Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham B74
A stately and in parts quirky interwar Romanesque design by G. B. Cox, replacing a smaller chapel of 1834. The interior has an unusual coffered ceiling, and the west tower makes a strong and positive contribution to the local conservation area.
A small brick Gothic chapel on Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield was opened on 21 October 1834, when Dr Weedall of Oscott College preached. An attached presbytery (not Gothic) was built at about the same time. The church was deconsecrated after the present church was built and became known as The Guildhall. Listed grade II, it is now in office use.
The diocesan archive holds drawings prepared for the Rev. R. F. Meredith by E. W. Pugin in 1865 for a chapel of ease at Sutton Coldfield, not built. A school was erected in 1872 and still survives, though not in use as a school.
The present church was built as a replacement for the 1834 church on a new site further north in Lichfield Road, to commemorate the centenary of the mission and to meet the growing needs of the congregation. An existing Catholic school of 1872 also occupied pat of this site. The new church was designed to seat 250 (in the nave and chapels, plus thirty-five in the gallery) and was opened by Archbishop Williams on 27 September 1934. The cost was £10,750. The style of the church, which was designed by G. B. Cox of Harrison & Cox, was described by The Tablet as ‘fifteenth century Venetian Gothic with adaptations, where necessary, to meet the modern requirements’. The builder was J. R. Deacon of Lichfield. The most recent reordering was early in the twenty-first century.
The church is in a vaguely Romanesque style, with some exotic detailing which was described in a contemporary account as ‘fifteenth century Venetian Gothic’. It is built of red brick with stone dressings and has roof coverings of Roman pantiles. The plan comprises a west tower, wide nave and chancel under a continuous pitched roof and narrower lean-to circulation aisles with eastern chapels.
The broad west tower is set across the west end of the nave. It has massive clasping buttresses and is of four stages. The main west doorway has jamb shafts and a fine carved stone tympanum relief of the Holy Trinity with the symbols of the Evangelists, designed by Cox and carved by Robert Bridgeman & Sons, all set beneath a corbel table. Above are two tiers of three windows set between brick ribs. The bell stage has six openings on the east and west faces and two on each side, all set beneath another corbel table. On either side of the tower are single-storey porches with side entrances, also with carved tympanums; St Peter to the south and the Virgin and Child to the north, again carved by Bridgeman & Sons from Cox’s designs. The body of the church is six bays long with a continuous clerestory of six bays with two round-headed windows in the first four bays and three windows in the two eastern bays. Below the clerestory, lean-to aisles extend for three bays, the main side chapels for two bays; the easternmost bay is the sanctuary which stands alone and has a blind east wall.
Inside the church the west tower contains a timber gallery which projects under a broad moulded and pointed tower arch. The main nave space has a parquet floor and plastered walls. Continuous north and south arcades of wide moulded pointed arches are carried down to floor level. Above both arcades is a band of trefoil ornament on which stands a continuous clerestory arcade with some of the arches pierced for windows. Over all is a timber coffered ceiling. The nave lighting and seating appear to be original. The division between the nave and sanctuary is marked by a heavy downstand ceiling beam carried on wall-piers with heavy carved brackets. The side chapels have seating facing towards the sanctuary. The sanctuary has a patterned marble floor and the east wall has a wide full-height pointed altar recess. The sanctuary fittings are all modern, with matching altar, ambo and tabernacle plinth (the interior was described as ‘recently refurbished’ in 2008 and the sanctuary was also reordered at this time).
Architect: Harrison & Cox
Original Date: 1934
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed