Building » Mansfield – St Philip Neri

Mansfield – St Philip Neri

Chesterfield Road South, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire NG19

Mansfield’s answer to the London Oratory. Built on land given by Bishop Bagshawe, an Oratorian, this is a bold and triumphant exercise in Italian baroque, with a particularly rich internal decorative scheme by the Hardman firm. The exterior is more restrained, but the church and attached contemporary presbytery nevertheless make a powerful contribution to the local townscape.

In 1862 a Mass centre was opened at Chandler’s Court, Mansfield, served from Ilkeston, but this seems to have lasted only for a short while. Then in 1876 a Mrs Susanna White bought the Manor House in Ratcliffe Gate and put it at the disposal of Bishop Bagshawe. A chapel was opened in the house in the following year, dedicated to St Philip Neri (being the first chapel to be established in the diocese by Bishop Bagshawe, an Oratorian). In 1878 a dual purpose school-chapel was built in the grounds of the Manor House, from designs by Mr (Christopher) Wray of London.

In 1921 Fr Charles Payne became parish priest. He was an energetic figure, who was to see through the building of the new church (and attached large presbytery) to completion. The site had been previously given to the parish by Bishop Brindle, successor to Bishop Bagshawe. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Dunn on 6 June 1924 and the completed church consecrated on 24 March 1925. It was solemnly opened by Cardinal Bourne of Westminster on the following day, the Feast of the Annunciation. Fr Payne moved to Derby in 1926, and it was left to his successor, Fr John Keogh, to undertake the decoration of the church and installation of paintings, at a cost of £2,000, being completed in 1934 by John Hardman and Co., Birmingham. A parish hall was also built during Fr Keogh’s time, in 1932.

In 1994 there was a major scheme of repair and reordering, by Richard Ward, architects. This involved the glazing in of the underside of the western semi-circular gallery, the glazing in of the arcading leading off the south aisle to the baptistery, to form a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel and baptistery, and the moving of the marble communion rails to form a frontal to the first row of benches in the nave.


The list description, below, offers a fairly full account. However, it needs to be updated to take account of the alterations described above, which were carried out at about the time of the listing. The 1923 account also tells us much about the proposed dimensions and construction, information not included in the list entry:

‘The church is planned with the nave 76 feet long by 30 feet wide, and the sanctuary 30 feet by 25 feet wide […] Running full length of the nave will be two side arches 12 feet wide, terminated by the Lady Chapel and the chapel of the Sacred Heart, which will flank the Sanctuary and High Altar […]

The exterior finish of the church will be in special grey thin Leicester sand stocks, with white cement pointing and with reconstructed Portland stone dressings […] The roof of the nave and side chapels will be constructed with wood and steel, covered with hand made red tiles. The half dome over the apse and the flat roof over the side aisle will be in re-inforced waterproof concrete, with panelled and moulded ceilings in white cement. The ceiling of the nave will be with the wood framing showing, and finished with wood moulds and plaster panels’.

An account of the Hardman scheme of decoration is given in the Diocesan Yearbook for 1935 (p135). Paintings in the dome of the apse depict the Crucifixion flanked by the Nativity and the Resurrection and are based on works by Lorenzo di Credi and Perugino; the figures are painted on canvas, with gold leaf in the interstices. Behind the high altar is a copy of Guido Reni’s famous painting of St Philip Neri in ecstasy, flanked by large paintings of scenes from the life of St Philip. The paintings of the Annunciation and the Visitation in the Lady Chapel are after those by Ambrogio Borgognone in the church of the Incoronata at Lodi.

The list entry gives the name of the architect as Charles A.  Easdon of London, whereas contemporary accounts attribute the design to Percy Edeson of Hartlepool. A perspective of the interior included in the 1923 newspaper account is signed ‘CAE May 1923’ and Who’s Who in Architecture for 1923 has a Charles Alva Edeson ARIBA with an address at the Borough Engineer’s Office, Mansfield. Moreover, the Diocesan Yearbook of 1930 gives the name of the architect of St Joseph Ripley (1928) as ‘Mr C. A. Edeson ARIBA’.  As at Ripley, the contractors were Carney & Son of Derby. We are therefore led to include that the architect was C.A. ‘Percy’ Edeson.

The cost of the church was about £17,500. Various fittings (marble altars, Stations etc) were given by individual donors (the major ones listed in the account of the consecration and opening, 1925, a copy of which is held in the diocesan archives). There is a bronze plaque on the pedestal to the right of the chancel arch, recording the numerous anonymous benefactors, for whom Mass is said annually on the Feast of St Philip Neri.

List description (church and presbytery)


Roman Catholic church and attached presbytery. Dated 1925. By Charles A Easdon of London. Brick with ashlar dressings and Roman tile roof. Chancel with apse and side chapels, nave with clerestorey, aisles, north chapel and baptistry. EXTERIOR: east end has blind apse with pilaster buttresses and copper dome, flanked by square side chapels with plain parapets and single round east windows. Chancel has square corner buttresses with caps, and a round-arched window set high on each side. East gable has a square bell turret with cornice and blocking course, topped with a Celtic cross. Single round-arched opening. Nave, 5 bays, has concave ramped buttresses. Clerestorey has 5 round-arched windows on each side. Pedimented west gable has central round-arched niche with keystone and imposts, containing figure. On either side, a round-arched window with apron. Central doorway with double flanking shafts, cornice and double doors, with semicircular hood and relief carving in tympanum. On either side, a round-arched window with apron. Aisles have plain parapets, and single round windows in the west ends. No side windows. South aisle has to east a flat-roofed corridor linked to the presbytery, with a door to left and 2 windows to right. North aisle has to east a projecting chapel, with 3 flat-headed windows, flanked by large pedimented gables, each with a round window. Segmental curved west end has 3 flat-headed windows. The flat-headed windows have stone surrounds.

Presbytery, to south, has hipped plain tile roof and 2 side wall and single ridge stacks. 2 storeys; 3 bays. Projecting central bay has rusticated brick pilasters. On each floor, a 12-pane sash flanked by single 8-pane sashes, all with keystones. To left, 2 small windows. To right, entrance bay with round-arched margin-glazed window and below, painted stone doorcase with cornice. To right again, projecting hipped bay with two 12-pane sashes, and below, a 3-light window.  Garden front has in the centre two 12-pane sashes on each floor, with keystones. On either side, a canted 2-storey bay window with three 12-pane sashes on each floor.

INTERIOR is plastered and painted. Chancel has moulded round arch with square marble piers with pedestals and moulded caps. Barrel vault with cross panel. Single moulded round arch on each side, leading to side chapels, with a round-headed window above it. Apse has panelled walls with paintings and Corinthian pilasters, and mosaic panelled dome. Side chapels have 2 bay blind arcades with wall paintings and wooden screens with pedimented central opening. Nave has 5-bay arcades with Ionic columns, moulded round arches and clerestorey sill band. Panelled barrel vault with moulded wooden ribs on corbels. West end has panelled semicircular gallery with organ, and below it, a wooden porch with pairs of glazed doors. Aisles have moulded cornices and span beams on brackets. South aisle has 12 bay arcade with moulded arches, containing 5 doors. To east, a double door to the vestry, and an arch to the side chapel. North aisle has to east 3 large round arches, the central one with solid tympanum and round-headed niche with figure, flanked by shouldered doorways, the right one with a wrought-iron gate. Eastern arch to chapel of St Ann, with moulded wall panels and irregular groin vault. Western arch with wrought-iron screen to Baptistry with panelled walls and groin vault. To west again, a 4-bay blind arcade. FITTINGS: fluted alabaster font on 4 volutes arranged as a cross. Marble altar with suspended canopy. Marble and alabaster balustraded altar rails with wrought-iron gates, to apse and side chapels. Folding panelled pulpit and lectern, panelled choir stalls and plain benches.

Heritage Details

Architect: Charles A. Edeson

Original Date: 1925

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II