Jermyn Street, Sleaford, Lincolnshire
An idiosyncratic Victorian Gothic church by a little-known local architect which with its adjoining presbytery forms a pleasing group in the local conservation area.
In December 1880 Fr Hermann Sabela (from Boston) purchased a plot of land in Jermyn Street, Sleaford, for £610 and a dual purpose school-chapel was built in 1881-2 at a cost of £780, to designs by R. Whitbread of Carlton near Nottingham. The opening was reported in the Sleaford Gazette, 3 June 1882. From the description the building was of some pretension, the Gothic roof in particular being praised. It is therefore curious and interesting that the building seems to have been rebuilt as a church just seven years later. The foundation stone on the front of the present church is dated 14 September 1888. The new church cost £1,500 and one can’t but ask the question was this a remodelling rather than demolition and rebuilding? Whitbread was also the architect of the 1888 building.
The church porch was enlarged in 1988-9 as part of the centenary celebrations, which included internal and external refurbishment.
The altar faces north but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will assume a conventional eastward facing altar. Red brick with stone dressings, under a Welsh slate roof. The presbytery is attached and continues along the line of the west front, slightly setback and ending in a three-storey canted bay with unusually large top-floor windows. The presbytery appears to be of at least two builds (there is an odd arrangement at the back of a first floor oriel which cuts across a rear window) and may, in part, predate the present church. The latter takes its cue from thirteenth century Gothic, with lancet windows and plate tracery. The west front is busy and not without originality. The central porch (widened to either side in 1988-9) has a plain chamfered arch of four orders. Above is a statue of Our Lady in a canopied niche flanked by three-light windows with plate tracery. Three stumpy lancets above, rising to a tall stone bellcote with ogee arch, steep roof and short crocketed pinnacle. The side elevations are plain, their western half built up against by the presbytery on the north side and evidently the south side was not originally exposed. Further east there is a three-light window with plate tracery, to north and south and a trio of lancets set in a curious slight projection. Also curious is a central buttress rising into a gable, the purpose of which becomes clear inside as it supports a transverse arch. Both these details seem odd and must have added to the cost. The sanctuary has tall lancets and a canted apse.
The interior is impressively high, with a tripartite arrangement of tall sanctuary arch flanked by blind recesses. The trio of lancets in the north and south projections are set within panels of wall slightly recessed. The lancets are set within a kind of arched corbel table. Elaborately carved altars in the recesses either side of the sanctuary arch. There is a further, larger Lady altar in a pointed southwest recess. This was originally behind the high altar. The altar that goes with it remains, brought forward, in the sanctuary. These altars and reredoses are probably those referred to in the 1882 newspaper report on the first church as by Richard Boulton & Sons, stonemasons of Cheltenham. On the east wall of the sanctuary hangs a large oil painting of Our Lady, reputedly painted by Fr Sabela. Small mid-nineteenth century Gothic, or rather Gothick, chamber organ.
Architect: R. Whitbread
Original Date: 1888
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed