Building » Market Rasen – Holy Rood

Market Rasen – Holy Rood

King Street, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire LN8

A church largely rebuilt in the 1860s, but incorporating the volume of the nave, part of the west wall and the presbytery from E. J. Willson’s earlier church of 1824 (which itself replaced a chapel, on another site, built in 1782). The 1860s rebuilding was by Hadfield & Son of Sheffield at the expense of Thomas Arthur Young of Kingerby Hall, and was one of several churches built in this part of the diocese by Hadfield & Son at Young’s expense. The church is built of polychromatic brick, and in its mixture of Gothic and classical massing, of pointed and round-arched motifs, denotes a  move away from the more ecclesiologically-correct Gothic normally associated with the work of the practice. This may be connected to the decision to incorporate part of the earlier, classical chapel. The church contains a number of furnishings of note, but its character has been seriously eroded by the replacement in about 1980 of the roofs by a new roof of crude, agricultural design. The church forms a good group with the presbytery buildings and nearby Gothic schoolhouse and lies within a spacious churchyard setting on the western approach to the town centre.

Market Rasen was strengthened as a local centre of Catholicism after 1702, when nearby Kingerby Hall came into the possession of the Catholic Knight family and was established as a mission centre. Fr Richard Knight SJ (1720-1793) was rector of the Jesuits’ Lincolnshire District, and established the mission at Market Rasen, replacing that at Kingerby, in 1782. He acquired a property in Queen Street, in the town centre, and built a chapel. Information about this is scarce (it may have been within the house, or in a  small extension), but it would certainly have been architecturally modest – the building of Catholic chapels was still illegal. Inside it was more richly furnished, with a painted altarpiece by Luca Giordano, which may be that surviving at Osgodby. With the passing of the second Catholic Relief Act the chapel (as well as the Catholic school which had been established in Market Rasen) were certified at the Kirton quarter sessions in 1791.

In 1785 Kingerby Hall was acquired by the Young family, who were also Catholics, and major benefactors of church building projects, including the chapel at Osgodby (1793, qv). In 1824 the house and chapel were sold and a new and larger chapel and presbytery built on a larger site on the western edge of the town. The architect was the local builder and antiquary E. J. Willson, and it was designed to seat about 200. The chapel was in the classical Nonconformist style popular for Catholic churches in the 1820s, before its architect (mainly through his friendship with A.W. Pugin) developed an enthusiasm for Gothic. A presbytery (which survives, now extended) was attached to the church at the east end. The west wall of the 1824 church also survives, albeit altered, and the main volume of the present nave and sanctuary is that of the Willson church. The priest in charge of the mission at this time was Fr Francis Willoughby Brewster, a Carmelite. He died in1849, and is buried in the sanctuary.

In 1859 the Jesuits handed the running of the mission over to the Diocese of Nottingham, and soon afterwards the presbytery was enlarged. The Gothic school building on the southeast boundary of the site may also have been built about this time. In 1867 Fr Algernon Moore, a convert from Anglicanism, was appointed to the mission. In the following year he oversaw the enlargement and transformation of the church by the addition of side aisles and a tower, from designs by Hadfield & Son of Sheffield. This work was carried out largely at the expense of Thomas Arthur Young of Kingerby Hall, one of several church building projects carried out in this part of the diocese by these architects at Young’s expense (other examples being at Gainsborough, Crowle, Luddington, Spalding and Grimsby, qqv).

In 1949 the parish was entrusted to the Sacred Heart Fathers. In 1975 the sanctuary was reordered by Reynolds & Scott to bring it into line with post-Vatican II liturgical requirements. The old altar frontal was reused within a new forward altar with white marble mensa and the tabernacle and canopy reused to form a tabernacle throne and reredos.  The steps were removed and a new tiled floor to match the existing installed. The Portland stone communion rail and pulpit were removed.

Problems with internal valley gutters and subsequent timber decay led to a decision in about 1980 to remove the nave and aisle roofs and replace them with a large new roof of single span, of a crude and agricultural character.


Although to outward appearance a church of the 1860s, Holy Rood incorporates the volume and west wall of Willson’s church of 1824. The latter is of pale yellow/pink brick laid in Flemish bond, with a central round-arched doorway (now altered to form a window) and flanking round-arched windows. Above this is a stone band and pediment incorporating a lunette window, now subsumed within the later (c1980) roof. Willson’s building was overlaid by additions in 1868, to form a church of nave and sanctuary, north and south aisles. There are altars at the east end of the aisles, and a canted baptistery at the west end of the north aisle. The roof covering appears to be of slate (it was covered with snow at the time of the writer’s visit). The entrance is at the west end of the south aisle, via a lobby, above which rises a tower of three stages, with a louvred belfry and saddleback roof. The 1868 work is generally faced in red brick laid in Flemish bond, relieved by the use of blue engineering brick in the arches and horizontal banding, giving a polychromatic effect. Stone is also used sparingly in the cills, hoodmoulds etc. The main entrance is on the south side; it is round arched, with polychrome brick detailing in the arch. Above this is a statue of the Madonna and Child. The corners of the tower project as piers, with a central recessed panel, topped below the belfry stage with an arched corbel course of  Italian Gothic character. Above this the paired openings to the belfry are more northern Gothic in detail, and the gable of the saddleback roof has stone gargoyles on the southeast and southwest corners and a circular cinquefoil window. The remaining external elevations are austerely treated, with high paired lancet windows with brick detail above, enclosed by stone drip moulds. An eroded stone panel beneath the central window of the western baptistery records Thomas Young’s beneficence

The entrance leads into a small lobby at the base of the tower, from which doors give off to the right into the south aisle and ahead into the west end of the nave. The nave and sanctuary form a single space of six bays, with a plain round-arched arcade separating these from the south aisles. The arcading is carried on circular stone piers with delicately-carved stiff leaf capitals. The east wall of the sanctuary is blank, with a large central recess for a painting.

The church was undergoing redecoration at the time of the writer’s visit and many of the furnishings were either covered or temporarily removed from the building. The following is therefore an incomplete account of the furnishings of note:

  • The main altar is of stone, with marble shafts and a central roundel of the Agnus Dei; it has been divorced from its original gradine (1975) and reredos to allow for westward celebration, and the latter remain against the east wall
  • The Lady altar at the east end of the south aisle is of very high quality, of veined marble with panels incorporating pierced cinquefoils with paintings of St Dominic and St Hugh of Lincoln, both figures important to the Jesuit mission in Lincolnshire. Above the central tabernacle is an arched canopy of  strong architectural character housing a polychrome statue of the Virgin and Child
  • The plainer Sacred Heart altar, of early twentieth century character, at the east end of the north aisle, stone with inset marble panels
  • A rood beam and Crucifixion of 1882 (minus the figures of Our Lady and St John) marks the division between the nave and sanctuary
  • Other sanctuary features of note include a ledger slab to Fr Francis Brewster (d.1849) and an angled stone piscina in the southeast corner
  • In the nave, the seating consists of numbered softwood pews of late n nineteenth century character, raised on pew platforms, with angled and bevelled bench ends, the numbering set in recessed quatrefoils
  • At the west end of the nave is an open Gothic timber screen, erected as a memorial to World War I parish dead, and originally placed in front of the Lady and Sacred Heart altars
  • Stained glass of various dates. Two windows of particular note are a fine pair to Fr Algernon Moore (d.1881) in the south aisle, depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac/Crucifixion and Jonah and the Whale/Resurrection, and, in the former baptistery, a centenary window of 1924 which has at the bottom a representation of the 1824 chapel
  • The font is small, with an octagonal bowl and stem and conical timber cover with painted shields; it is currently located in the north aisle
  • At the west end of the nave is an obituary board commemorating members of the Young family (spanning the years 1704-1782)
  • In the main entrance lobby area are three stone wall tablets relocated from the 1824 church – to Mary Gwillum (d.1826), Peter Young (d.1823) and David Young (d.1831) and Susanna Knight (d.1830).
Heritage Details

Architect: E. J. Willson; Hadfield & Son

Original Date: 1824

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed