Abbey Road, Torquay, Devon
A rigorous Gothic Revival design by Joseph Hansom, with a good set of stained glass windows by Hardman. This was the first of a number of churches designed by Hansom for the newly-formed Diocese of Plymouth. Together with the adjoining presbytery and schoolroom (also by Hansom) the church complex forms an important piece of townscape in the Abbey Road Conservation Area.
The church of the Assumption of Our Lady was built on land donated by Robert Shedden Sulyarde Cary. The Right Reverend George Errington, first Bishop of Plymouth, laid and blessed the first stone on 24 April 1853 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop less than a year later on 17 February 1854. In 1857 the presbytery and school were built, also from Hansom’s designs. The south aisle and south chapel were added 1858 (these are the dates given in Pevsner and in the statutory list, although the parish history says that the north aisle was added ‘in the late 1850s’ and the south and Sacred Heart Chapel ‘about fifty years later’). The church was reordered and the interior redecorated in 1981. As part of this work, a new altar consisting of approximately 750 kg of Cornish granite was constructed and a baptistery was formed at the east end of the south aisle.
Roman Catholic church. 1853, by J Hansom, aisle and Lady Chapel added 1858. Local grey limestone rubble with freestone dressings; slate roofs. Decorated style.
PLAN: Part of a complex including a schoolroom and presbytery,Abbey Road (qqv). Nave; chancel; north and south transepts; north and south aisles; north-west porch.
EXTERIOR: Chancel lower than nave; gabled bellcote at junction. North side has 3 windows to the chancel. Buttressed transept with 3-light window with trefoil-headed lights, then 2 aisle bays, gabled to the north with buttresses with battered set-offs and gables. Bay to west with a lean-to roof. Gabled porch in westernmost bay with a chamfered arched doorway, coped gable and statue niche. West end has a central buttress flanked by one-light traceried windows with a traceried spherical triangle above. 4 gables to the south elevation.
INTERIOR: Roofs partly boxed-in with plasterboard, chancel fittings and font late C20, otherwise much of Hansom’s interior survives, although the carved work, which is high quality, has been sprayed silver and most of the painted decoration covered in white paint. 4-bay nave with W end gallery containing organ. NE Lady chapel. SE end used as baptistry. 3-bay N & S arcades differ from one another – W bay has low triple arcade into W ends of aisles. N arcade has polished Italian columns and moulded capitals; double-chamfered arches. Lean-to roof with timber trusses, stone arch into transept. S aisle has different polished marble shafts, the 2 easternmost columns clustered. S aisle roof divided into separate bays with transverse members with hammerbeam detail. Moulded chancel arch on short marble shafts with Early English capitals, springing from carved heads. Arcades from chancel into Lady Chapel and Baptistry, Baptistry abuts chancel oddly with 2 arcades parallel to one another and a sort of mini-aisle in timber posts. Lady Chapel has C19 stone carved (painted) brattished reredos divided into bays by slender marble shafts. Stone altar table on 3 shafts with Early English capitals. Baptistry has boarded keeled wagon roof preserving C19 painted decoration. C20 pulpit incorporates carved figure panel that may have come from C19 reredos. Beaten copper Stations of the Cross on the S aisle wall. Most of the nave benches C19. Remarkable wall monument in round-headed niche on S aisle wall. Naturalistic white marble head of the Virgin above inscription to Edward Melchior Jean Marie, Prince de Polignac, composer of music, 1834-1901.
STAINED GLASS: E window by Hardman, 1860s, with the fading peculiar to the firm’s windows of this date. Fine set of late C19 Hardman windows in the S aisle including one to Henry Cary with a portrait figure of Caryon a bier at the base. Hardman windows showing Marian symbols in side wall of the Lady Chapel and in the E window.
(The Buildings of England: Cherry B: Devon: London: 1989-: P.851).
Listing NGR: SX9137664048
Architect: Joseph Hansom
Original Date: 1854
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II