Building » Southam – Our Lady and St Wulstan

Southam – Our Lady and St Wulstan

Wood Street, Southam, Warwickshire CV47

A pleasant small Italo-Byzantine church of the mid-1920s which was built to serve both the parish and the adjoining convent. The exterior is unassuming. The interior with its round-arched ceiling is well-proportioned but has lost much of the painted decoration which once enriched the east end.

In 1876, ten Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus, exiled from Germany, were settled at Southam and established an orphanage and school as well as a temporary church. In 1884 it was decided that their small iron chapel, which had been brought here from Cardiff in 1878, should also serve a mission. In 1886 a resident priest was appointed and the presbytery was built. In 1898 a second, larger iron church was brought here, this time from Birmingham. Large new convent buildings were also added about the same time, from designs by a German architect.

In 1913, Charles Shaw, the brother of James Shaw of Bourton Hall, left a bequest of £5,000 for a new church which paid the entire cost of the present building, designed by E. Bower Norris of Sandy & Norris. Construction was delayed by the Great War and the church did not open until 1925. The sanctuary and Lady Chapel were gradually adorned with Italianate wall paintings by Sister Mary Sales. Sandy & Norris also designed a novitiate house in 1931.The church was consecrated by Archbishop Grimshaw on 14 May 1956. In 1972, it was handed over to the diocese, which also acquired the presbytery. Sister Mary Sales’s wall paintings were removed from the church at this time. Most of the original convent buildings  have now been demolished and replaced by housing. The remaining nuns now occupy a small building alongside the west front of the church, which had been begun in 1925 and completed as a link between the novitiate and original convent in 1959 (also from designs by Sandy & Norris). A new parish hall was opened next to the church in 1995.


The church is in a simple Italo-Byzantine style, built of red brick with tiled roof coverings. The western bay of the nave and the front of the adjacent presbytery are in a darker, plum-coloured brick than the rest and have more ornament. On plan, the church is a single rectangular space with a small apsidal sanctuary. The west front has broad pilasters with brick-on-edge cornices which rise to the stone kneelers of the gable. There is a central doorway with a rectangular stone surround which is flanked by small round-headed windows with tiled arches. Above the door is a stone plaque with the name of the church and a wide round-headed window which rises into the gable. The exposed north elevation is six bays long, with plain brick pilaster strips dividing the bays, which each have a single round-headed window high in the wall. The south elevation abuts the presbytery and convent buildings and the east end is enclosed.

The interior is a wide space with a semi-circular vaulted plaster ceiling.  At the west end is a gallery, now enclosed beneath with a glazed partition to form a narthex. The plain plastered walls rise to a moulded string from which rise broad flat ribs dividing the ceiling into bays, with clerestory windows cut into the vault. The two eastern bays have plain arches leading to the confessionals and a small southeast chapel. The east wall has a taller central arch of similar shape opening into the small apsidal sanctuary.

The east end of the church was originally decorated with paintings by Sister Mary Sales, but these were removed in the 1970s. The grand alabaster high altar was added in 1952. Other fittings of interest include the tabernacle and the alabaster altar rails.

Heritage Details

Architect: Sandy & Norris

Original Date: 1925

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed