New Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands DY8
An impressive mid-Victorian Gothic Revival church by a major Catholic architect. There is a good survival of the Victorian fittings and fixtures. With its later tower and spire, the church forms a significant local landmark. The adjoining Gothic presbytery is also of architectural and townscape value.
In 1816 a group of Catholic families took a four-year lease on a property behind the Horse and Groom public house in Upper High Street and a chapel was improvised, dedicated to St Francis de Sales, where Mass was occasionally celebrated by priests from Oscott. Kelly states that the establishment of a permanent mission came in 1823, with the Rev. J. T. Barlow the first resident priest. He built a new chapel in 1824 on the present site. Seating just 250, this was soon inadequate for the growing Catholic population, which by 1859 amounted to upwards of 1,300. The decision to erect the present building was made in 1857, during the long incumbency of the convert priest the Rev. Walter Keen; it was opened by Bishop Ullathorne on 14 September 1864, and was a Decorated Gothic design by E. W. Pugin. The new church seated 700. According to Kelly, the silver ornaments of the altar and tabernacle were executed by Evans of Birmingham. Fr Keen died in 1877 and is buried in front of the Lady altar.
Pugin’s designs included a tower and spire, but these were not actually built until 1888-90, broadly in accordance with the original design (the executant architect is given as G. H. Cox). According to the account in The Tablet, the church was redecorated with murals by R. Jeffrey Hopkins of Abergavenny (nave) and Louis Fairfax Muckley of Stourbridge (chancel, executed by Rosa James) in time for its consecration on 9 July 1891.
A convent and school were also designed by Pugin, opening in 1867 (replaced in 1910). The large brick Gothic presbytery adjoining the church was built in 1879 (architect not established).
The list description (below) gives a detailed account of the church and repetition of the details is unnecessary. It can be noted also that there are chapels on either side of the sanctuary (Lady Chapel north, St Joseph’s south). Mention can also be made of the survival of many of the Victorian fittings and fixtures. The reredos is an impressive piece with a tabernacle in the centre and canopies covering statues of the Doctors of the Church, Old Testament figures and other saints. The original high altar has been cut back but its stone front survived. The stone side altars also remain, that in the Lady Chapel with a depiction of the Nativity, and that in St Joseph’s chapel with a spray of lilies. The altar rails to the chapels are still in situ. The list description mentions that the pulpit is intact but this appears to be a fairly modern piece, albeit with two older statues placed in square niches. The original font – a relatively simple octagonal piece – now forms the support for the forward altar.* The walls of the sanctuary are vibrantly painted (a repainting, it is thought, of perhaps the 1990s) in yellow and red with a cross shape in each of the small panels. The soffits of the nave arcades are painted with a pale foliage trail. The list description refers to glass by Hardman of 1875 and this may well apply to the grand rose window, although O’Donnell says this is of the 1860s; all the aisle windows have stained glass but only one is dated (date of death 1909) and only one is signed ‘Hardman’.
* The font has now (2019) been returned to its original purpose, and a new altar formed using the old mensa with a stone base in the form of a chalice. (AHP)
Roman Catholic church. 1863-4, by Edward Welby Pugin; tower by G.H. Cox added 1886. Red brick with stone dressings. Steeply pitched Welsh slate roofs with bands of grey tiles and stone coping to the gable ends with stone crosses at the apexes. PLAN: 8-bay nave, chancel, north and south aisles, vestry in the angle of the north aisle and the chancel and a tower at the west end of the north aisle. Vestry added on south side. The church is aligned north-south. Gothic style with Geometric window tracery. EXTERIOR: North and south aisles with 2-light Geometric tracery windows with buttresses between and tall nave with cusped circular clerestory windows. Chancel has tall and narrow north and south windows with Geometric tracery, large rose east window and vestry in the angle with the north aisle. North west tower actually on NE corner, in three stages, the second stage with pairs of very narrow lancets, the top stage with louvred bell-openings and large turrets with pinnacles and with a short spire with small lucarnes; the pinnacles and the spire have iron finials. INTERIOR: Lofty interior with broad 8-bay nave with clerestory and 7-bay arcades with moulded 2-centred arches and thin alternating grey and pink polished granite piers with block capitals and tall plain bases. Elaborate 8-bay nave roof with arch scissor-braces, high collars and collars to the common-rafters. Arch-braced aisle roofs. Chancel roof has painted panels. Richly carved stone reredos of 1875. Wooden gallery in 8th bay at west end with organ. Pulpit and intact seating. Stained glass windows of 1875 by Hardman. SOURCE: Buildings of England, page 269.
Listing NGR: SO9024784054
Architect: E. W. Pugin; G. H. Cox
Original Date: 1864
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II