Shrewsbury Road, Shifnal, Shropshire TF11
The church was built with the adjoining house as a combined school and chapel, from designs by C. A. Buckler, a notable architect of the Gothic Revival. The interior of the church has been altered, but its external design and group value with the adjoining house make a positive contribution to the Shifnal Conservation Area.
The Catholic mission in Shifnal was founded in 1854 by Fr William Malloy of Madeley. Fr Malloy was an Irishman and in an anti-Irish riot in June 1855 the Shifnal lodging house in which he and his congregation worshipped was completely destroyed. Following this event Lord Stafford donated a plot of ground (formerly occupied as allotments) for a Catholic school and chapel. Built to the designs of Charles Alban Buckler, the buildings incorporated a generous schoolroom/chapel with a schoolmaster’s house to the south. As no schoolmaster was ever appointed, from the outset the residence was used as a presbytery. The ‘Little Irish School’, as it was known locally, closed in 1917. St Mary’s remained under the patronage of Lord Stafford until 1960 when it was passed to the Diocese of Shrewsbury. Both church and presbytery were subsequently modernised.
Son of the antiquary and church restorer John C. Buckler, Charles Alban Buckler’s (1824-1905) obituary in Building News noted ‘his first and last love in architecture was for the Early English style’. This is the style of St Mary’s. However Buckler seems to have wanted to contrive the appearance of a building which had been added to incrementally, so for instance the easternmost part of the presbytery is set back and its roofline on a different plane to the main body of the residence, though all is probably of the same phase.
St Mary’s was built as a school-chapel, and consists of a single cell with no aisles. Both church and presbytery are constructed of Staffordshire brown stone. The roofs are tiled, those on the church machine-made. The church is entered via a porch in its northeast corner. A stone holy water stoup near the entrance is said to have medieval origins. The main space has an exposed and stained timber arch-braced roof. An old photograph shows earlier seating, an ornate altarpiece, communion rails and an elaborate scheme of stencilled decoration on the walling behind. These were lost in post-1960 modernisation and replaced with white walls and a forward altar, of simple design framed by a wood-bordered curtain screen and a suspended wooden canopy. The church is carpeted throughout and all windows are plain glazed. The sacristy serves as a link between church and presbytery. Over the presbytery entrance is a stone carved with the date of construction, a coronet and a shield bearing the Stafford arms.
Amended by AHP 09.02.2021
Architect: C. A. Buckler
Original Date: 1860
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed