Building » Harvington – St Mary

Harvington – St Mary

Harvington, Worcestershire DY10

A simple Gothic-style church of 1825, the oldest Catholic church in the area, predating Emancipation. It is situated next to Harvington Hall, a recusant site of great significance in the history of Midlands Catholicism. The church forms part of a historic group in the rural setting of the hall, which also includes the presbytery of 1838 (attached to the church), the former stables and the churchyard boundary wall.

Harvington Hall, the seat of the Pakington and Yates families, was a centre for Catholic life in the area during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The house contained two ‘secret’ chapels and is famous for its unequalled collection of priest holes, probably constructed by St Nicholas Owen. St John Wall (martyred 1679) ministered in the area for twelve years. In 1743 a chapel was constructed in a stable block in the grounds and used until 1823, when it was badly damaged by fire. It later became a school, but in 1986-7 was restored as a chapel with the addition of an eighteenth-century altar and rails from Upton-on-Severn (and which probably originated from the chapel in Blackmore Park).

The intention to build St Mary’s church is evident in 1822 since two builders’ estimates survive from that year, one for £257, the other for £357. Eventually it was built in 1825, paid by Sir George Throckmorton at a cost which is variously stated as, £900, £1,100 or £1,500 (the lower range seems most likely). It is the earliest Catholic church in the area, predating the missions of Stourbridge and Kidderminster by a few years. The three-storey priest’s house was built in 1838 (previously priests had lived at the hall), within the wall of the Elizabethan Great Garden. It was placed here because the side wall of the church was unsafe and this solution provided an abutment. The southeast sacristy and the porch/narthex were added in 1854-55, probably by C. F. Hansom.

In 1888 a delicate wrought iron rood screen was introduced (designed by Messrs R. J. Harris & Son of Rugeley) and an extensive ornamental decorative scheme was carried out (designed and executed by R. J. Hopkins of Abergavenny). The decorations were painted over in 1925 under the direction of Hardman, Powell & Co., and the screen also removed at some point.

In 1923 the hall and church were bought by Mrs Ellen Ryan Ferris and presented to the archdiocese as a shrine of the English Martyrs. Consecration finally took place in 1985.


The list description (below) offers some basic facts about the architecture. St Mary’s is built of sandstone ashlar with elementary Early English detailing. Three windows on the north have Y-tracery and the east window intersecting tracery (all the tracery is timber). The nave and chancel form one volume. The south wall has no windows as the priest’s house has been built up against it, although their outline survives within the church. The west porch/narthex has its axis at right angles to the main building.

Inside there is a shallow, keel-shaped (rather than ‘segmental’ as the list description says) plaster ceiling and a west gallery. The sanctuary was panelled in 1953.

The organ was built in 1819 by H. C. Lincoln, originally for St Austin, Stafford. The font, perhaps of 1854-55, has a round bowl and cylindrical stem. There are two stained glass windows by John Hardman & Sons, the east one of 1893 (extended by the three lower panels in 1953 and then three yet lower panels in the 1970s) and that in the northeast window of 1920. The other windows have stained glass too – the northwest (Jesse) window was installed in 2001. The bronze plaque in the shrine of St John Wall (in the narthex) is by Faith Tolkien (daughter of J. R. R. Tolkien), 1987. The fine bronze resin sculptures standing in front of the former south windows are by Gabrielle M. Mercier and show St John Wall (2003) and St Nicholas Owen (2007).

List descriptions



Roman Catholic church. 1825, extended 1854-5. Sandstone ashlar with tile roof. Three-bay church, with porch added to west. North front: three-bay nave and chancel in one divided by stepped buttresses, with diagonal buttresses to corners; three windows: Y-tracery under 2-centred head; east window has three lights under 2-centred head with Y-tracery. Entrance to right has a crenellated gable containing two empty niches; door has a 2- centred head of one chamfered order. Interior: labels to windows, moulded cornice and segmental plastered vault. West gallery has a panelled front surmounted by a balustrade with stick balusters.

(BoE, p 192; Hodgkinson, HR: “Further Notes on Harvington Hall”, Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, Vol 73 for 1955 (1957), pp 97-98).

Listing NGR: SO8782074382

Priest’s House


House. 1838 with some late C19 alterations. Brick with hipped slate roof. Three storeys, boarded eaves, three windows: 16-pane sashes under plastered wedge lintels. Second floor as first floor. Ground floor with pilastered wooden doorcase with flat canopy enclosed with C19 glazed conservatory.

(Hodgkinson, H R: “Further Notes on Harvington Hall”, Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, Vol 73 for 1955 (1957), pp 98-9).

Listing NGR: SO8782074384

Churchyard wall


Churchyard wall. Early C19. Sandstone ashlar. Wall of three to four courses with triangular coping, with two gateways on north side, each with square gate piers with pyramidal caps. Included for group value.

Listing NGR: SO8783474403

Stable (parish rooms)


Stables, now parish rooms. Early C18 incorporating C16 fragments, with some late C20 alterations. Brick incorporating timber-frame, with tile roof. One storey with loft door in north gable, on ground floor, entrance to left has a wooden architrave under segmental head with a C18 battened door. Interior: close-studded timber-framing visible on ground floor. Included for group value.

Listing NGR: SO8779474391

Heritage Details

Architect: Not known

Original Date: 1825

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II