Building » Scunthorpe – Holy Souls

Scunthorpe – Holy Souls

Frodingham Road, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire DN15

A handsome early twentieth century Gothic church by Edmund Kirby & Sons, their only church in the Diocese of Nottingham, and striking for its use of moulded brick and terracotta for the tracery and mouldings. Most of the furnishings are later, but all cohere well together, and there has been some recent reinstatement of lost historical detail and character.

The first resident priest to the Scunthorpe mission was appointed in 1897. The site of the present church was acquired early in the twentieth century with the support of funds from the estate of Thomas Arthur Young of Kingerby Hall, and a ‘tin tabernacle’ was built (this survived until recently as the parish hall).  Work started on a permanent church in 1911 under Fr Frederick Askew. The architects were Edmund Kirby & Sons of Liverpool, this their only church in the Diocese of Nottingham. There may have been a family connection with the priest at Brigg in the 1890s, who was also named Kirby.

An intended north transept/Lady Chapel was never built. The presbytery was built in the early 1920s by Fr Francis Firth, who also further embellished the church; in 1924 the Diocesan Yearbook reported ‘the addition of a new altar in oak, altar furnishings, Stations of the Cross which were hand painted on brass enamel, and general decorations. The sanctuary has been enriched by six hand-painted panels, symbolic of the Blessed Sacrament, by Mr C. Wood’. Further fitting out belongs to the time of Fr Lakin, parish priest from 1929-49. These works included a pulpit, organ, ornamental gates to the baptistery and stained glass (windows in the sanctuary depicting St John, St Ann, St Patrick and St Francis of Assisi were added in 1938 from designs by John Hardman & Co.) The presbytery was also enlarged in 1938 and the boundary wall around the church built. The sanctuary appears to be original but is altered; according to the parish histories the present marble altar and altar rails were installed in 1958 as part of the new and enlarged sanctuary conceived by the then parish priest, Fr Murdoch.

Post-Vatican II reordering saw the altar being separated from its reredos and brought forward, removal of the altar rails, replacement of the Stations and removal of Fr Murdoch’s polychrome paint scheme in the chancel. However, in a more recent return to traditional forms, the old Stations and altar rails have been reinstated, and the altar moved back slightly to allow for both eastward and westward celebrations. The sanctuary has also been richly repainted with stencil decoration and panelled.

A large new parish hall is under construction at the time of writing (2010), replacing the old parish hall, which was burnt down. Designed by Brown & Buttrick of Scunthorpe, this is attached to the north side of the church, connected by doors at the west end of the nave (which previously led into the baptistery).


The church ‘though small is distinctly good, and an addition to the not very varied loveliness of Scunthorpe town’ (so described in 1910, at the time of building). It is long and thin on plan, consisting of an aisleless nave of seven bays and a short polygonal chancel. The sacristies and presbytery are linked to the south. There is an offset tower at the west end on the north side and an entrance porch on the south side. The church is built of plum coloured brick to match the Ruabon brick mouldings and tracery. The roofs are tiled with decorative tile ridges. The style is a free version of Decorated Gothic. The west front is largely hidden from the street by overgrown planting, but is a striking design, divided into three bays by four stepped buttresses. The lower stage of each bay has rows of cusped lancets; above this is a band of raised diapered brickwork, broken through by a fine circular window with Dec tracery. Adjoining the west front is the tower, with stepped corner buttresses, tall lancets to the belfry and a crenellated parapet; all in brick and terracotta. The northern flank elevation is largely obscured from public view by the new church hall; the southern flank faces onto a small churchyard and garden, and has two pairs of cusped lancet windows per bay, with stepped buttresses marking the bay  divisions. As elsewhere, there is an abundant use of enriched terracotta mouldings. The porch is timber framed, more evocative of Cheshire than Lincolnshire, and is raised on a high moulded brick plinth; it is enclosed by timber doors and small-paned leaded windows.

The interior is long in plan, but sufficiently broad to avoid a tunnel effect. The walls are plastered, and wall posts rise from plain corbels to an arched braced and cusped roof, which is boarded over the purlins and rafters. The walls of the nave are plastered and painted white. A wide arch without capitals or responds marks the division between nave and chancel; flanking this are arched recesses housing statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady. The chancel is polygonal in form, lit by paired cusped lights except for the middle light, which consists of a stretched quatrefoil over paired trefoil headed lights. The hammerbeams of the chancel roof belong perhaps to the late 1950s remodelling of the sanctuary.

The church is richly furnished, as described above. These have been added incrementally, but form a coherent whole. At the west end of the nave a tablet is set into the wall recording the founder of the parish. Also at the west end is the font, which may be original or at least early, and possibly designed by Kirby; it is octagonal and Gothic. It is placed centrally in the church rather than in the former baptistery to the north, which was closed off at the time of the visit and which has now presumably been absorbed into the new parish hall accommodation. Other furnishings of note include the 1950s white marble altar and altar rails, the latter inset with porphyry panels, the Stations of the Cross on pierced quatrefoils, a good collection of Hardman stained glass and some modern abstract glass in the round west window.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edmund Kirby & Sons

Original Date: 1911

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed