Stone Road, Trent Vale, Stoke-on-Trent ST4
The original 1920s church, of modest architectural interest, was built to serve workers brought from France to the nearby Michelin factory. It was enlarged and given a tower by E. Bower Norris in 1956. More recently the interior has been remodelled, creating a luminous, uplifting worship space.
The church was built in 1928 for the newly-opened Michelin tyre factory at Hanford, primarily to serve workers brought over from France (at its peak the factory employed some 13,000 workers). The Michelin family were committed Catholics and the church was paid for by Mme Michelin. Costing some £3,000, it seated a congregation of 200 and opened on New Year’s Day, 1929. The identity of the original architect has not been established. At first served by a French priest, the church soon passed into the care of the parish priest at Stoke; a resident priest was appointed in 1935.
The church continued to belong to the Michelin Company until conveyed to the archdiocese in about 1950. Considerable extensions were made under the direction of E. Bower Norris of Sandy & Norris of Stafford in 1956 to double the seating capacity. This involved a new sanctuary and the addition of aisles, sacristies and confessionals. The west front was remodelled and a campanile added. The church was reopened and consecrated in September 1956.
By the 1990s Michelin were considering taking over the site again and suggested building a new church. In the end this came to nothing and the church was closed for some time due to its poor condition. The outcome, however, was a happy one, with a major and imaginative scheme of work in 1999-2001 costing some £250,000 to bring it back into use. This was carried out under Daniel Hurd of Birmingham and involved the reshaping of the building by providing a central sanctuary, emphasised by an imaginative ceiling arrangement over it. No member of the congregation is more than eight benches away from the sanctuary. Subsequently £150,000 has been spent on further improvements, including new lighting.
The core of the building is the 1928 red brick body of the church with its simple pointed windows. The west front, with its rose window and thin campanile, dates from the 1956 alterations and the east end is part of the same scheme. On the north side of the nave is a conservatory-like narthex which dates from 1999-2001.
The interior is extremely impressive and has a unity despite being the product of three different major campaigns. The length of the building is due to the 1956 extension but the present character is determined by the work of 1999-2001. This provided the ruling feature in terms of the covering of the nave and sanctuary: longitudinal, light timber boards rise up to a quasi-vesica-shaped feature which is framed by two rows of downlighters. The widest part is over the centrally placed sanctuary around which seats are grouped on all sides. The font, high altar and lectern are simple but well-designed modern pieces from 1999-2001. The walls are decorated with horizontal bands on pastel colours. The west end is a screened off area used for social purposes (in the absence of a hall); above this part is the original simple crown-post roof from the 1920s.
Architect: Not established; Sandy & Norris; Daniel Hurd Associates
Original Date: 1928
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed