Building » Grimsby – St Mary on the Sea

Grimsby – St Mary on the Sea

Heneage Road, Grimsby, Lincolnshire DN32 9DZ

A late Gothic Revival church by the Sheffield firm of M.E. Hadfield and Son. The church was built with financial support from Thomas Young of Kingerby Manor, and is particularly richly fitted out. The original intention was for a much larger building, hence the rather truncated character of the design as built. The church and contemporary presbytery form part of a notable group of Victorian and Edwardian educational and religious  buildings built on land provided by the Heneage Estate.

Grimsby’s expansion as a fishing port took off in the 1840s after the arrival of the railway and the building of the docks, completed in 1852. These developments brought a large influx of Irish construction workers, to add to the small and scattered local Catholic population which had kept the faith during penal times. A mission was established in the town in 1848 and ten years later Sir John Sutton, a wealthy Catholic convert, purchased land on what is now Heneage Road for the building of a church. He died before this could be realised and it was another benefactor, Thomas Arthur Young KSG of Kingerby Manor (1805-91) who saw the site developed. The school and presbytery were built first, in 1874, and until the church was built part of the school was used for services (the school buildings were replaced by modern buildings in the 1970s).

The church was built in 1879-83 and financed in large measure by Young. He used his favourite architects, Hadfield & Son of Sheffield, as he had, most probably, for the presbytery. The ambitious original plan was for a church of almost double the size of the present building, but this did not prove financially possible, hence the somewhat truncated design as built. The church was opened by the Rt Rev Edward Bagshawe, third Bishop of Nottingham on 19 August 1883.

The east window was given by Young soon after the opening. In 1887 the Hon. Mrs Georgina Fraser, sister of Lord Heneage, donated the Sacred Heart altar, made by Boulton of Cheltenham from designs by Pugin & Pugin and installed in the Young chantry chapel.

The church was further enriched over time, most notably during the incumbency of Fr (Canon) J. P. Hawkins, who was missionary rector and parish priest from 1884 until his death in 1913. A popular local figure, he was buried at Cleethorpes Cemetery but in 1914 his remains were exhumed and reinterred in a vault under the Sacred Heart Chapel. The stained glass in the great west window is in his memory. Canon Hawkins oversaw the enrichment of the sanctuary with wall paintings for the church’s Silver Jubilee in 1908, the Charlton family being the principal donors. In 1963 these were painted over, but in 2002-3 they were partially uncovered and conserved by Nigel Leaney. Further enrichment took place for the Golden Jubilee in 1933, when a dado frieze depicting fishes was painted by members of the congregation, under the direction of the Grimsby artist (and parishioner) William Richard Bunting.

The church has undergone relatively little alteration in recent decades. The main changes have been the reordering of the sanctuary in 1979, when a forward altar and lectern were introduced, and (possibly) changes made to the high altar and reredos. In 1983 a small narthex or lobby was formed by the enclosure of the underside of the western gallery.


On plan the church consists of a four-bay aisled nave and a three-bay sanctuary, with a chapel at the east end of the north aisle (dedicated to the Sacred Heart) and a sacristy giving off the south side of the sanctuary, connecting to the earlier presbytery. The original intention was for a further three nave bays, with a 200 ft western tower and spire and entrance porch and baptistery, ambitions never realised. The church is designed in Hadfield & Son’s favoured fourteenth century Gothic style. It is externally faced in local red brick laid in English garden wall bond, with ashlar dressings, under a Welsh slate roof.

The west front faces towards Heneage Road, and has a projecting gabled entrance with boarded timber doors with strap hinges. In the gable is a niche containing a statue of the Virgin and Child and above this is the large five-light west window, with Geometric tracery. At the sides, the aisles are lit by three-light trefoiled windows; there is no clerestory. On the south side two low canted projections below the windows house confessionals. The north chapel has a canted east side with a central two-light traceried window flanked by trefoiled lancets and a trefoiled three-light north window. The external wall of the chancel has angle buttresses and is dominated by the five-light east window. The foundation stone is set into the wall on its south side. The sacristy has trefoiled two-light windows and an ovolo-moulded eaves cornice. A two-storey gabled projection to the south side of the chancel originally housed the organ and choir gallery, and has a pair of lancets windows. Beside it, a stepped coped gable rises to a chimney with a pair of octagonal shafts. There is no change in the ridge height between nave and chancel. Instead, the transition is marked by an octagonal fleche. This houses one bell, cast by Taylor of Loughborough for the opening of the church in 1883 and bearing an old Lincolnshire legend, Quad audisti in aure O Maria praedicabo super tecta (‘What you have heard, O Mary, I will proclaim from the rooftops’).

The stately interior has qualities reminiscent of a continental hall church, with the aisles reaching almost the same height as the nave, and no clerestory. The four bays of the nave arcade have tall double-chamfered arches springing alternately from cylindrical and octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases on tall octagonal plinths. At the west end of the nave, an organ gallery with an ornate front is carried on octagonal wooden columns with tall stone bases. At the junction of the nave and sanctuary, a wide chancel arch springs from octagonal responds. Within the chancel, a south doorway with blocked arch and projecting balcony above is the original organ and choir tribune. It was originally provided with a lattice screen for the singers. The nave and aisle floors are paved with modern square ‘granolithic’ tiles, while the walls are plastered and painted. The nave and chancel have arch-braced roofs, that of the nave boarded and resembling an upturned hull, the chancel with painted trusses and blue and red panels incorporating monograms of Christ and Mary. In the sanctuary, the floor is carpeted; an original account in The Tablet refers to the floor being by Godwin of Hereford (presumably the celebrated firm of William Godwin & Son of Lugwardine and Withington, near Hereford), whose work may survive beneath the carpet.

The chief furnishing of the sanctuary, and the original visual focus of the interior, is the high altar and reredos. The £950 cost of this ensemble (including the stained glass window above) was met by Thomas Arthur Young, and they were – except for the window – installed for the opening in 1883. Boulton’s carved marble altar and the tabernacle with J. F. Bentley’s enamelled door have been replaced with plainer substitutes in a twentieth century reordering. However, the original stone arcade survives on either side, with blind cusped arches, brattishing and recessed piscina and aumbry. Above the altar, the original central marble and alabaster monstrance throne with Gothic canopy and carved and gilded stone angels has been removed, but the painted panels of the reredos survive within their gilded framework. The reredos was made by Messrs. J. Tomlinson and Sons, of Leeds, from designs by Charles Hadfield, while the paintings were executed by Westlake. They depict:

  • In the raised central upper panel: Coronation of the Virgin
  • In the tier beneath: seven archangels
  • In the central tier: four Evangelists bearing scrolls
  • In the lower tier: figures of St Hugh of Lincoln, St Thomas Aquinas, St Norbert (founder of the Premonstratensian Order with, at his feet, Thomas Arthur Young, benefactor of the church, who brought the Norbertine Order back to Lincolnshire; Young is shown in his regalia as a Knight of St Gregory), and St Gilbert of Sempringham
  • The panels previously concealed by the monstrance throne have gilded arabesque decoration and incorporate the prayer Ave Regina Caelorum.

The side walls of the sanctuary are panelled in oak up to head height, with blind trefoils to the upper panels and a carved floral frieze at the top. In front of these, the ornately carved oak choir stalls are original furnishings, given by Young. The marble forward altar with carved Agnus Dei on the frontal, and the marble and wrought-iron ambo and communion rails belong to twentieth century schemes of reordering.

The rich scheme of painted decoration carried out in the sanctuary in 1908 was overpainted in the 1960s, but some elements have now been restored. These include large square panels depicting the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi on either side of the reredos. The original donors were the children of Thomas Charlton, shipbuilder and Mayor of Grimsby in 1875-6; he is included in the Nativity scene dressed in his mayoral robes. The artist is not known; one possibility is Nathaniel Westlake, although the painted figures as they now appear are not of the same quality as in Westlake’s reredos. Other exposed elements of this painted scheme are the large angels on either side of the east window, bearing scrolls with words from the Magnificat. Also belonging to this scheme are some painted saints under canopies on the side walls of the sanctuary and the stencil decoration of the sanctuary arch.  

The chief furnishing of the Sacred Heart chapel is Pugin & Pugin’s elaborately carved altar and reredos, given in 1887 by the Hon. Mrs Georgina Fraser in memory of her husband, Col. Alexander Fraser. Like the original high altar, this was made by Boulton of Cheltenham, and is of Bath and Caen stone, with Devonshire marble shafts and panels. The reredos has marble columns and carved figures in canopied niches: a central figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is flanked on one side by St John the Apostle and St George, and on the other by St Mary Magdalene and St Hugh of Lincoln. There are two wall monuments in the chapel, one recording the installation of the altar by Georgina Heneage and its dedication in 1887, the other an ornate marble and alabaster memorial to Thomas Arthur Young, recording his benefaction both here and elsewhere in the county (he paid for churches at  Gainsborough, Crowle, Luddington, Spalding and Market Rasen). Buried beneath the chapel are the remains of Canon Joseph Hawkins, missionary rector and parish priest from 1884 to 1913.

The timber pulpit on the south side of the nave is of German provenance, and was given in 1892 by Mrs Bedelia Dunn, in memory of her husband Thomas, a Grimsby ‘boot dealer’. It has a tester, balustraded staircase carved figures of the four Evangelists. Mrs Dunn herself died before it could be installed. The fine carved polychrome wooden statues of Our Lady and St Joseph on panelled Gothic timber pedestals and placed on either side of the chancel arch are also of German provenance, possibly by Stuflesser of Ortisei. They were blessed at Christmas Midnight Mass, 1891. The Stations of the Cross are placed below the windows of the aisles, with two on the western gallery front. They are cast, high-relief tableaux, of uncertain (probably Continental) provenance. Under the stair to the western gallery is all that visibly remains of a dado frieze, which previously ran around the outer walls. This was painted by the Grimsby artist and parishioner William Richard Bunting, assisted by Rudolph Bunting and George Canty, for the parish’s Golden Jubilee in 1933. The organ was installed in the western gallery in the 1920s, in thanksgiving for the end of the First World War. It was made in 1920 by the Positive Organ Company, London. It was renovated in 2007. Hadfield’s unrealised design for west end of the church allowed for a baptistery. A small lead-lined octagonal timber font, its faces carved with quatrefoils, was located at the west end of the church, within the enclosed narthex/lobby, at the time of the writer’s visit in 2011. Confessionals are placed in the second and third bays of the south aisle, their elaborate timber and leaded glass doors flush with the aisle walls.

Stained glass: The five-light east window was given by Young, although it was not ready for the opening of the church.  It depicts Our Lady, Queen of the Rosary. The design of this and the side windows of the chancel, each with a medallion with the symbol of the Virgin Mary, has been attributed to Herbert Gandy (d.1934), and their manufacture to John Jennings (1848-1919) of Lambeth Art Glass Works. The five-light west window, a Crucifixion scene with figures, was installed in memory of Canon Hawkins (d. 1913). Stylistically, it is attributable to the Hardman firm of Birmingham. Other windows which also appear to be by Hardman are those to Alice Tierney (d.1889), Patrick and Mary Tierney (1897), Thomas Rice (d.1914). The window over the last of the Stations of the Cross was installed in 1909, to commemorate Canon Hawkins’ priestly silver jubilee. The window to Emily Hyldon (d. 1945) was also given in thanksgiving for the end of hostilities in 1945, and depicts the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. This is a signed work by John Hardman Studios, with Grimsby Dock depicted in the lower panels.

*Entry amended and expanded 2.1.2021, to include photographs and extracts from a report prepared by AHP for the Diocese of Nottingham in 2016*

List descriptions



Roman Catholic church. 1879-83 by ME and C Hadfield of Sheffield; altar of the Sacred Heart by Pugin and Pugin. Red brick in English garden wall bond with ashlar dressings. Welsh slate roof. STYLE: Gothic Revival. PLAN: 4-bay aisled nave with west entrance and north chapel; 3-bay chancel with vestry to south. EXTERIOR: plinth, buttresses with offsets to angles and between bays; sill string course; moulded, stepped and dentilled brick eaves cornice throughout. Nave: 3-light pointed trefoiled north and south windows. South side has a pair of stone-coped ground-floor canted bays for confession boxes. West end has central section flanked by buttresses, gabled surround to entrance with pointed moulded arch dying into jambs, niche above containing statue of Virgin and Child, string course stepped above entrance, pointed 5-light window with Geometric tracery. Coped nave gable with flush ashlar bands and slit-light. Nave north chapel has chamfered ashlar plinth, canted east side with central 2-light pointed traceried window flanked by trefoiled lancets beneath hoodmould, pointed trefoiled 3-light north window beneath hoodmould. Chancel: moulded ashlar plinth, pairs of trefoiled lancets to north and south sides with continuous hoodmould and flush ashlar bands; east end with angle buttresses and central buttress beneath 5-light window with hoodmould and flush bands; coped gable with finial. South side of chancel has foundation stone with Latin inscription dated 1880 and 1883, recording architect. South vestry, adjoining Presbytery (qv) has trefoiled 2-light windows, ovolo-moulded eaves cornice. Projecting 2-storey single-bay gabled organ chamber to south of chancel has a pair of lancets and, beside it, a stepped coped gable rising to a roof-chimney with a pair of octagonal shafts. Octagonal spirelet between nave and chancel with banded slates. INTERIOR: nave arcades of tall pointed double-chamfered arches on alternating cylindrical and octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases on tall octagonal plinths. Pointed moulded chancel arch with octagonal responds. Chancel has pointe arched south doorway with blocked arch and balcony above; marble and wrought-iron sanctuary rails, marble altar and reredos flanked by blind arcaded panels containing piscina and aumbry; wooden wall panelling and carved floral frieze; pointed arched south doorway with blocked arch and balcony above; ornately-carved choir stalls. Nave has gallery with ornate front carried on octagonal wooden columns with tall stone bases; columned west organ gallery. Marble and wrought-iron pulpit with tester and balustraded staircase. Arch-braced nave and chancel roofs, the latter with painted panels. North chapel has elaborately sculpted stone altar and reredos with marble columns, demi-figures of Christ and saints in canopied niches, traceried panels with marble insets, stained glass windows above. 2 inscribed tablets in chapel, one recording the raising of the altar by Georgina Heneage and its dedication in 1887, the other an ornate memorial to Thomas Young of Kingerby, Lincs, benefactor of this church and of “many churches throughout the Shire”. One of the last churches by the partnership of Hadfield and Son. Together with the neighbouring Presbytery and its associated garden walls (qv), forms part of a notable group of Victorian and Edwardian educational and religious buildings built on land provided by the Heneage Estate.

(The Buildings of England: Pevsner N, Harris J, and Antram N: Lincolnshire: London: 1989-: 339; Grimsby – Action for Conservation: Grimsby Borough Planning Department: List of buildings of local architectural or historical interest: Grimsby Borough Council: 1972-: NO.103; Ambler RW: Great Grimsby Fishing Heritage: a brief for a trail: Grimsby Borough Council: 1990-: 48).

Listing NGR: TA2786209644



Presbytery. c1880, probably by Hadfield and Son of Sheffield, architects of the adjoining St Mary’s church (qv); early C20 addition to rear. Red brick in stretcher bond with black brick and painted stone dressings. Welsh slate roof. Original range rectangular on plan, with later wing to rear adjoining St Mary’s church. EXTERIOR: balanced asymmetrical design. 2 storeys with attic, irregular fenestration. Plinth with 2 black brick bands above. Entrance front to south has door and windows in a continuous quoined ashlar surround with chamfered reveals with label stops. Board door with rounded brackets to lintel and mullioned overlight with 2 quatrefoiled lights. Single-light window to left, and 3 similar lights to right, all with single transoms, quatrefoiled top lights, and leaded panes. 2 black brick bands at lintel level. Recessed carved stone panel above entrance with “SM” cypher on a shield below bishop’s mitre. 3-light first-floor mullioned window in moulded reveal; narrow single-light window to right. Above this, a gable with brick bands and a small quatrefoiled attic window in a quoined surround. To the left, an elaborate projecting stack with a carved bishop’s head corbel at ground-floor level, ribbed chimney-shafts and corbelled brick cap. Ovolo-moulded brick eaves cornice. Hipped and gabled roof with ornate wrought-iron finials. Left return forms front to Heneage Road: twin-gabled, the section to the right with a 3-light window to each floor and a quatrefoiled attic window, the section to the left with a full-height canted brick bay with 2-light and single-light windows, sill bands and hipped roof. North front facing church has lateral stack similar to south front but with a different head corbel; C20 replacement glazing to enclosed entrance passage. 2-storey rear addition has leaded casements, corbelled eaves, hipped roof, lateral stack with diagonal shafts. INTERIOR: not inspected.

Along with the associated garden walls and St Mary’s Church (qv), forms part of a notable group of Victorian and Edwardian educational and religious buildings built on land provided by the Heneage Estate.

Listing NGR: TA2785509633

Boundary walls and gates


Gateways and walls enclosing St Mary’s Presbytery front garden, and adjoining walls on south side of St Mary’s churchyard and St Mary’s School grounds. 1880s, probably by Hadfield and Son of Sheffield, architects of St Mary’s church and Presbytery (qv). Presbytery garden wall and gate-piers in orange and yellow brick with ashlar dressings, cast-iron railings and wrought-iron gates; adjoining walls in orange and yellow brick. South gateway to Presbytery has piers each with a tall brick base, chamfered ashlar shaft, and upper section with moulded ashlar band, frieze with bands of contrasting brick, and low pyramidal ashlar cap. Wrought-iron gate with alternating plain and wavy dog bars and scrollwork panels above. Dwarf wall to each side with banded brickwork and ashlar coping; arcaded railings with barley-twist columns and finials above a single top rail. C20 wooden fence adjoining to right, with similar original wrought-iron gate. 2 sections of taller coped wall stepped downhill to each side, enclosing churchyard to the west, and the rear garden of Presbytery and St Mary’s School grounds to the east, with bands of contrasting orange and yellow brickwork and buttresses with single offsets. Included for group value as part of a notable group of Victorian and Edwardian educational and religious buildings built on land provided by the Heneage Estate.

Listing NGR: TA2783409633

Heritage Details

Architect: Hadfield & Son

Original Date: 1883

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II