Boulton Street, Birches Head, Stoke-on-Trent ST1
An attractive interwar design in the Early Christian basilican style, with some good furnishings. The church is a fairly early work by the prolific Catholic architect E. Bower Norris and lacks the more archaeologically correct character of some of his other basilican designs. The building is located on a ridge amidst dense nineteenth-century terraces and makes a positive contribution to the local scene.
A mission was started at Birches Head in 1915 by the parish priest of Hanley on land between Boulton Street and Gibbins Street which had been purchased two years previously. Here a chapel was established on the upper floor of a new school building. It continued to be served from Hanley until 1923, when a separate parish was created.
The present church (originally dedicated to St George) was built on an adjoining site in 1927-8, and is an early design by the prolific Catholic architect E. Bower Norris of Sandy & Norris. The foundation stone was laid on 15 December 1927. The total cost was £13,780. The presbytery, behind the church and approached from Gibbins Street, was built in 1931 and the school in 1935 (architects Hollis & Jones). The church was consecrated on 6 June 1935, when St Martin was added to the original dedication.
The church is a fairly early work by the prolific Catholic architect E. Bower Norris and lacks the more archaeologically correct character of some of his other basilican designs, such as Sparkbrook (1922-3).A plain, clean design, consisting of a nave and sanctuary under a continuous roof with lean-to aisles and a semi-circular apse. The main body of the church has nine bays, with single-light windows. It is built of dark red brick with blue-black mottling and concrete pantile roofs. At the west front there is a round-arched central entrance with brick surround, a circular window in the gable, and a small bellcote surmounting the gable with one bell, cast by Taylor of Loughborough.
The interior is plastered and painted white and is covered by a shallow segmental-shaped roof. The nave takes up seven of the nine bays and is separated from the aisles by slender octagonal piers. At the east end is an apsidal sanctuary. At the west end there is a glazed-in narthex with an organ gallery above. The high altar and two side altars are fine pieces. The former is carved from Pietrasanta white marble from Sicily and has a representation of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Above and behind is an impressive domed tabernacle. The elaborate wooden pulpit was made in Bolzano and has figures of the Good Shepherd and the Evangelists. The large, richly treated Stations are of terracotta and were made in Lyons.
Architect: Sandy & Norris
Original Date: 1928
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed