Building » Great Haywood – St John the Baptist

Great Haywood – St John the Baptist

Main Road, Great Haywood, Staffordshire ST18

A country house chapel of the 1820s which was rebuilt in its current location in the 1840s, and as such has been described as ‘a striking example of physical continuity between country house Catholicism and a nineteenth century parish’. The church is of considerable historical and architectural interest, displaying an exceptional grasp of Perpendicular style for the period and representing an important work by the architect Joseph Ireland, several of whose other buildings have been demolished. 

The chapel originated as the family chapel at Tixall Hall, which was originally built for the Aston family. A fine sixteenth century gatehouse survives, but the remainder of the building, which had been altered and augmented, was demolished. The chapel was built for Sir Thomas Clifford Constable in 1827-8 by Joseph Ireland, who had earlier restored the house. The style is in marked contrast to Ireland’s classical churches at Walsall and Wolverhampton (qqv), and was probably chosen to chime with the character of the gatehouse. Archive views show that the chapel originally had a highly ornate apse in the form of a compass or bay window, possibly original sixteenth century fabric re-used, possibly identifiable with remains sited opposite the presbytery to the south of the present chapel, which have recently been restored. The chapel was used by the local Catholic population as well as the family, and when the family left Tixall they made provision for the dismantling and re-erection of the chapel, which took place in 1845. This was, as Hodgetts says, ‘a striking example of physical continuity between country house Catholicism and a nineteenth century parish’. The building was dedicated in October 1846, with Bishop Wiseman officiating.

In 1979-80 the building was restored and cleaned by Horsley, Currall & Associates, who created a forward altar using the original high altar, with changes to the floor level and other alterations.


The chapel was originally located at Tixall Hall, and was built in 1827-8 for Sir Thomas Clifford Constable from designs by Joseph Ireland. It was dismantled and rebuilt in a different form at its present location in 1845, after the Tixall estate went into Protestant ownership.

In this description, all orientations given are liturgical. On plan the chapel consists of a stone rectangle with slender octagonal southwest turret and a tall porch at the west end. This has a canopied niche over the Tudor-arched doorway and shallow flanking niches with traceried heads. The building is crenellated and has large mullioned-and-transomed windows with arched traceried lights beneath flat heads. The chapel is attached to a red brick presbytery, probably of 1840s date, via a short stone link.

Inside, the roof of the porch has been replaced at some point. A Tudor style entrance leads beneath the west gallery, which has an elaborate arcaded screen. The walls of the chapel are decorated to dado height with blind traceried panels. Some masonry   displays graffiti said to have been made by masons as an aid to reconstruction of the building. There is a wall pulpit with entrance from the presbytery link, a Tudor style doorway to the link and a canopied sedile. The turret contains a stone spiral stair, and levels of stair and gallery are mismatched. There is a forward altar, made from the original high altar repositioned in 1979-80. Stations of the Cross take the form of relief carvings, installed in the early twentieth century in memory of Fr Butland, who died in 1917 and is buried in the churchyard. A stained glass window on the north side of the nave commemorates George Hill, who died in 1917 and was an artist at the Hardman studios in Birmingham; he executed the window. A large bronze statue of the Virgin and Child by Carmel Cauchi is of c.1980 and stands at the rear of the building beneath the west gallery.

List description (amended May 2016 following Taking Stock)

A Roman Catholic Church by Joseph Ireland, built as a family chapel at Tixall Hall 1827-9, dismantled and moved to its present location in 1845. The attached presbytery is not of special architectural and historic interest.

Reasons for designation

The Roman Catholic church of St John the Baptist, of 1827-9 by Joseph Ireland, originally at Tixall Hall and moved in the 1840s to its present location, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the church is a good example of a private chapel of the 1820s by Joseph Ireland, altered and relocated in the 1840s with good quality elevations and, internal composition and detailing;

* Historic interest: as a Roman Catholic country house chapel on a relatively large scale, and for the unusualness of it later being moved to become a parish church, with surviving chalk marking from this reconstruction;

* Craftsmanship: the church contains good quality stone carving throughout, particularly in the west gallery and pulpit which display intricate detailing.


The Roman Catholic church of St John the Baptist originated as the family chapel at Tixall Hall, which was the seat of the Clifford family in the early C19. Sir Thomas Hugh Clifford Constable had commissioned the architect Joseph Ireland to carry out extensive work at Tixall Hall and it was he who designed the chapel which was built in 1827-9, under the auspices of Sir Thomas Aston Clifford Constable.

The chapel was used by the local Catholic population as well as the family, and when the family left Tixall in the 1840s they donated the chapel along with land in Great Haywood, where it was rebuilt in 1845 as a condition of the sale of the estate. The relocated building was dedicated in 1846. Paintings of the chapel in its original location show it to have had an ornate bay window at its eastern end which incorporated fabric from an earlier Tixall Hall, and several projections on the southern elevation. Stones now in the presbytery garden are thought to survive from the original bay window, although it is understood that the bay was never constructed at Great Haywood and the stained glass moved with the family to Burton Constable Hall.


A Roman Catholic church by Joseph Ireland, built as a family chapel at Tixall Hall 1827-9, dismantled and moved to its present location in 1845.

MATERIALS and PLAN: the church is built of a local stone, all ashlar, and is orientated north east – south west, and is a single space containing nave and sanctuary, with a projecting porch at the liturgical west end. The sacristy projects from the eastern end of the southern elevation, where it is joined to the presbytery.

EXTERIOR: the church is characterised by its long north and south elevations with tall mullioned and transomed windows, with buttresses between and at the corners and all with crenellated parapet above. Above the buttresses are small carved shields showing coats of arms. The main entrance to the church is through the porch which projects from the western elevation. The porch has central timber doors in a Tudor-style surround with a flat hoodmould above, and carved tracery in the spandrels. The label stops are uncarved shields. Above the door is a niche containing a statue beneath a decorative ogee-roofed canopy with traceried panels. To either side are tall, blind panels with traceried heads. The gable is surmounted by a stone cross and there are panelled copings across the porch on all sides.The east elevation contains a large, four-light window with Perpendicular style tracery, beneath a flat head. At the south-west corner in the return between church and porch is a tall octagonal turret, with open trefoiled panels to the bellcote, and projecting carved heads beneath the crenellated parapet. The sacristy projects from the eastern end of this elevation and contains a further window; this then joins the adjacent presbytery. The church has a continuous crenellated parapet.

INTERIOR: through the main entrance into the porch, the entrance door has an internal surround with Perpendicular-style tracery, carved spandrels and floral decoration in the outer surround. The original ceiling of the porch has been lost and replaced with a plain plaster ceiling; fluted pilasters survive in the corners which may have led up to a fan vault. The internal door into the church itself has modern doors in a Tudor-style surround, with a carved coat of arms in the elevation above. Inside the church, there is an ornately carved western gallery with an arcaded screen with stepped posts leading up to crocketted finials, carved spandrels and further carved decoration above. The main body of the church has dado-height panelling throughout, all with traceried heads. Above this, between the windows, are tall arched panels flanked by further traceried panels. The nave has plain timber pews, some of which originally had tall poppyheads which are understood to have been removed in the 1970s. A number of stones throughout the church retain markings said to have been used when the church was dismantled and reconstructed in 1845. There is a highly ornate wall pulpit at the sanctuary end which is accessed from a stair inside the sacristy. The pulpit has a carved ogee base with traceried panels above and a figure of a green man in the carved cornice. Adjacent is a Tudor-style door giving access to the sacristy. The sanctuary contains a forward altar which was made from the original altar which was repositioned in the 1970s. To the right is a sedile with an ornate canopy, and the rear wall contains traceried panels. The east window dates from 1910 and shows St John the Baptist. There is a continuous panelled ceiling throughout the church with stencilled decoration.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), it is declared that the presbytery, attached to the south of the building, is not of special architectural and historic interest.

Books and journals

Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1974), 144


St John’s Parish and People 2000

The Architectural History Practice Ltd: Churches in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham: An Architectural and Historical Review prepared for English Heritage and the Archdiocese of Birmingham (2015)

Heritage Details

Architect: Joseph Ireland

Original Date: 1828

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II