Woodborough Road, Nottingham NG3
A stone-built church on a prominent raised site, designed in the style of the domed churches of southwest France by J.S. Brocklesby, architect of a number of Catholic churches of note. Brocklesby’s design for the exterior was not fully realised, and the external appearance is therefore something of a disappointment. However, the internal space is very rewarding, richly articulated with Romanesque arcading and saucer domes, and containing a number of fittings of note.
Bishop Bagshawe established a mission to the eastern part of the city of Nottingham in 1875. The land on which the present church of St Augustine is built was given in 1876 by W.E. Dobson, a local landowner, and in 1877 the mission was divided in two, this one comprising the Woodhall Road and Blue Bell Hill areas. An iron church was built in 1879, the Duke of Norfolk contributing £300 towards the cost. This was always intended as temporary, and in the 1890s designs for a permanent replacement were prepared by the Nottingham architect Arthur Marshall. This Arts and Crafts-influenced design was not realised.
It was not until 1921 that work started on a permanent church, under Fr Charles Cossins, this time to the designs of the London architect J. S. Brocklesby. This was designed in the Romanesque style of the domed churches of the Perigord and Aquitaine regions of southwest France, with a circular tower on the south side at the west end. The Lady Chapel was opened in 1922 and the rest of the church in 1923. The original estimated cost was £10,000, but this rose to £18,500, leading to Brocklesby’s dismissal (which may account for the non-completion of the external design). The high altar came from Nottingham Cathedral, having there been a replacement for Pugin’s original high altar, installed by Bishop Brindle and removed by Bishop Dunn as ‘enough to make the angels weep by its unsightliness’ (Cummins, 45). This was in turn removed from St Augustine’s in post-Vatican II re-ordering, carried out under the direction of Thomas L. Snee. The sanctuary floor was extended to form a complete circle, and a forward altar was introduced, incorporating a carved frontal from the old altar, depicting the Last Supper.
The presbytery dates from 1972 and is by Reynolds & Scott (drawings in Diocesan archive). At the same time an extension to the church was built, housing sacristies with a meeting room above.
The church is built in honey-coloured stone and is designed in the style of the domed Romanesque churches of Perigord and Aquitaine, southwest France. It occupies a prominent sloping site, the ground falling away to the east. The church consists of a nave and aisles, with a northern Lady Chapel and a semi-circular sanctuary with ambulatory chapel to the southeast. At the west end of the nave in the (uncompleted) tower is a circular chapel, originally the baptistery. The west front has an asymmetrical and unfinished appearance (the circular tower with conical roof was never completed). It has a central entrance with round arched window opening above, flanked by a flat projecting bay to the left (containing the steps to the internal gallery) and the truncated corner turret to the right, incorporating a large carved stone crucifix. At the sides the walls of the aisles are pierced only by small arched windows (three in each of the two bays). Above this the nave clerestory bays are defined by gabled buttresses and triple arcaded openings. At the east end the half-dome of the sanctuary is visible; the saucer domes over the nave are concealed in general views by parapets (and, according to the parish history, were originally intended by Brocklesby to have been concealed by a steeply pitched roof).
The interior is entered at the west end of the nave through a small lobby under a western gallery. This has a solid timber arcaded gallery front, housing a nineteenth century organ with a Churchwarden’s Gothic case, of unknown provenance. In the southwest corner is a circular chapel, containing a statue of St Anthony; this was originally the baptistery. Moving into the nave, this is of two wide square bays, each separated by a semicircular arch with pendentives from which spring the domes. The walls are faced in ashlar, apart from the domes, which are plastered. On either side of the nave bays are narrow circulation aisles, separated from the nave by three arched openings in each bay, with square piers with moulded capitals in the first bay in clustered columns with cushion capitals in the second. Confessionals with original panelled oak doors give off the north side of the first bay, and the second bay has on the north side a further row of clustered columns giving onto the Lady Chapel, which has a similarly arcaded north wall. A wide arch marks the entrance to the half-domed sanctuary. This has five arched openings with square piers around the apsidal east wall, with an aumbry and piscina formed in the piers on either side of the original position of the high altar (now occupied by the tabernacle placed on a marble base); beyond this is a narrow ambulatory and chapel.
Fittings include the altar, incorporating a fine alabaster frontal with a carving of the Last Supper from the old high altar. Hanging from the sanctuary arch is a painted rood, with figures of the four Evangelists, and with Our Lady on the reverse. Stained glass includes the east window to Fr Cossins, Rector 1920-5 and builder of the church, a representation of St Helena in the Lady Chapel, three good high level windows in the sanctuary (St Gregory, the Trinity, St Augustine) and a window to Susanna Hynes (d.1929) at the west end depicting the Annunciation and Nativity. There is good glass of Hardman character in the Lady Chapel, one dated 1916, and presumably from the iron church. The altar here shows Our Lady’s appearance to St Bernadette at Lourdes, in opus sectile work; this was consecrated in November 1932.
Update: The church was listed Grade II in 2012, following Taking Stock. List description at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1406263
Architect: J. S. Brocklesby
Original Date: 1923
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II