statue of Our Lady in the tympanum with rich foliage decoration to either side. Plain lancets either side of the doorway. The lower, gabled liturgical south aisle has a single doorway and a circular window above of four encircled quatrefoils. All this work is of 1897. In front of the church a large gabled war memorial cross, it’s panelled base with an ogee frame. The liturgical west front is of uniform build with the attached presbytery.

The interior is surprising, especially for its Gothick tracery. The nave has six bay arcades, that to the liturgical north simply defining blank recesses. Depressed arches and moulded surrounds without capitals or bases. Large three-light clerestory windows to the liturgical north, truncated ones to the liturgical south, all with pointed trefoiled lights. The walls are plastered, with the exception of the liturgical east wall which is of red brick and pierced by four open circles, the lower pair opening through to the sanctuary, the upper pair part blocked and part glazed to the exterior. It is believed that plaster was at some stage removed from this wall. Broad pointed sanctuary arch with semi-octagonal responds. The depressed arches are repeated in the form of the roof trusses with quatrefoils in the spandrels. The aisle has a blind arcade to its outer wall with two-light windows above. The aisle has the first of the curious panelled ceilings, canted, with bosses and ribs, of Georgian Gothick character. The sanctuary has a high altar and reredos against the liturgical east wall. Arcaded Gothic with painted panels. Good stained glass window above, reputed to be by Gottfried Semper (1803-79) who was in London between 1851 and 1855. Semper is best known as a theorist and writer on architecture and design, if he designed stained glass at Gosport this would be most interesting. Either side of the sanctuary are elongated chapels with canted ends and decorative plaster ceilings of Georgian Gothick character which does not accord with the historical information that suggests the present building is no earlier than 1849. Further research is needed. Chapel altars with Gothick panel tracery on the walls behind. Stations of the Cross as painted panels. Said to have been cut down and to have been painted by a member of the congregation. Pieta, after Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s Rome, presented to the church by the Woolfrey family between 1910 and 1930. Brass eagle lectern from an Anglican church. Plain octagonal stone font and open pine pews.

Heritage Details

Architect: Evinson Phillips

Original Date: 1855

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed