Building » Haunton – St Michael and St James

Haunton – St Michael and St James

Haunton, Staffordshire B79

A handsome and substantial building largely of 1901-2 by Edmund Kirby, but with a late nineteenth century chancel which incorporates medieval masonry. The church stands in a large burial ground with mature planting, a presbytery of 1905 and a former school (now Community Hall). The simple interior is dominated by heavy scissor trussed roofs and contains a good collection of early twentieth century glass, mainly by Hardman and Co. The Romanesque ‘font’ is an imported item of uncertain provenance. Together with the other buildings and burial ground, the church makes a notable contribution to the local conservation area.  

A mission was started here in 1845, when Bishop Wiseman opened a little detached chapel designed by Pugin at Haunton Hall, the home of Col. C. E. Mousley just outside the village. Henry John Pye, former Anglican rector and Lord of the Manor of Clifton Campville and Haunton (and son-in-law of Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford) converted to Catholicism and gave a piece of land in the village and built a temporary iron church, which opened for worship on 1 January 1885. A singular yet exceedingly interesting addition was afterwards made by the building of a chancel from the stones of an ancient mediaeval chapel dedicated to St James, which stood eastwards of its present site and had long fallen into decay’ (Tamworth Herald, 1 January 1901). The dedication to St James the Greater was added to the original dedication to St Michael. Henry Pye also built a presbytery and gave the whole site to the diocese. The first burial was that of Col. Mousley, effective founder of the mission, who died in 1887.

On 23 May 1901 Dr Ilsley, Bishop of Birmingham laid the foundation stone of the new nave, designed by Edmund Kirby of Liverpool and built by Isaac Ward & Son, contractors of Uttoxeter. The church was built of red and white Hollington sandstone with Broseley tile roofs. On 22 May 1902 a Pontifical High Mass was sung by the Bishop of Menevia and the Bishop of Birmingham preached the sermon at the opening ceremony. Rectory status was given in 1905 and a new presbytery and school built. As the church was quickly free from debt, it was consecrated on 20 June 1907, when a new high altar and organ were introduced. The altar was presumably designed by Kirby, who attended the consecration ceremony; the account in The Tabletdescribed it as ‘built of alabaster of selected tints. The columns are of pavanazzo marble and the super-altars are also of rich marble. The tabernacle is of pure white alabaster, beautifully carved with angels and the emblems of wheat and the vine’.

At the time of the opening of the Kirby church only the east window was filled with stained glass – a memorial to Frances, Lady Mostyn, by Hardman & Co. During the next thirty years, all the nave windows were filled with good quality Hardman glass, mostly memorials to members of the Trafford and Pye families, but including also a three-light window to Col. and Mrs Mousley, depicting the Assumption, St Edward the Confessor and Pope St Eugene (1914). The proposed gallery at the west end was never realised, so the lancets retain their middle level blocking. The 1932 north nave window commemorating Rev. John O’Toole (brother of Rev. Patrick O’Toole, parish priest here for forty five years) was designed by W. J. Wainwright, President of the Birmingham Society of Artists for John Hardman and Co. (where he worked); he was a friend of Fr Patrick. It contains a portrait of Fr John in the bottom left hand corner.

The 1915 north window of the north transept chapel is by Burlison and Grylls and was originally set in a ‘singularly picturesque dormer at the north east corner of the nave’. It was moved out further north when this chapel, dedicated to Our Lady was built in 1925 by Mrs Donisthorpe of Enderby Hall, Leicestershire. She funded a new marble and slate altar, the gilt tabernacle and the east and west stained glass windows by Alexander Gascoygne (his golden lion motif is in the bottom corner of each). She was buried in the middle of the chapel under a brass displaying the Donisthorpe arms and motto. Outside the chapel is a Donisthorpe vault with burials of 1938 and 1949.

In 1958, ‘considerable repairs’ were underway and in 2002 the church was redecorated, a new floor laid and new heating and lighting installed (mostly paid for by the Rev. Sean Turley). Soon afterwards the former school was extended and converted for use as the Parish Community Hall. The organ has been recently introduced by Fr Turley.

The burial ground contains many graves of the Sisters of St Joseph of Bordeaux who set up a convent in Haunton Hall in 1904 and ran a girls school. The Pugin chapel altar was taken to St John the Baptist in Tamworth c.1907 and subsequently lost but for one panel. The school closed in 1987 and the hall became a nursing home, with the remaining nuns living in a small new convent. However, they left that for a house near Clifton Campville in 2010. The fine twentieth century oak pulpit and communion rails in the church are said to have been carved by a nun (however, The Tablet reported in August 1906 that a pulpit then newly-installed was made by Burns & Oates).

List description


Listing NGR: SK2363510811

R.C. church. Mainly 1901-2 by Edmund Kirby, chancel of 1885. Ashlar; plain tile roof with crested ridge tiles. Cruciform, 3-bay nave with south porch, 2-bay chancel, single-bay transepts. Nave: to the west a group of 3 graded lancets, below each is a trefoil headed window, pilaster buttresses flank each window; north and south windows of 3 trefoil headed lights. Gabled north porch with king-post roof and diagonal braces; inside double half glazed doors in a wooden screen lead to a segmental pointed doorway with 2 massive half-roll orders. Transepts: east and west windows similar to those of the nave, transomed north window; square headed south door with roll moulded surround. Chancel: 3 lancets to the east under a common hood mould; 3-light south window, 2-light and single-light north windows, all have trefoiled heads.

Interior: pointed chancel arch flanked by 2 pointed niches containing images of Christ and of Mary and Child; ribbed segmental arch to north transept; scissor braced roof trusses.

Fittings: font in a Romanesque style rectangular basin with blind arcading containing mythical creatures stands on 4 slim columns with cable moulding. Octagonal wooden pulpit with panelled and traceried sides. Stained glass: all nave windows, east window and all the north transept windows have early C20 glass.

B.O.E. p.148; Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire (1904) p.131.

Heritage Details

Architect: Mostly rebuilt by Edmund Kirby

Original Date: 1885

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II