Oxford Road, Princethorpe, Warwickshire CV23
A large and conspicuous late Gothic Revival church built for French Benedictine nuns from design by Peter Paul Pugin and opened in 1901. The church replaced the a smaller 1830s chapel serving St Mary’s Priory, although that chapel survives (altered) amongst the buildings of Princethorpe College. Despite the forbidding red brickwork of the exterior, the church is among Peter Paul Pugin’s richest buildings, with some of his best surviving metalwork and woodwork, along with a full set of stained glass by the Hardman firm and other furnishings of note.
Princethorpe College occupies the buildings of St Mary’s Priory, begun in 1833 for French Benedictine nuns from Montargis. They had escaped from the Revolution in 1792, been given asylum by the Prince Regent and Mrs Fitzherbert, and had moved to Norfolk, then to the West Riding, then to Lancashire, and finally to Princethorpe in 1835. The original buildings included a school as well as the convent. After the nuns left in 1965-6 Princethorpe became an independent school, run since 2001 by the Princethorpe Foundation.
John Russell of Leamington designed the original buildings in 1832-5 (not John Craven as stated in the list entry for Princethorpe College; he was the clerk of works) and most of them were complete by mid-1835, when the nuns and pupils moved in (even though much remained unfinished internally). The design was based on the nuns’ recollection of their former house at Montargis, and was considered by A. W. Pugin to be ‘a miserable specimen of the tawdry trashy taste of the Modern religious.’Joseph Aloysius Hansom adapted and added to Russell’s designs between 1837 and 1844, including the old church, and he or his son Joseph Stanislaus Hansom continued to work at Princethorpe until 1892. Then came works by T. R. Donnelly and by Pugin & Pugin in the 1890s.
The original priory church building dating from 1835-7 with its small turret still survives, but was subdivided in 1968 with a theatre on the ground floor and a library above. Nevertheless it retains some of its historic furnishings, including a window designed by A. W. Pugin and made by William Wailes, and other glass by Hardman.
A new and much more ambitious church was built in 1898-1901 to the designs of Peter Paul Pugin. Much of the money came from Hilda de Trafford, for whose family E. W. Pugin had built extensively in Manchester, and the church was lavishly furnished by Pugin, the Hardman firm, Joseph A. Pippet, Boulton of Cheltenham and others. Nine bells in the tower were cast by John Warner & Sons, London. Today the church is used largely by the school. It is served from Wappenbury.
The building is fully described in the list entry, below. Briefly, it is in Decorated Gothic style, faced with bright red Ruabon brick, with dressings of Grinshill stone and roof coverings of Westmorland slate. The building has a complex plan designed for use by three distinct groups: nuns, schoolgirls and the wider public. The fittings are of considerable elaboration and richness and were mostly designed by P. P. Pugin, including the elaborate high altar and baldachino, both made by Boulton of Cheltenham, and the wooden side altars by the same firm. The iron sanctuary screen is by Hardman Powell & Co. The fresco decoration in the north chapel is by J. A. Pippet, the stained glass all by Hardman. The organ was built by James Binns of Leeds in 1900 (restored in 1984). Today a forward altar and sanctuary are placed in front of the sanctuary screen, the original high altar ensemble surviving intact behind the screen.
Shown on Ordnance Survey map as St. Mary Priory. Church, built as convent chapel. 1897-1901 by Peter Paul Pugin at the expense of Hilda de Trafford. English bond bright red brick with moulded cornice and moulded stone plinth and dressings. Slate roofs have ridge cresting and stone coped gable parapets with goblet kneelers. Nave, transepts, polygonal apsidal chancel and ambulatory, south range, and linked detached south-west tower. Gothic Revival Decorated style with curvilinear tracery. Tall 4-bay nave, 2-bay crossing, 3-bay chancel. East end has nine 2-light windows with continuous hood moulds. Wrought iron cross finial, low irregular single-storey range around chancel links church to the former convent buildings. South range has large 5-light window with hood mould. Gable has small openwork stone panel, and decorated stone cross finial. Transept is much higher. Two large 2-light windows flank elaborate canopied image niche and statue. Rose window above of 4 quatrefoiled roundels. Gable apex of stone, with small opening. West side has two 2-light windows. Low single-storey 4-bay range across transept and eastern part of nave and 2-bay range across nave to tower have moulded parapets. Transept range has Tudor-arched doorway with carved spandrels and plank door to second bay. Straight-headed 2-light window to left and 3-light windows to right. Nave range has segmental-arched 4-light windows. These and other minor windows throughout have trefoiled round-arched lights. Nave has angle and side buttresses of 2 offsets. North and south sides have paired 2-light clerestory windows with continuous hood moulds to each bay. West front has large 5-light window with hood mould and head stops. Segmental-arched 3-light windows below flank image niche and statue. Sable apex of stone has blind tracery. Cross finial. Low single-storey link to tower has parapet. One- and 3-light straight-headed windows. Low lean-to north range has moulded west doorway with segmental-pointed outer arch and hood mould with head stops, and double-leaf doors. North side has 3 bays of segmental-arched 3-light windows. North transept has west projection. Tudor-arched 4-light window has transom and tracery and hood mould. North side has image niche and tracery. Large tower of 3 stages and 5 storeys is almost entirely detached. Angle buttresses with weatherings become octagonal clasping buttresses to third stage. Octagonal stair turret to south-east corner. To each side first stage has segmental-arched 3-light window with round relieving arch and sill course continued across buttresses. Second stage of 2 storeys. Lower storey has 2 trefoiled lancets with hood moulds. Upper storey has trefoiled ogee lancets with straight heads and carved spandrels, flanking canopied image niche with statue. Above is a stone band of 6 bays of blind arcading, with ogee arches and carved capitals, and 3 narrow lancets. Third stage has very large 3-light bell openings with mullions and transom to lower part, elaborate tracery, and hood moulds with head stops. Elaborate stone openwork parapet and balustrade. Canted sides of buttresses have canopied image niches and statues corbelled out. Turret has attached shafts and string courses to top part. Turret and buttresses have stone spirelets.
Lavish interior is plastered. Panelled barrel roofs throughout have moulded wood arched braces and ribs, wallposts and stone corbels carved with angels. Chancel has attached shafts and radiating rib roof over apse. 9 moulded arches to ambulatory have composite piers. Nave and chancel arches of 2 moulded orders have inner shafts with foliage capitals and continuous outer order. Moulded transept arches have stone screens of 2 segmental arches with foliage ornament and openwork balustrade. Nave has west gallery with stone openwork balustrade. Fittings: very large lavish painted and gilt Gothic ciborium altar. The carved white marble altar, standing on black marble steps, is said to have been made in Rome. Ambulatory has 3 carved Gothic altars and reredoses of stone, stone and wood, and wood respectively. Elaborate wrought iron screens and gates to ambulatory and rood screen with Crucifixion. North chapel has elaborate carved and painted reredos. Nave has elaborate Gothic wood panelling and misericords. Panelling below gallery has 2 canopied seats flanking image niche and statue. Complete set of original stained glass. The convent was built for French Benedictine nuns and was known as St. Mary Priory.
(V.C.H.: Warwickshire, Vol.VI, p.245; Buildings of England: Warwickshire, pp.376-377; Kelly’s Directory of Warwickshire, 1894, pp.167-168).
Listing NGR: SP3946871011
Shown on Ordnance Survey map as St. Mary Priory. Convent, now a Roman Catholic school. 1833-35 by Craven, with additions to west and former mortuary chapel of 1842-43 by Joseph Hansom. Old church, now theatre and classroom, of 1835-7 by Craven, with alterations by Hansom completed in 1843. Nun’s Cemetery of c.1837-38, Front range, originally Guest House of 1836-40, probably by Hansom. Various late C19 and C20) additions. Red brick. Slate roofs; brick stacks. Large irregular courtyard plan. Various styles. One, 2 and 3 storeys. Former Guest House has painted rendered plinth, moulded string course and cornice, coped gable parapets and dressings. E-plan. Simple Tudor Gothick style. 2 storeys; 1:1:1:1:1 bays. Symmetrical front has gabled projecting centre and wings. Centre is treated as a gatehouse, with octagonal clasping buttresses rising into castellated turrets. Moulded arched doorway with hood mould. Gothick panelled double-leaf doors and traceried overlight. Sashes throughout have gauged brick flat arches. Gable has rendered Gothick panel. Wings have tripartite sashes. Shallow gables have cornice across, moulded kneelers, and slit lancets. Interior: spacious scrolled string quarter turn staircase with stick balusters. Old Church is of English bond brick with moulded L cornice and stone dressings. Roof has stone coped gable parapets and moulded kneelers. Original plan of nave, shallow chancel and east chapel, and south (ritually east) bell turret. 6-bay nave, 2-bay chancel. Tracery probably by Hansom. 3-light south window has transom and geometrical tracery and hood mould. Moulded stone string course across gable. Kneelers have pyramid finials. Square turret has moulded stone sill course, attached shafts, nailhead cornice and panelled pinnacles. Y-tracery bell openings have hood mould. Clock to east side. Mid C19 single-storey 5-bay range across south front has twin hipped roofs. 16-pane sashes. West side has windows with cusped Y-tracery; lower parts altered. Small chancel lancet. East side is much altered. Interior is subdivided horizontally. Upper room has very elaborate Perpendicular style roof with bosses, of plaster grained in imitation of wood. Simple vaulted chancel. Some original stained glass. North wall has large late C19 mural of the Martyrdom of St. Benedict. The Nun’s Cemetery is a small cloister of brick with moulded brick plinth, and dentil cornice. Circular plan. Doorway has rendered Neo-Norman arch and tympanum with dog-tooth and hood mould, and studded double-leaf doors in slightly-widened opening. Similar blind window. Said to have pointed arches to centre. North range of 3 storeys; 1:6:3:4:1 bays. Gabled projecting centre and end bays have stone-coped gable parapets. Sashes have gauged brick flat arches. End bays have 4-light wood mullioned and transomed windows with glazing bars to upper floors; right end has tripartite sash to ground floor. Former mortuary chapel has Neo-Norman plaster-vaulted interior. 3 bays and apse. Quadripartite vaulting with wall shafts and waterleaf capitals; apse vaulting has capitals only. Apse arch and doorways have zigzag mouldings. Doorways have scalloped capitals and tympana with ballflower. Wide cloister corridors have simple Gothic detailing and terracotta floors. The convent was built for French Benedictine nuns from Montargis and was known as St. Mary’s Priory. It became a school in 1965. (V.C.H.: Warwickshire, Vol.VI, p.245; Buildings of England: Warwickshire, p.376).
Listing NGR: SP3953571045
Architect: Peter Paul Pugin
Original Date: 1901
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II*