St Mary’s Road, Wednesbury, Sandwell WS10
A mid-Victorian brick church designed with thirteenth century detailing by a well-known Catholic church architect. Sited on a hill, together with the nearby Anglican parish church, it forms a prominent local landmark. The original presbytery has been demolished.
In 1848 or 1849 a site for a church was acquired by the Rev. Michael Crewe of Bilston and a mission was founded in 1850. 1852 saw the appointment of the Rev. George Montgomery, who erected a chapel here which opened in September that year. In 1871, the convert priest and Oratorian the Rev. Stuart Bathurst took charge of the mission; he built two schools within a year and then initiated the building of the present church, contributing substantially to the cost of all three. The foundation stone for the church was laid on 26 May 1873, and the building was opened by Bishop Ullathorne on 22 September 1874 (when Cardinal Manning preached). The architect was Gilbert Blount and the builders Barnsby & Sons of Birmingham. A presbytery to the east of the church, probably built at the same time and by the same architect, has been demolished since 1974 (when it was recorded by Pevsner). The church was consecrated in 1979.
The church is built of red brick with contrasting black brick detailing (bands and diaper work) and limestone dressings. It consists of a nave, northwest tower and spire, polygonal sanctuary, north and south chapels and southeast sacristies. The windows consist mostly of grouped lancets (paired in the aisles, triple in the clerestory and with four lights at the west end). The sanctuary windows are of two lights with Geometrical tracery; the three at the east end rise into projecting gables. The steeple has attenuated belfry windows arranged in pairs and a copper-covered pyramid spire of bell-cast shape.
Inside, the walls are plastered and, apart from a little coloured decoration, are painted off-white. There is an arcade of five bays with slender octagonal piers (which turn into circular capitals) with double-chamfered arches, plus a further western bay in which the gallery is housed. The sanctuary arch is very tall and barely noticeable, apart from pairs of wall shafts which rise from fluted corbels. Over the nave is an open, arch-braced roof with a collar and struts, while the sanctuary has a plaster ribbed vault. The side chapels are also vaulted. The apsidal part of the sanctuary retains some (repainted) decoration of lozenges with a fleur-de-lys motif and a band of lettering above.
The sanctuary fittings and furnishings have survived well with the original arrangements mostly remaining. This includes the stone high altar with a carved frontal with red marble shafts. The reredos is three-sided with a tabernacle in the centre which is the focus for kneeling angels in niches. The larger pair of niches at the extremities are occupied by figures of St Mary and St Joseph. The tiled floor in the sanctuary (possibly Minton) survives too. In the side chapels the stone altars also remain; their design is the same with an IHS symbol in the centre, flanked by foliate panels. The pulpit has open tracery panels and red marble shafts. The three windows in the sanctuary apse have good Victorian stained glass (no dates visible), perhaps contemporary with the building of the church. The north chapel has two early twentieth century windows. The nave has a large number of windows with good quality twentieth century glass, mostly from the interwar period but some of it post-war.
Roman Catholic Church. 1873-4 by Gilbert Blount. Brick and limestone with tile roof. Comprises a nave with clerestory, north and south aisles, north-west tower, and sanctuary with three-sided apse. The nave is of six bays, with windows of two moulded pointed lights to the aisles and of three lights to the clerestory. The eastern bay has taller windows to aisle and clerestory, both under gables, of two lights with a foiled circle under a pointed head. The windows of the apse are similar. The west wall has four stepped lancets above a blocked pointed doorway. The tower has slim angle buttresses and has a moulded pointed doorway opening into a porch. Above is a niche with statue. The upper stage of the tower is open. On each side there are two steeply-pointed openings with a central shaft and with shafts as responds. Above is a copper pyramidal spire.
Interior: arcade of five bays to nave and one to chancel, with plastered pointed arches. Those to nave chamfered in two orders and springing from octagonal columns with moulded capitals. The north and south arches of the sanctuary open into side chapels, are moulded, and spring from corbelled shafts. The open timber roof of the nave has principals rising from corbels, and arch-braced collars. Above, each has a central iron rod, and curved struts. The sanctuary roof is plastered, with ribs springing from wall shafts. At the west end is a gallery with organ. Sanctuary windows contain glass of late C19 date.
Listing NGR: SO9869095413
Architect: Gilbert Blount
Original Date: 1874
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II