Upper Brook Street, Oswestry, Shropshire SY11
A handsome late-nineteenth century church stone-built church with a fine attached interwar Lady Chapel, all paid for by the Longuevilles of Llanforda Hall. With the presbytery, convent and adjoining school, the church makes a positive contribution to the Oswestry Town Centre Conservation Area.
In the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign Oswestry’s growing number of Catholics worshipped in a variety of different temporary venues. In 1864 a site in Cripplegate Street was acquired and adapted for use as a school-chapel. Fifteen years later, land was given by Mr T. Longueville of Llanforda Hall, and an iron church provided (brought from Barmouth, where it had stood for twenty years). A permanent church, school, presbytery and convent were built in 1889-90, also the gift of Mr and Mrs Longueville; the church was opened by Bishop Knight on 10 June 1890. The architect, William Henry Spaull of Oswestry, presumably brought in by the Longuevilles, was not a Catholic; he was a freemason and St Asaph diocesan surveyor.
The original church consisted of the existing nave and sanctuary, northwest porch and a substantial stone-built sacristy to the south. In 1925 at the death of his wife Dorothy, Lt. Col. Reginald Longueville provided funds for the construction of the Lady Chapel, which was built from designs by Adrian Gilbert Scott (The Tablet, 19 March 1927). Abutting the east wall of the porch and the nave’s north wall, this required the building of the north nave arcade. The parish war memorial, only recently erected, had to be relocated to the position it occupies today. The completed church was consecrated by Bishop Singleton of Shrewsbury on 2 March 1927.
There were two significant schemes of alteration in the second half of the twentieth century. The first, in the early 1970s, saw a new altar of polished Aberdeen granite installed in a forward position to comply with the stipulations of Vatican II. At the same time the c.1913 wooden pulpit was replaced with that which survives today. Then in 1998-9 the marble communion rails (thought to have been installed in 1915) were dismantled (they were re-erected in part at the east end of the Lady Chapel). The stone font was moved from its original location beneath the west gallery to its current position at the northeast corner of the nave. The crucifix was removed from its original location over the altar to a position above the re-sited font. The crucifix was moved again four years ago to its current location on the front of the gallery.
When viewed from the street, Scott’s Lady Chapel somewhat dominates. As independent entities, the church, Lady Chapel and brick-built presbytery are all of architectural interest. The church is in a lancet Gothic style, the Lady Chapel Decorated, its larger windows with curvilinear tracery. Within the church, the marriage between Lady Chapel and the nave is harmonious. The light from the former streams through the open arcade making the church much lighter than it must have been when first built. Increasing levels of light may have been part of the aim, since the Lady Chapel walls and vaulting are plastered while in the nave the walls are of exposed stone. The nave has a parquet floor whilst the Lady Chapel, like the sanctuary, is carpeted.
The sanctuary is raised and reached by several steps, well lit and with its walls plastered; it is a much lighter space than the nave. At the east end the old high altar survives in its original position. This, and the tabernacle above it, is framed by an imposing, highly decorative Gothic reredos of oak with a central crocketed canopy. This was brought from Holy Trinity in Salop Road, Oswestry and is attributed by Newman and Pevsner to the Revd. John Parker. The other key fixture of this church is the ‘Italian altar’ at the east end of Scott’s Lady Chapel, the Virgin and Child set in a highly ornate frame incorporating lapis lazuli and turquoise.
Amended by AHP 09.02.2021
Architect: W. H. Spaull; Adrian Gilbert Scott
Original Date: 1890
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed