Building » Minehead – Sacred Heart

Minehead – Sacred Heart

Townsend Road, Minehead, Somerset TA24

A small Gothic Revival church in Early English style, one of several churches in the diocese by Canon A. J. C. Scoles. Externally modest, the church has rich and elaborate sanctuary furnishings and a full set of stained glass windows by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. The church and the slightly later presbytery make a positive contribution to the conservation area.

The mission was founded by the nuns of the Third Order Regular of St Francis who had come to Taunton from Bruges via Winchester. In 1891, they rented a house with a thatched barn in Selbourne Place. The barn was blessed and opened as a chapel on 25 June 1891. In October 1895, a plot of one acre was acquired by the diocese from the Luttrell Estate for £450. The foundation stone for the present church was laid on 9 April 1896 by Bishop Brownlow who opened the completed building on 15 September the same year. The architect was Canon A. J. C. Scoles, and the builder was W. Harrison of Minehead. The cost of the building was £737. The presbytery was built shortly afterwards for £610.

On 10 September 1898, a new high altar and reredos were blessed. In 1900, a side aisle was added by Scoles, costing £300. Probably at the same time, the original Lady Chapel (now at the west of the new aisle) was converted into a baptistery. In 1901, an organ was installed. An important benefactress was Dame Charlotte Louisa van Straubenzee (died 1900) who left £1,200 in her will for the mission at Minehead. At some point after 1906, an additional arch between the sanctuary and the Lady Chapel was formed and the current Lady Chapel altar and reredos installed.

The parish hall was built in October 1927 (architect: Frank Wills & Sons, Bristol). Also during the interwar years a small flower sacristy was built behind the sacristy.

In 1982, the church was reordered and two years later it was extended with a flat-roofed narthex, while the old north porch was converted into a confessional. Recently, the font has been moved out of the baptistery, in preparation for conversion of the latter to a confessional. The north porch is used again as a porch for special occasions.


The church faces southwest. The following description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

The church was built in 1896, comprising a nave and apse, as well as a north porch and a small south chapel. In 1900 a new aisle was added. In 1984, the church was further extended with a narthex containing a WC, a small room and a new gallery stair.

The church was built using Alcombe red sandstone with Bath stone dressings. The pitched roofs have decorative ridge tiles and double Roman tiles, the same as used by Scoles at Yeovil (qv). In the centre of the nave roof is a metal ventilator. The plan is oblong, of a nave and south chapel. The west gable has a cusped rose window and a niche with a small statue of the Sacred Heart (a recent replica of the original) flanked by louvred ventilation openings. The 1984 narthex has stone dressings and render whose colour matches that of the church’s sandstone. The south elevation of the Lady Chapel has four pairs of lancet windows. The chapel’s east window is a small quatrefoil. The north side of the nave has three pairs of lancets, as well as the gabled northwest porch. Of the originally four lancets in the apse, three remain; one was lost following the formation of an arch into the Lady Chapel.

The nave and chapel both have waggon roofs. The organ gallery at the west end is accessed from the narthex by a modern (1980s) stair. Below the gallery is the octagonal stone font which now stands beside the entrance to the former baptistery (originally the Lady Chapel). This is a small space under a cross roof, with one lancet window to the west, a tiled floor and wrought-iron gates. It is separated from the aisle by a stone screen (c.1900s) of three crocketed ogee arches, of which the central one holds a carved panel of the Baptism of Christ. Two two-centred arches on octagonal pillars link nave and chapel.

The apse ceiling is painted with stars, religious monograms, the instruments of the Passion, vines and an inscription (pre-1906, by parishioner Arthur Lincoln Cox). The stone pulpit to the north is carved with a central Crucifixion scene. The altar rails (possibly of the interwar period) have cusped ogee arches alternating with statuettes in niches, under an alabaster rail (the metal gates are currently in store). The high altar has lost the original mensa but the frontal carving of the Last Supper has been reinstated below the reredos. The reredos has a triangular composition, with four angels flanking the tabernacle and canopied monstrance throne (the upper part of the canopy is currently in store). On either side are statues of the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary, under Gothic canopies. A fine brass sanctuary lamp (possibly by Hardman) with three angel figures hangs from the painted ceiling.

The post-1906 arch between sanctuary and Lady Chapel is filled by a wrought-iron screen with gilded fleurs-de-lys, Sacred Heart emblems and vines. The easternmost panels of the chapel ceiling are painted with angels and Marian scenes. Beside the altar rails (which match the sanctuary rails) is a statue of St Joseph on an elaborate pedestal and under a Gothic canopy. The frontal of the Lady altar depicts the Marian apparition at Lourdes. Above is a statue of the Virgin Mary in a vesica of coloured marble under a short Gothic canopy and flanked by angels on marble colonnettes and kneeling angels of alabaster.

The Stations of the Cross are painted plaster casts (possibly Belgian and of c.1910). All of the windows have stained glass (1899-1907) by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. Although only one window is actually signed, the attribution of all the windows to Hardman is convincing and accepted by The Buildings of England.

List description. The church (excluding narthex), presbytery and gate piers were listed in 2017, following Taking Stock


Summary: Roman Catholic parish church, designed by Canon A J C Scoles, built in 1896; N aisle added 1900; attached presbytery, also by Scoles, circa 1897. Narthex added in 1984 is excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of The Sacred Heart (excluding the 1984 narthex), a church of 1896 by Canon A J C Scoles, its attached presbytery, also by Scoles, built in 1897, and the associated gatepiers, are listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the exterior is a pleasing composition by a recognised ecclesiastical architect, with good detailing; * Interior: the interior has good carving to the arcade, and includes interesting painted decoration to the sanctuary and chapel ceilings; * Fittings: of particular note are the rich and elaborate sanctuary fittings, and the complete suite of high-quality glass by Hardman and Sons; * Grouping: the church, attached presbytery and gatepiers are all designed as an ensemble, in complementary style, and form a coherent group of good quality, despite the later alterations to the windows of the presbytery.

History: Around 1890 the establishment of a Catholic mission in Minehead was strongly supported by the Mother Abbess of the Franciscan Third Order Regular community who had come to Taunton from Bruges via Winchester. In 1890 Bishop Clifford, Bishop of Clifton, appointed Father J Davis to serve the mission in Minehead. In 1891 Father Davis rented a property in the Butts, now Selbourne Place, and had it suitably fitted out to serve as a church. The first service took place on 26 April 1891 and Bishop Clifford visited 25 June 1891 to bless the chapel during a High Mass. In October 1895, a plot of land on which to build a permanent church was purchased by the Diocese of Clifton from the Luttrell family of Dunster Castle, for the sum of £450. The new priest in charge, Father James O’Shaughnessy, was a driving force behind the project. He placed an advertisement in The Tablet in July 1895 seeking subscriptions, which elicited donations from many sources, including notable Catholics such as the Duke of Norfolk, Marquis of Bute, and Empress Eugenie, widow of Napoleon III; further funds were received from various sources, including the crew of HMS Racoon, which was at the time attached to the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean. Building work began in April 1896, and the church, then consisting of nave, sanctuary, porch and Lady Chapel, was completed in September of the same year, when it was opened by Bishop Brownlow. The building of the church was completed for £737 by W Harrison of Minehead, with the presbytery added for the sum of £610. A new high altar and reredos were added in 1898, at a cost of £157. As numbers of tourists grew in Minehead, the congregation swelled considerably in summer, and the seating designed for about 150 became inadequate. Canon Scoles, the original architect, designed a new aisle extension, which was built in 1900, costing £300. The fabric of the nave wall was moved outwards to create the new space. At around the same time, the former Lady Chapel in the short wing was converted to a baptistery, and the present Lady Chapel created at the liturgical E end of the new aisle, which was at this date still walled off from the sanctuary. Stained glass, designed and made by Hardman and Co, continued to be installed in the church between 1899 and 1907; an organ built by Minns of Taunton was added in 1901. Much of the funding for the fitting out of the church came from benefactors including Dame Charlotte Louisa van Straubenzee (d 1900), who left a significant bequest of £1200 for the mission in Minehead. A postcard of 1906 shows the E end of the church, with painted decoration to the window reveals of the sanctuary as well as the surviving painted ceiling. The present high altar, pulpit and statue niches were already in place. At some point after 1906, but no later than the inter-war period, a new archway was created between the sanctuary and the Lady Chapel, the communion rails were added, and the present Lady Chapel altar and reredos introduced. A parish hall was added 1927, designed by Frank Wills and Sons, Bristol. In the same period, a small flower sacristy was added to the rear of the sacristy. The church was reordered in 1982, and extended in 1984 by the addition of the flat-roofed narthex (narthex not included in the listing). The porch was closed, and converted to a confessional, though in the early years of the C21 the porch has been reopened, and the former baptistery in the opposing wing was, at the time of inspection (2016), being converted to a confessional.

Details: A Roman Catholic parish church, designed by Canon A J C Scoles, built in 1896; N aisle added 1900; attached presbytery, also by Scoles, circa 1897. Narthex added in 1984 is excluded from listing. MATERIALS Alcombe red sandstone with Bath stone dressings and clay tiles. PLAN The church is orientated NE-SW, with the sanctuary at the SW end, and the L-shaped presbytery attached to the S, but liturgical compass points are used in the remainder of this description. The church is roughly rectangular on plan, with a polygonal apse to the E, and projecting N porch and S aisle. EXTERIOR The church is in an Early English Gothic Revival style, built in roughly-faced, squared sandstone, with angle buttresses with two offsets, raised, moulded copings with moulded kneelers, and roofs of double-Roman tiles with pierced ridge tiles. There is a cowled, metal ventilator to the centre of the ridge. The windows are paired lancets under a continuous string which forms a drip mould. To the W end is a flat-roofed narthex, added in 1984, which is not included in the listing. The W gable end has a large, circular window with cusped tracery. Set high in the gable is a pointed-arched niche flanked by stone louvres; the niche houses a statue of the Sacred Heart. There is a carved stone cross finial above. The S side has a small, one-bay gabled wing with a single lancet to the W, and a small trefoil opening in the gable. The higher, four-bay S aisle has gables to either end, each with an elaborate wrought-iron cross finial; the windows to either end are quatrefoils; the aisle has four paired-lancet windows. The E end is canted, with single lancet windows. The N elevation has a projecting, gabled porch with a pointed-arched doorway and a lancet to the W, and a trefoil opening in the gable. There are three windows to the nave, matching those in the S aisle. INTERIOR The nave and aisle have wagon roofs, plastered walls and parquet floors. The sanctuary and lady chapel at the E end of the S aisle both have painted ceilings. The nave arcade is formed from three pointed arches springing from octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases. There is a panelled timber organ gallery to the W, carried on timber posts with pierced brackets, now accessed from a stair in the 1980s narthex. The font stands beneath the gallery. The large rose window at the W end depicts the Resurrection. To the western end of the nave, the opposing N porch and S cross wing extend to either side. The N porch has a carved stone stoup, and window depicting St Peter. The cross wing was previously the baptistery, and originally the Lady Chapel; the walls retains traces of polychrome painting. The nave and aisle have stained glass windows, including one depicting St Richard of Chichester, in recognition of Minehead’s first parish priest, Richard Chichester. The sanctuary has an apsidal ceiling, painted with stars, monograms, the instruments of the Passion, the Sacred Heart, vines, and an inscription, painted by parishioner Arthur Lincoln Cox, completed by 1906. A brass sanctuary lamp incorporating the figures of three angels, probably by Hardman and Co, hangs centrally. To the left, the stone and alabaster pulpit is polygonal. The altar rails, installed in the inter-war years, have cusped ogee arches alternating with statuettes in niches, under an alabaster rail. The metal gates have been removed but survive in store. The mensa from the original altar now stands forward, on marble supports added in 1982; the frontal carving depicting the Last Supper has been installed below the reredos. The carved reredos has four angels flanking the tabernacle and canopied monstrance throne. To either side, corner niches for statues of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart have elaborately-carved Gothic canopies. The three lancet windows have stained glass depicting Christ as The Good Shepherd; the Assumption of the Virgin; and St Joseph. The E end of the aisle is occupied by the Lady Chapel, opened to the sanctuary by the creation of a new archway in circa 1906. The archway is filled with a wrought-iron screen with gilded fleurs-de-lys, Sacred Heart emblems and vines. The three easternmost rows of the panelled ceiling are painted with angels and Marian scenes. The altar rails match those in the sanctuary, and alongside them stands a statue of St Joseph on an elaborate pedestal with a Gothic canopy. The carved altar frontal shows the apparition at Lourdes. Above is a statue of the Virgin Mary in a vesica of coloured marble under a Gothic canopy, flanked by angels on marble colonnettes, with kneeling angels in alabaster to either side. The quatrefoil window above shows the Crucifixion, and faces a similar window showing the meeting of Christ and his mother Mary on the way to Calvary at the opposite end of the aisle. PRINCIPAL FITTINGS The church retains a complete suite of stained GLASS by Hardman and Co of Birmingham, installed between 1899 and 1907. The windows to the aisle all depict Marian subjects; the remainder show scenes from the life of Christ, the vision of the Sacred Heart, saints and bishops, and figures with particular links to the church and its history. The STATIONS OF THE CROSS date from circa 1910 and are Belgian; they are moulded plaster, in deep relief, set in timber frames with gabled tops and cross finials.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES Attached at right angles to the S of the church is the slightly later PRESBYTERY, in matching style and materials, slightly later than the church. The sacristy adjoins the western end of the nave on the S side, and leads into the presbytery; a small, later flower sacristy is attached to its W side. The building is of two storeys, with hipped roofs and in materials matching the church. The main elevation is of three bays, with the entrance to the centre under a pointed-arched, recessed opening, and that to the left with a wide gable. The windows are stone, with mullions and transoms, and a string at the level of the first-floor cills. A niche high in the gable houses a statue of the Virgin. The rear of the presbytery is constructed in sandstone rubble with dressed sandstone quoins, and brick stacks. A small, single-storey, flat-roofed flower sacristy is built in brick. A single-storey lean-to addition to the rear wing is contemporary, with a later flat-roofed utility extension. The interior has high skirtings, picture rails and the doors are four-panelled. The closed-string stair has chamfered newels, and diagonally-set, square section balusters. The principal rooms have fireplaces with grey marble surrounds with moulded brackets, and decorative cast-iron grates with floral tile inserts.

The wide gateway to the church has cast-iron GATEPIERS of polygonal cross-section, with blind Gothic ornament and Latin cross finials; the pedestrian entrance to the presbytery has similar, but less elaborate piers, octagonal with a capital and domed head.


Books and journals: Harding, J A, The Diocese of Clifton, 1850-2000, (1999), 148-50; Orbach, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. Somerset: South and West, (2015), 451

Other: Cronin, D : unpublished notes on history of Church of the Sacred Heart, Minehead (2016); Historic photographs in parish archive; Miller, D : A History of the Sacred Heart, Minehead, centenary year (1996); Photographs of plans and elevations of church, presbytery and church extension, all by Canon A J Scoles, 1896 and 1900, supplied by the parish; The Architectural History Practice Limited: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clifton: An Architectural and Historical Review, prepared for The Diocese of Clifton and Historic England (January 2016).

Heritage Details

Architect: Canon A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1896

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II