Sussex Avenue, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 5AL
A late Gothic Revival/Arts and Crafts design by F. R. Bates & Son, with a good and little-altered interior containing high quality oak furnishings and stained glass. The church occupies a prominent corner site in the Ross-on-Wye Conservation Area.
From 1845 a priest from the Vaughan family chapel at Courtfield said Mass at the Swan Hotel, Ross. A temporary church was opened in the Gloucester Road area in 1861, which was replaced in 1876 by a church at Crofts dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament.
Soon after the appointment of the Rev. Jeremiah McCarthy in 1926, a large corner site (that of the present church) was acquired. A presbytery was built first, by Messrs Foster and Hill, followed by the church, the latter made possible by a legacy from Miss Frances Mary Webb (d. 3 November 1929). This legacy no doubt explains the unusual dedication to St Frances of Rome, a somewhat obscure Benedictine Oblate of the fourteenth century. Designs for the church were prepared by F. R. Bates & Son of Newport, the builders were R. W. Moon of Newport, and the contract for £3,620 was let in June 1930 (the final cost was £3,980 2s 4d). The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Mostyn of Cardiff on 10 September 1930, and the archbishop returned to open the completed church in 1931.
A parish room was added on the north side in 1984-5, from designs by Neil Wareing of B. S. Associates.
Today the parish is served from Monmouth, and the presbytery is let.
The church is not conventionally orientated, but this description assumes such orientation, that is with the altar to the east.
St Frances of Rome is a late example of Arts and Crafts/Gothic Revival architecture, built in 1930-1 from designs by F. R. Bates & Son. It is built of red brick with red sandstone dressings, under plaintile roofs. The church is cruciform on plan, consisting of an aisleless nave, chancel and ‘transepts’ serving as sacristy and Lady Chapel. A catslide roof continues down in the angle between the south transept and the chancel, housing a confessional. There is an entrance porch at the southwest corner. The nave windows consist of triple lancets, with deeply projecting buttresses marking the bays. The east and west walls are also buttressed, and have triple stepped lancets.
In the porch a stone plaque records the munificence of Frances Mary Webb, and in the west wall of the nave is the foundation stone, with Latin inscription. The nave is a single wide space with a fine oak roof with tie beams, curved braces and exposed purlins and rafters. A wide pointed and chamfered arch separates the nave from the sanctuary, which has a barrel vaulted ceiling. Similar smaller arches gives onto the north and south transepts, that to the north (housing the sacristy) infilled. The short south transept has exposed rafters and purlins in the roof. On either side of the arch to the transept, two chamfered gothic doors with small leaded windows and iron furniture lead respectively to the priest’s and penitent’s entrance to the confessional.
The church contains high quality, arts and crafts-influenced, furnishings. These include parquet floors to the nave and sanctuary, oak benches in the nave, a carved gothic reredos which appears to be that brought from the old church, panelling to the sanctuary with walls with carved vine scroll around the cornice, an altar with frontal carved with a panel of the Supper at Emmaus (brought forward) and fine carved altar rails of Austrian oak (unusually, still in situ). Several of the furnishings (including the altar frontal, crucifix hanging from the chancel arch and the wooden Stations of the Cross) were supplied by Burns, Oates & Washbourne of London between 1931 and 1934.
Stained glass: The triple light west window, to the memory of Fr McCarthy (d. 1935), depicts St Frances of Rome and the (then) newly-canonised saints Thomas More and John Fisher. These windows bear the P signature of Paul Woodroffe, arts and crafts stained glass artist and book illustrator of Chipping Campden (1875-1954). They were unveiled by the Abbot of Belmont in March 1936 (The Tablet). The triple-light window in the Lady Chapel is in memory of Mr and Mrs R. B. Schomberg and depicts the Virgin and Child flanked by kneeling figures of Bl. Reginald OP and St Francis de Sales; it was made in the studios of John Harman & Co. and was blessed by the prior of Belmont Abbey in 1933.
Architect: F. R. Bates & Son
Original Date: 1931
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed