Building » High Green – St Mary

High Green – St Mary

Mortomley Lane, High Green, Sheffield, S35

A small church in lancet Gothic style, with attached school and house, built in the 188os with the support of the Duke of Norfolk, for labouring Irish Catholics in the area. There is a large burial ground behind. The church has been sympathetically extended in recent years. 

By 1864 a mission was established at Elsecar, to serve the needs of (mainly Irish) Catholic railway and canal workers. The mission priest, the Rev. Joseph Smith, decided that a Mass centre was also needed in the High Green area, and approached the Duke of Norfolk, who gave the present site. A small church with attached school and house were built from designs by E. H. Lloyd, architect of Bedford Row, for which the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Leeds on 26 July 1885 and which opened in June 1886. The bricks for the church are said to have come from a large furnace which was being demolished in Hoyland. In 1887 Fr Smith appealed for further assistance in the pages of The Tablet:

Will you please allow me a few lines to plead for a very urgent charity? The mission of St Helen, Elsecar, Yorkshire, has been visited by a sad calamity. Trade has abandoned the neighbourhood, the works have been destroyed, and means of support of the mission exist no longer. I have therefore removed to the village of Mortomley, distant from Elsecar about four miles where reside a number of Catholics. Here there is reason to hope that a new centre can be formed from which the Catholics of this extensive parish may receive the benefits of religion, and by means of which the destruction that now threatens us may be averted. By the generosity of a noble benefactor, who gave £400 for the purpose (not £2,000 as stated in the papers), a school-chapel has been built, and I am now residing in the school-house provided by the same generous patron. What remains to be done must be done by our own efforts. I have thus the double anxiety of an apparently dying mission with all its poverty and debt and the great demands of a new mission. We have little but bare walls as yet; with these, however, we can well be content for the present if we can but obtain the essentials for the due worship of Almighty God and the Government requirements of education. The congregation is small, poor, and scattered over many miles of country. The people are very generous, according to their means, but the initial expenses for chapel and school furniture, books, play-grounds and fences are beyond them. Our chapel is dedicated to Our Lady Refuge of Sinners. It stands in the ancient parish of Ecclesfield (Ecclesiae feld, the land of the Church of the Romans), near the grand old Church of St Mary, long styled “the minster of the moors,” and adjoining Norman priory. May I earnestly beg devout clients of our Holy Mother to aid me in re-establishing her veneration in this spot consecrated to her for so many centuries?

In 1907 a new, separate school was built by the then mission priest, the Belgian Fr Jules de Baere, again with the support of the Duke of Norfolk. Fr de Baere served the mission until 1914 and is commemorated in a stained glass window in the sanctuary.

In 1914 a fire destroyed the roof of the church, but appears to have left the outer walls standing and the presbytery unharmed. The rebuilt and enlarged church was opened by the Bishop of Leeds on 20 October 1915. Various windows in the nave record donors towards the reconstruction. The church was dedicated on 5 December 1999.  

 In 2010-11 the church was extended at the front and side, providing a new narthex with WCs, reconciliation room, enlarged sacristy etc., at a cost of just under £300,000 excl. VAT (architects John Hill Associates of Doncaster).

The church is orientated roughly north-south, but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

The church is a plain design in lancet Gothic style, consisting of an aisleless nave with short transepts and a short square-ended chancel. A parish club (former school) extends off the north transept, while the south transept is a modern addition. The presbytery is attached to the southeast side of the church, and there is a narthex at the west end which wraps around the south side, designed in a contextual manner and added in 2011-11. The building is faced in pebbledash render, with red brick dressings and slate roofs with decorative clay ridge tiles (concrete tiles on the presbytery). The west gabled front towards the street originally had five stepped lancets and a Gothic porch (see figure 1), but now has three truncated lights and the gabled narthex in front. Paired lancet windows remain on the north side and on the attached club room, and there is a raised brick bellcote over the sanctuary. The windows are all leaded, except for the new ones, which are uPVC secondarily glazed and incorporate reset leaded windows.

The main entrance is placed on the diagonal at the southwest corner. Giving off the new entrance area are WCs and a kitchen, reconciliation room and sacristy. The nave is aisleless, with a boarded dado, plain plastered walls and a waggon roof with thin metal tie braces. Moulded pointed arches spring from corbels at the entrances to the sanctuary and north transept (transept with Lady Shrine on its east side). A flat-topped opening leads off to the south transept, which links with the presbytery.  

The sanctuary has a timber reredos and three east lancet windows with stained glass on a Marian theme, the larger central window a memorial to Fr Jules de Baere. In the side windows of the sanctuary are fine stained glass roundels with sacred monograms and symbols and floral wreaths, their maker/provenance uncertain (example at photo bottom right at top of report). The altar, which has been brought forward, has a slate frontal inscribed with a painted and gilded martyrs’ wreath around the Chi-Rho symbol. A suspended crucifix hang above. In the nave, the Stations of the Cross are carved, polychrome and framed, probably Continental. There is a marble wall memorial to John (d. 1903) and Michael Rowland.  The seating is a mixture of benches and chairs. 

Heritage Details

Architect: E. H. Lloyd (1885-6); John Hill Associates (2010-11)

Original Date: 1886

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed