Hartshill Road, Stoke-on-Trent ST4
A large and conspicuous building designed by Charles Hansom, one of the most original of mid-nineteenth century Catholic architects. The church and presbytery with their vigorously banded brick walls form part of a larger composition with the former convent and have considerable landscape value on a prominent site overlooking Stoke. The interior contains good furnishings by the Hardman firm and others.
On 9 April 1838 the first recorded Mass in Stoke since the Reformation was said in an upper room of a house in Whieldon Road occupied by a Mr Maguire. In 1841 the Mass centre was moved to a joiner’s shop on Liverpool Road, then, in 1843, a small chapel dedicated to St Peter in Chains was opened in Back Glebe Street, later Cranmer Street. However, there was no resident priest until 1850.
In 1851 the Rev. Benjamin Hulme bequeathed a legacy to the Bishop of Birmingham for the foundation of a convent in the Potteries. The money was handed to the Dominican Mother Margaret Hallahan who had just established a small community in Longton (see also report for Immaculate Conception and St Dominic, Stone). As no suitable site could be found for the building of a permanent convent in Longton, Mother Margaret accepted an offer from the Rev. William Grosvenor of a piece of land at Cliffe Bank already purchased for a new church. Additional land was bought by the Dominicans in 1854 and in the following year a contract was let for the building of the nave and aisles of the new church and for a small part of the convent. Building began in 1856. The building was designed by Charles Hansom, Ullathorne’s and Mother Margaret Mary’s architect of choice. The builder was Mr William Collis of Longton. The uncompleted church was opened by Bishop Ullathorne in September 1857. The convent was opened in 1857 and a new wing was added in 1864-65 to house a short-lived boarding school.
It was not until 1884-85 that the chancel was added, from designs by A.E. Purdie; the presbytery and convent were enlarged at the same time. The completed church was consecrated in 1885.
The church was redecorated and adorned in 1909 under the direction of Hardman, Powell & Co., Birmingham. New confessionals and what is described in The Tablet account as a ‘tribune’ (presumably the western gallery) were provided, and electric light installed. A new rood was suspended from the chancel arch and numerous statues introduced. Much of the painted decoration was overpainted in more recent years, but some survives.
In 1982 the Dominican Sisters sold the convent for conversion to sheltered homes for the elderly and handed the church to the diocese.
The church is described in the list entry (below) and repetition is not necessary. Not mentioned is the large nuns’ chapel north of the sanctuary in which the seats are arranged in collegiate fashion. In the nave, the foliage capitals of the piers are all different, as the Victorians often liked them to be. Also that the painted Stations of the Cross are of Belgian origin and were given by Dr James Northcote, priest 1881-1907. Amongst the Hardman work of 1909 only the hanging rood is specifically mentioned (but not attributed). The painted decoration has largely been overpainted, but survivals include a Virgin and Child over the sanctuary arch and towards the west end of the nave representations of King David facing St Cecilia; also on the south wall of the sanctuary is a depiction of Christ calling St Peter flanked by a pair of martyrs. The dadoes of the aisles are, unusually, tiled with highly glazed brown tiles (added in 1898).
Roman Catholic Church. 1857. By Charles Hansom. Chancel 1884-5, by A.E. Purdie. Yellow brick with red brick bands and Welsh slate roof and composite tile. Early Decorated style, with nave and aisles, and chancel. 2-storeyed porch in SW corner of S aisle, 4-light Decorated west window over blank arcading. South aisle of 5 bays with 3-light Decorated windows and clerestory over. Below the church to the east, the presbytery adjoins. INTERIOR richly decorated with western gallery carried on clustered shafts and open-work tracery between. Nave of 4 bays with additional narrow western bay. Cylindrical shafts with foliate capitals. Stilted trusses carried on clustered shafts sprung from corbels. Windowless N aisle and high chancel arch with rood and flanking statues under crocketed canopies. Altar with reredos with statues of saints in niches. Painted panelled ceiling [in chancel]. Stained glass in east window. N chancel arcade and stained glass in high S chancel windows. Font with richly carved octagonal panels and wood canopy. Painted oak panels with Stations of the Cross. Attached presbytery of 1857 in similar style with composite tile roof, gables and truncated stacks. (The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Staffordshire: P.262).
Listing NGR: SJ8738345664j
Architect: Charles Hansom; A. E. Purdie
Original Date: 1857
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II