East Lane, Stainforth, Doncaster, DN7
A large church built to serve a mining community in 1956, built on a wide staggered longitudinal plan, possibly influenced by Coventry Cathedral. It retains some good original furnishings, including the high altar with mosaic frontal, and a set of lithograph Stations of the Cross by Frank Brangwyn, but in other respects has been much altered.
The villages of Stainforth and Hatfield were transformed by the opening of the coal mine (Hatfield Main) in 1916, and the subsequent building of miners’ houses. The pit was the last to close in South Yorkshire, in June 2015. A timber church was built in 1927, as a chapel-of-ease from Crowle, served by the Norbertines (Premonstratensians). The parish was founded in 1931. In the mid-1930s the church was furnished by Fr Jerome Esser (a Belgian Norbertine priest, artist and collector, who was parish priest here from 1931 to 1948) with Stations of the Cross by Frank Brangwyn RA. This series of lithographs furnished a number of churches at the time, including the Jesuit chapel at Campion Hall, Oxford; the interesting story behind their commissioning was recounted in The Tablet (14 September 1935).
The timber church soon proved too small and a large parish hall was built in 1951 on the initiative of the Rev. T. O. Kelly, serving also as a church until the present church was built. This was also built for Fr Kelly and was designed to seat 300 by Peter Hickson ARIBA of H. A. Hickson & Son, Doncaster. The foundation stone was laid in 1955 by Bishop Heenan of Leeds, and the church was opened on 20 September 1956 with a Mass celebrated by the Abbott of Prémontré. The building reflects an increasing readiness at that time in the Diocese of Leeds to embrace modern design; the architect recalls Bishop Heenan taking a keen interest and making clear that ‘the church must express the age in which it was built’ (Proctor, p. 57).
Problems with the leaking steel-framed copper roof and underfloor heating led to a major remodelling in 1974, when Weightman & Bullen designed a new lightweight pitched roof covered in grey asbestos cement slates, followed by internal reordering.
The Norbertines handed over the parish to the Diocese of Hallam in 1984, and today the church is served from St Peter-in-Chains, Doncaster (qv). The presbytery was closed in 2001, and a parish office, confessional and narthex were created at the west end of the church in 2003.
The church was designed by Peter Hickson of H. A. Hickson & Son and opened in 1956. It is faced in riven York stone panels, rendered and red brick laid in a Flemish bond with two stretchers to every header. The lightweight pitched roof dates from 1974 and is covered in concrete tiles. The west front has a central doorway, set at the base of a full-height canted bay faced in stone panels with a metal cross; the flanking sides of the bay were originally fully glazed but are now largely blocked with boarding. The staggered-plan side walls to the nave provide buttressing and conceal windows facing west, following the Coventry Cathedral model. The tall, narrow sanctuary is rendered and has copper-clad brise-soleils to the side windows. The sacristies wrap around the sanctuary, with a flat roof.
The lofty interior has a narthex and offices at the west end, separated from the nave by sliding hardwood glazed doors. The walls of the wide nave are lined with fair-faced buff brick. The floors are carpeted; Iroko was originally used for the woodblock floor, and for doors and other joinery. The ceiling is lined with a suspended grid of acoustic panels. The narrow sanctuary retains many of its 1950s fittings, including marble steps and high altar with mosaic frontal, upon which is placed the tabernacle, crucifix on the east wall and painted timber hexagonal canopy above. The metal altar rails were removed probably in c1975 and there is now a timber forward altar on an enlarged sanctuary platform. The nave seating consists of loose wooden chairs. The Stations of the Cross are a set of lithographs by Frank Brangwyn RA, acquired by Fr J. Esser in the 1930s. Other fittings include sculpted stone statues of St Anthony of Padua, St Maria, St Norbert and St Teresa, 1950s and brought from the old church. The octagonal font is faced in Formica. The narthex was rebuilt in 2003 with a plastered canted projecting bay either side of the west doorway, with vertical windows facing the nave. Stairs lead to the gallery, which is used for storage.
Architect: H. A. Hickson & Son
Original Date: 1956
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed