Billet Street, Taunton, Somerset, TA1
A fine, large urban church in Decorated Gothic style, with a prominent and slightly later tower. The stately interior contains a number of important furnishings and fittings, including the reredos (attributed to C. F. Hansom), a stained glass window by Morris & Co., and a west window by Patrick Reyntiens. The church forms a good group with the adjacent rectory.
The Taunton mission was established in the 1780s by the Rev. George Baldwin. It received further impetus after the arrival in 1808 of Franciscan nuns from Bruges, via Winchester. Fr Baldwin’s successor, the Rev. Samuel Fisher, built a small classical church in The Crescent which was dedicated to St George (1821-2, now the Masonic Hall, listed Grade II*). By the 1850s, this had become too small as well as unfashionable in style, and plans were made for a larger church. The present site was bought by the nuns and Bishop Clifford laid the foundation stone on 19 August 1858. The architect was Benjamin Bucknall (who built a similar church at the same time at Abergavenny), and the builder was John Spiller of Taunton. The completed church was opened by Dr William Vaughan, Bishop of Plymouth, on 24 April 1860. In 1875, the tower was added but the spire planned by Bucknall had to be omitted for structural reasons. The church was consecrated on St George’s Day 1912.
In about 1969 the church was reordered and refurbished by Shirley-Smith & Gibson of Taunton and Bridgwater. The altar was moved forward and the sanctuary rails modified, while a new narthex was installed with a cry room. Outside, the roof was re-covered with asbestos slates, the stonework repointed, and worn tower pinnacles replaced in artificial stone. In 1991, the current parish centre replaced the parish hall of 1933.
On 4 October 1997, the body of Joseph William Hendren OSF, first Bishop of Clifton and later Bishop of Nottingham, was reinterred in the grounds of St George’s church. For the church’s 150th anniversary, a west window designed by Patrick Reyntiens was made and installed by his son, John.
The church and rectory are fully described in the list entries, revised and expanded in 2016, following Taking Stock.
Summary: Roman Catholic church, 1858-60 by Benjamin Bucknall in an early C14 style; tower added in 1875. Some late C20 re-ordering.
Reasons for designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St George, built in 1858-60 and designed by Benjamin Bucknall, with a tower added in 1875, and which underwent some late C20 re-ordering, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: as a well-detailed and assured church of lofty proportions by the architect Benjamin Bucknall, a recognised exponent of true Gothic Revival architecture; * Interior: it is of a very high quality in its design, execution and materials, with high-quality C19 and C20 fixtures and fittings; * Group value: it forms a coherent and interesting ensemble with the rectory, gateway, garden building and boundary railings, which are listed at Grade II.
History: The Taunton mission was established in the 1780s by the Reverend George Baldwin and received further impetus after the arrival in 1808 of Franciscan nuns from Bruges, via Winchester. In 1821-23 a small classical Catholic chapel (now the Masonic Hall, listed Grade II*) was built in The Crescent, dedicated to St George. By the 1850s, it had become too small as well as unfashionable in style, and plans were made for a larger church. The present site on high ground at the S end of Billet Street was bought by the nuns and the foundation stone was laid on 19 August 1858. The architect was Benjamin Bucknall and the builder was John Spiller of Taunton. The original plans for the church included a tower with a high spire; however, it was not added until 1875 and the spire had to be omitted for structural reasons. The completed church was opened by the Bishop of Plymouth on 24 April 1860; it was consecrated on St George’s Day 1912. In 1969 the roof of the church was re-covered with asbestos slates, the stonework repointed, and worn tower pinnacles were replaced in artificial stone. The following year the interior was reordered and refurbished by Shirley-Smith & Gibson. The altar was moved forward and the sanctuary rails modified, while a new narthex was installed with a cry room. In 1991 the current parish centre (to the SW) replaced a parish hall of 1933.
Details: Roman Catholic church, 1858-60 by Benjamin Bucknell in an early C14 style; tower added in 1875. Some late C20 reordering. MATERIALS: constructed of Monkton stone rubble with dressings of Bath stone under roofs covered in late C20 asbestos slates with stone-coped gables. Decorated tracery to the windows. PLAN: the church is orientated N-W to S-E, aligning with Billet Street. It comprises a tower, clerestoried nave with aisles, sanctuary with side chapels, and a sacristy to the SW corner. The church forms an L-shaped plan with the attached rectory (Grade II) to the SW. For the purposes of this description, the rest of the text will follow conventional liturgical orientation. EXTERIOR: the tower faces onto Billet Street and has four stages and corner buttresses. The large, pointed, W doorway has three orders of shafts and is set within a moulded, flat-arched surround with cinquefoil carvings to the spandrels. The second stage has a window of five lights with cusped heads, rising to flowing tracery, and the upper stages have long ogee-arched bell-openings that are pierced and traceried and divided by a transom. There is an openwork parapet with corner pinnacles. The aisles are of six bays, divided by buttresses, and each bay has a two-light window. Towards the W end of the S aisle is a deeply-chamfered, pointed-arched doorway. The clerestory has a similar window arrangement to the aisles, though the bays are defined by pilasters and the windows are smaller. The E (liturgical) end has a large six-light, traceried window and an inset carved stone trefoil above. The flanking chapels are also articulated by buttresses and each has a three-light E window with a stone trefoil in the gable apex. To the left is the sacristy which has a lower roof-line and a flat-arched window of four lights with cusped, ogee-arched heads. Its W elevation has a matching window of two lights and a small single window. INTERIOR: late C20 glazed and timber screens form a narthex to the lower floor of the tower, above which is a large W organ gallery that has a canted wooden gallery front. The nave is in the early Gothic style of c1300 with an arcade carried on clustered columns with capitals. Within each spandrel of the arcade is a carved stone corbel of a head from which a short stone shaft rises to a further carved corbel in the form of an angel playing a musical instrument just below the clerestory string course. These angel corbels support the arched trusses of the scissor-braced roof. The aisles have lean-to roofs with arch-braced trusses. At the E end of each aisle is a small chapel. The N chapel has the relocated carved octagonal stone font, a Gothic reredos of five empty niches, and an altar frontal depicting the Death of St Joseph; the Lady Chapel has a similar Gothic reredos with statues of the Virgin Mary and female saints, as well as reliefs depicting the Adoration and the Visitation. The tall sanctuary arch is carried on clustered columns with carved capitals. To the left of the arch is a stone pulpit which has panels carved with figures of St Mary Magdalene, St George, the Good Shepherd and a bishop, and is supported on a base of coloured marble shafts; on the opposite side is a large statue of the Sacred Heart on a pedestal with marble shafts. The original high altar was separated from the reredos in c1969 and brought forward; at the same time it was given a new mensa (flat stone forming the top of the altar) of polished Ashburton marble. The reredos has eight statues in gabled niches on either side of the tabernacle and is attributed to CF Hansom (Orbach and Pevsner). It is flanked by matching wall arcades with larger statues of saints. To the side walls of the sanctuary are two pointed arches; the E arch on each side has a stone screen divided into three ogee-arched pierced panels with marble shafts and surmounted by carved angels with gilded wings. Full-height stone shafts rise from the floor to support the roof, with angel corbels to their lower parts. The designers and makers of most of the stained glass windows are largely unknown. The E window of c1860 depicts the Virgin Mary and St George flanked by Saints Dunstan, Joseph, Walburga and Boniface; at the E end of the N aisle is a window of Saints Philip and James signed by William Morris & Co; and a stained glass window in the N aisle is a memorial to the Fallen of the Second World War. The W window, depicting Christ in Glory, is by Patrick Reyntiens and was installed in 2009 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the church. The wooden Stations of the Cross, added in 1977, were carved by Tom Preater of Taunton, and in the narthex is a First World War memorial in the form of a wall-mounted timber Calvary.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 16 August 2017.
Books and journals: Harding, J A, The Diocese of Clifton, 1850-2000, (1999), 191-94; Orbach, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. Somerset: South and West, (2015), 614; Storer, P A, A History of St George’s Catholic Church, Taunton, (1990)
Websites: War Memorials Register, accessed 16 August 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/68329
Other: St George, Taunton. The Architectural History Practice Limited, 2015; Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 25 August 1858 & Wednesday 25 April 1860
Rectory, gateway, garden building and railings
Summary: Rectory to a Roman Catholic church. Probably c1860/61 and designed by Benjamin Bucknall; some minor internal updating. Also a gateway of 1882, late C19 garden building, and mid-C19 boundary railings.
Reasons for Designation: The rectory to the Roman Catholic Church of St George, gateway, garden building and boundary railings are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a well-executed and carefully-proportioned rectory in a late-medieval/Tudor style which provides a successful contrast in terms of scale, style and materials to the adjoining church; * Degree of survival: the rectory is substantially intact and retains a high proportion of original fixtures and fittings; * Group value: the rectory, gateway, garden building and boundary railings form a distinctive and historically-related group and complement each other well.
History: The Taunton mission was established in the 1780s by the Reverend George Baldwin and received further impetus after the arrival in 1808 of Franciscan nuns from Bruges, via Winchester. In 1821-23 a small classical Catholic chapel (now the Masonic Hall, listed Grade II*) was built in The Crescent, dedicated to St George. By the 1850s, it had become too small as well as unfashionable in style, and plans were made for a larger church. The present site at the S end of Billet Street was bought by the nuns and the foundation stone was laid on 19 August 1858. The architect was Benjamin Bucknall and the builder was John Spiller of Taunton. The completed church was opened by the Bishop of Plymouth on 24 April 1860 and was consecrated on St George’s Day 1912. The rectory is set well back from the road and is attached to the sacristy. It was built about the same time as, or shortly after, completion of the church.
Details: Rectory to a Roman Catholic church. Probably c1860/61 and designed by Benjamin Bucknall; some minor internal updating. Also a gateway of 1882, a late C19 garden building, and mid-C19 boundary railings. MATERIALS: the RECTORY and GARDEN BUILDING are constructed of buff-coloured brick under patterned slate roofs. The rectory has ashlar dressings and large ridge and gable-end stacks that have diagonally-set chimney pots and stone coping to the gable ends. The windows have stone surrounds and iron casements with twisted iron stays. The GATEWAY is built of stone rubble with freestone dressings, and the RAILINGS are cast iron. PLAN: the RECTORY has an L-shaped plan, comprising a five-bay range with a central projecting porch bay and a gabled wing of two bays to the SW end. Attached to the wing are two late C19/early C20 lean-to additions. The GATEWAY stands to the NE of the rectory; the GARDEN BUILDING at the SW corner of the grounds; and the RAILINGS form the SE boundary to the site. EXTERIOR: the two-storey RECTORY is in a late medieval or Tudor style. It has a brick and stone plinth and a string course over the ground floor. The projecting full-height porch has diagonal buttresses; a four-centred arched entrance with a chamfered, flat-arched surround; a statue niche above containing the Madonna and Child; and a mullioned window of two lights to the first floor. To either side of the porch are a pair of two-light windows with cusped heads and two first-floor gabled dormers of paired lights under drip moulds at first-floor level. The wing has a three-light mullioned window to its gabled end; a dormer window to the first floor of the NE and SW elevations; and also to the SW elevation is a four-light mullioned and transomed window and late C20 inserted window to the ground floor and four small, square modern lights to the first floor. The rear, garden elevation has an irregular arrangement of windows, all mullioned and transomed, and of two, three and four lights with two-centred heads in flat-arched, moulded surrounds. There is also an off-centre doorway with a stone surround and late C19 timber door, and towards the right-hand end is a full-height canted bay which has a window to each floor and a stone shield in the apex of the gable. There is a modern greenhouse against the rear wall of the wing which stands on the site of a C19 glasshouse. The gabled, pedestrian GATEWAY of 1882 was built by the founder and first rector of the church, Canon John Mitchell. It has a pointed-arched doorway with chamfered surround and a modern metal gate. The NE elevation has an inset weathered stone shield above the doorway, and on the opposite face is a stone plaque that records the erection of the gate by the Canon. Within the rear garden, and built against a boundary wall, is a small Gothic-style GARDEN BUILDING, which was probably erected in the late C19. It is built of brick under a patterned tiled, gabled roof with crested ridge tiles. Its front elevation has a doorway which is flanked by windows with intersecting timber tracery, and diagonal weatherboarding above. The side elevations each have a single fixed light with pointed head. INTERIOR: RECTORY: the porch has fixed wooden benches and a chamfered Tudor-arched doorway with mid-C19 timber door with ornamental strap hinges. The principal ground-floor rooms are accessed from a corridor which runs the length of the building; this arrangement is replicated on the first floor. There is a good range of historic fittings, including a timber staircase, doors, architraves and door furniture and decorative stone and marble fire surrounds. In one of the upstairs rooms are fitted cupboards with glass doors that have glazing bars and cusped heads. The roof timbers are chamfered and there are braced principals and a single row of purlins. GARDEN BUILDING: not inspected internally (2016). SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the rectory garden is bounded to the SE by cast-iron RAILINGS with fleur-de-lys heads. There are iron supporting brackets to their SE side and they are fixed to brick piers with moulded stone caps at either end. The ground slopes slightly to the E and here the railings are carried on a low brick wall with stone coping.
Books and journals: Harding, J A, The Diocese of Clifton, 1850-2000, (1999), 191-94; Orbach, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. Somerset: South and West, (2015), 614
Other: St George, Taunton. The Architectural History Practice Limited, 2015; Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 25 August 1858 & Wednesday 25 April 1860.
Architect: Benjamin Bucknall
Original Date: 1860
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II*