Building » Ilkeston – Our Lady and St Thomas of Hereford

Ilkeston – Our Lady and St Thomas of Hereford

Regent Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire DE7

A striking and idiosyncratic Gothic design of the interwar period, old fashioned for its date, but nevertheless of some interest. Its tower with crown spire is a local landmark.

A mission was established in Ilkeston in 1858, catering mainly for newly-arrived Irish industrial and agricultural workers. Fr C. W. Tasker was given charge of the mission, and in his letter of appointment, Bishop Roskell wrote: ‘there are upwards of 500 Catholics in Ilkeston and its immediate neighbourhood, without a chapel or even a school to meet in, or a single vestment or chalice, or any requisites for Divine service’. To start with, Mass was said in a disused factory on Nottingham Road, while Fr Tasker commuted to Ilkeston from St Mary’s Derby.  The mission then extended as far as Mansfield.

In 1862 Fr Tasker’s successor, Fr McKenna, opened a schoolroom-cum-chapel on Regent Street. During the time of his successor, Fr O’Neill (1867-78) the chapel was extended with an apsidal sanctuary (1875), a separate schoolroom was built (1876) and two adjacent cottages converted (or rebuilt) to form the presbytery. It was also in 1875 that the church was dedicated to Our Lady and St Thomas of Hereford; St Thomas was a member of the Cantelupe family, erstwhile lords of the manor in Ilkeston.

In the 1880s and 90s the mission was in the care of Canon McCarthy, who revived the ancient devotion to Our Lady of Dale, with an annual pilgrimage to nearby Dale Abbey. In 1891 Bishop Bagshawe celebrated Mass in the ruins of the abbey and the altar stone used on that occasion was brought to the Lady Chapel at Ilkeston.

On 25 July 1921 Bishop Dunn laid the foundation stone for a new church on the site of the old one. The architects were Charles W Hunt ARIBA and his assistant George Lee, the contractors Messrs Lehane & Co of Darley Dale and the stonemason Jack Torr of Ilkeston. Funds were short, and in the first phase of work only the three western bays of the nave were built, and a temporary brick east wall formed. The main body of the church was completed in 1930 and opened and consecrated on 24 May of that year. The fall in land allowed for a crypt to be built beneath the east end of the church, housing a shrine to Our Lady and other uses. The total cost incurred by 1930 was £7,800; volunteers carried out much of the work (this was the period of the Great Depression and the General Strike) and the parish priest, Fr de Mattos, ensured that the work was paid for as it proceeded, incurring no debt. The building was faced largely with Darley Dale stone, but parts of the less visible north wall were faced in cheaper brick. Plans for the completion of the tower and spire were prepared by George Lee in 1931  and in 1933 a bell was hung in the completed tower.

The church was furnished by degrees. The high altar was of Darley Dale stone and the rood figures painted by a Mr Carlin of Chaddesden. The timber altars to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady were installed by 1930, as was the font, carved by Jack Torr. Benches, Stations of the Cross, organ frontal and a western porch were added later, in the 1950s.  More recently (2006), the western porch has been replaced with a new and larger porch, with associated remodelling of the west end of the church, from designs by John Halton Design Ltd of Lincoln. Sanctuary reordering took place at the same time.


The church is in Early English Gothic Style and is of brick construction faced in Darley Dale stone (except for part of the north wall, which is brick faced), with a Westmorland  slate  roof. On plan it consists of an aisleless nave with organ loft adjunct to the north, and an eastern chancel flanked by side chapels and placed over a crypt. There is a tower with a crown spire at the southeast corner, and a modern porch extension at the west end.

The south flank elevation to Regent Street is of five bays, with a restless rhythm of lower bays with shorter paired lancets alternating with higher bays with raised staggered parapets and longer paired lancets. The tower at the southeast corner has clasped buttresses and is of three stages, culminating in a crown spire, perhaps modelled on that of St Dunstan in the East in the City of London. The canted east end has tall lancet windows and is raised over a crypt, demarcated by a stringcourse. On the north side there is a flying buttress over the side chapel rising up to the eaves of the chancel roof and further west a northern projection (housing the organ chamber). Below this is a low link to the earlier (1870s) red brick presbytery. Behind this link the north wall is faced in red brick. The west front is now dominated by the new entrance porch added in 2006. This is designed in a contextual manner, faced in stone of similar coursing to the original, and Gothic in design.

The entrance leads into a new narthex area with a spiral stair rising to a new glass fronted western gallery holding overspill seating. The interior of the five-bay nave is a single  volume, with  the same restless expression of the bay divisions as evinced externally. Oversailing it is a black and white roof of hammerbeam type construction, raised in the high bays. On the north side, one bay houses the organ at the upper level (the gallery front was added in 1951), with confessionals and link through to the presbytery below. There is a narrow chancel arch rising to the full height of the nave, flanked by lower pointed arches to the side chapels. The chancel has a similar roof to that of the nave.

Heritage Details

Architect: Charles W. Hunt and George Lee

Original Date: 1921

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed