Building » Hull – St Charles Borromeo

Hull – St Charles Borromeo

Jarratt Street, Hull, East Yorkshire

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

A Catholic church of the first rank, both for its early date and for the later embellishment with a Baroque drama rarely seen in this country.

The first Post-Reformation Catholic chapel in Hull was built in Posterngate following the first Relief Act of 1778 but was destroyed in 1780 during the Gordon Riots. At this time there were said to be around 100 Catholics in the city. A French émigré priest, Abbe Foucher arrived in 1798 and built a chapel in North Street the following year. His successor, Fr John Smith planned the new church of St Charles Borromeo in Jarrett Street, designed by local architect, John Earle junior, which opened in 1829. Hull was a city of growing prosperity from its recently installed docks and the whaling trade. The new building was immediately considered too plain and J. J. Scoles was commissioned to alter and widen the church, re-opening in May 1835. In 1894, Smith, Brodrick & Lowther made more substantial changes, adding the porch and making the exterior more explicitly Catholic in appearance. The interior was given an overlay, a tour de force of Italian Baroque-cum-Austrian Rococo.


The church faces south but here all references follow conventional liturgical orientation.

The list description (below) is full and largely accurate.

The Corinthian columned porch dates from 1894. The church is built up on all sides and only has one full elevation, the principal façade. Papal coat of arms in the pediment and niches either side of the porch with statues of St Charles Borromeo and St Margaret Clitherow.

The interior of the church has dramatic contrast between darkness at the lower level and the bursts of light from the high level windows and notably from the top of the dome which sends a dramatic shaft of light onto the stunning painted and sculpted decoration over the centrepiece around the high altar. The inspiration is the Italian Baroque and Austrian Rococo and the work was carried out by an Austrian craftsman called Heinrich Immenkamp. Painted scene of the Last Judgement over the high altar. Fibrous plasterwork by George Jackson & Son, of London. The altar is made from carved marble and depicts scenes from the life of St Charles Borromeo. No surface is left undecorated. The list description mentions ‘pedimented candle sconces’ on the paired columns flanking the altar, which are no longer apparent. Richly veined marble altar steps and, perhaps surprisingly light, communion rails of black metal and brass. Post-Vatican II nave altar and ambo of about 1970, of reasonably harmonious design. The organ was brought from a local Anglican church.

List description (superseded)

Roman Catholic church and adjoining presbytery and railings. 1829, by John Earle Jnr. Widened 1835 by J J Scoles. Remodelled 1894 by Smith, Brodrick & Lowther, with interior decoration in Baroque style by Immenkamp. The porch is attributed by Pevsner to Earle and by Hall to Smith, Brodrick & Lowther.

Brick with stucco fronts and slate roofs with single rendered ridge stack and coped gable. Classical Revival style. 2 storeys; 5 bays. Church front has channelled rusticated basement below guilloche band, rusticated quoins and first-floor sill band. Slightly projecting centre defined by rusticated quoins, with enriched dentillated pediment topped with a cross and containing a coat of arms. 3 margin light stained-glass windows with eared architraves and corbelled sills, separated by long shaped brackets and flanked by pairs of similar brackets. Below, central porch with Corinthian columns, central block to frieze inscribed “Domus Dei”, and dentillated pediment. Panelled round-arched doorcase with keystone and a pair of 6-panelled doors with metal grilles in the upper panels and similar grille to overlight. On either side, a round-arched niche containing a figure, with corbelled sill on shaped brackets. Beyond, single 8-panel doors with fanlights and rusticated surrounds.

Presbytery, to right, 3 storeys; 4-window range of 12-pane sashes with moulded surrounds and keyblocks. Above, four 6-pane sashes with moulded surrounds and keystones. Below, four 12-pane sashes with pilastered surrounds, block friezes and cornices. Outside, a rendered coped boundary wall topped with a cast-iron lattice railing with lattice gatepiers and a single matching gate.

INTERIOR has square east end lit by a glazed dome and defined by a pair of Ionic columns set in from the arcade piers and flanked by large figures. Elaborate sculptured altarpiece with central tabernacle beneath crested segmental pediment on scroll brackets. On either side, fluted double Ionic columns with pedimented candle sconces. Beyond, on either side, a 4-bay blind arcade with figures under canopies, modillioned cornice and inscribed frieze. Panelled tympana with dummy balustrades. Above this, a sculpted globe with symbolic figures under the frescoed dome. The blind arcade is returned on each side with 6 figures and canopies. Nave has triple arcades with paired Ionic columns and moulded round arches with keystones and panelled archivolts. Facing the nave, pairs of Ionic pilasters with enriched figure niches between them. Moulded band with swags between floors. Clerestorey has segment-headed windows with relief panels between them. Ornate cross-beam ceiling with panelled borders and central coffered barrel vault with cross beams, king posts and scroll brackets. West end has a full-width panelled gallery with octagonal cast-iron posts and traceried brackets. Under the gallery, a canted glazed internal porch flanked by single panelled doors. On the gallery, to north, a 3-tower organ case. Narrow aisles have panelled coved ceilings and pilastered walls with major and minor cornices. North aisle has eared and shouldered wall panels with pictures. East end has a fielded 8-panel door and above it a segment-headed stained-glass window with enriched surround. West end has a pair of doors with stained-glass panels. South aisle east end has apsidal chapel with enriched dome and skylight, framed by a moulded round arch. Round arched blind arcade with Corinthian pilasters and keystones. Half-domed apse has frieze and altar with standing figure. South side has an off-centre apsidal Lady Chapel with enriched half-dome and skylight, framed by a moulded arch. To left, a canted panelled confessional and beyond, a figure on a bracket and an 8-panel door. To right, a similar double confessional and beyond, a figure niche and a figure group on a bracket. Above, 4 segment-headed stained-glass windows. West end has a door similar to the north aisle.

Fittings include panelled octagonal stone font on marble stem, enclosed by a cast-iron railing. Traceried panelled octagonal pulpit, painted ashlar, with steps and suspended soundboard. Large bronze figure of saint on pedestal. Oval marble stoup on figure bracket. Memorials include C20 wooden triptych war memorial panel with scrolled pediment and two C19 tablets.

*UPDATE*: Designation amended 02/03/16 by Historic England. Now Grade I. New list description:

Heritage Details

Architect: John Earle Jnr; enlarged by J. J. Scoles

Original Date: 1829

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade I