Lichfield Street, Rugeley, Staffordshire WS15
An important example of the work of Charles Hansom, with many original fixtures and good stained glass by Hardman, which has been sympathetically redecorated and restored. With its spire (completed later) the church provides an important local landmark.
A mission served from Tixall had been established by 1836 and a resident priest was appointed in 1846, when Mass was celebrated in a room in premises in Albion Street. The Rev. Thomas Green had bought land known as Heron’s Field from the Marquess of Anglesey in 1842, on which a school chapel was built in 1847. A presbytery was built in 1848 and work began on building the present church in 1849. Stone was given by the Marquess, and Joseph and Etheldreda Whitgreave met most of the costs of construction, augmented by contributions from others. The building, its dedication honouring the benefactors, was opened in 1851 at which time the tower had been built; the spire was not added until 1868, presumably to Hansom’s design.
The church underwent a major internal redecoration and refit under Canon T. Duckett in 1885, described in The Tablet (10 October 1885) as follows:
‘RUGELEY.—On Sunday, the Church of SS. Joseph and Etheldreda was re-opened after restoration […] The church, which is in the Gothic style, has been beautifully decorated under the superintendence of Mr. Jeffries Hopkins, of Abergavenny. The sanctuary is rich in the extreme, and the harmony of the colouring perfect. The emblems of the Passion in the arcading, the lilies and roses surmounted by a crown, and the emblems of SS. Joseph and Etheldreda, have an excellent effect, and the fresco over the sanctuary arch, representing our Lord in majesty with angels on each side holding burning censers, is particularly striking. In addition to Mr. Hopkins’s work the floor of the church has been boarded, the passage up the nave laid with Minton’s tiles of handsome design, and the whole fabric thoroughly restored. A handsome carpet covering the whole of the sanctuary, has been presented by Mr. Ipode, of Hawkesyard, a recent convert to the faith; a sanctuary lamp, by Lady Wolseley; a carpet for the Lady Chapel, by Miss Kane, who also worked the communion cushions; a bell by Mrs. Bolton, and a handsome railing round the font, in wrought iron, by Messrs. R. J. Harris and Son, of Rugeley. To complete the improvements an altar is to be erected in the Lady Chapel, a screen separating the sanctuary from the Lady Chapel, and standards for gas in the nave of the church. The cost of the work already done exceeds £400’.
Continuing problems with the spire stonework and spirelets has resulted in successive repairs including works undertaken at the close of the nineteenth century, in the 1930s, in 1948 and in 1972. More recently, a sympathetic scheme of reordering and redecoration was completed in 2013. The new sanctuary furnishings are by David Cooke, a new marble floor has been installed and stencilled and gilded decoration, based where possible on the original scheme, undertaken by Tony Skidmore of Fisher Decorations Co.
An account of the building is given in the list entry, below. The ‘original’ painted decoration of the sanctuary is of 1885, as described above. The list entry might also be updated to take account of the recent reordering; it can be noted that the high altar and sedilia have been retained in the new scheme. A chapel has been formed on the liturgical southeast side of the church, possibly from part of the sacristy or a confessional. This contains an altar from Wolsely Hall, said to have been designed by A. W. Pugin. It is of carved oak, in Gothic style, with gilded and painted scenes. A pipe organ made by Kenneth Tickell was introduced to the west gallery in 2005. Inner west doors were etched with designs showing saints by Anna Pate in 2009.
One of the chief treasures of the church is a bell cast in 1546. There is good stained glass, largely by Hardman, including a window showing the donors Joseph and Etheldreda Whitgreave of c.1885.
Roman Catholic church. 1849-50; by Charles Hansom. Sandstone ashlar. Plain tile roofs with stone coped gable-ends. PLAN: 6-bay nave with north and south aisles, chancel, Lady chapel on north side of chancel, vestry on south side of chancel, north and south porches and west tower. Decorated style. EXTERIOR: Nave has small 2-light clerestorey windows and low aisles with 2-light windows with weathered buttresses between; gabled north and south porch with moulded arch and statue niche. Taller Lady Chapel on north side of chancel with larger 3-light windows. Large 5-light east window with foiled rose tracery. Large west tower with prominent diagonal buttresses, stair-turret with pinnacle, trefoil balustrade with small pinnacles and tall octagonal stone spire with lucarnes and thin flying buttresses; a weather-cock on spire. INTERIOR intact, but walls have been painted, over the original decoration; original roofs, painted chancel and Lady Chapel roofs are unaltered. 6-bay arcades with compound piers, moulded capitals and double-chamfered 2-centred arches; tall chancel arch. Original High Altar, Sedilia and Piscina; elaborate 1880 Lady Altar; 5-light east window with four lights by Hardman and centre by Wailes; a Hardman window of 1860 in the Lady Chapel and a good 1860 wrought-iron memorial screen.
SOURCE: Buildings of England, page 228.
Listing NGR: SK0461517918
Architect: Charles Hansom
Original Date: 1851
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II