Meeting Lane, Towcester, Northants
A mid-nineteenth century Nonconformist chapel converted for Catholic worship in the 1970s.
In the 1820s a Catholic chapel was provided at Weedon barracks, about seven miles northwest of Towcester, and it was not until 1949 that a Catholic church (St George’s) was erected in Towcester. This was an old Nissen hut, given by Lord Frederick Hesketh, on the main A5 Watling Street close to the town centre. Initially it was served by priests from Buckingham and Stony Stratford and later, Northampton. In 1954 the parish of Our Lady of Victories, Weedon was established, and included Towcester. The parish church at Weedon was rebuilt in 1971 but closed in 1992. The present Catholic church in Towcester was built as an Independent chapel in 1845, subsequently becoming a Congregational church before being acquired for Catholic use in 1976 (St George’s was closed that year and various furnishings transferred to the new church). The architect for the conversion, which cost just under £31,000 and involved the removal of the original furnishings, including box pews, was George Mathers of Cheltenham.
The list description (below) is correct and fairly comprehensive.
The altar of the church faces northwest but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will assume an eastward facing altar. The form and design are typical of Nonconformist chapels of the mid-nineteenth century, a rectangular box with the entrance front on one of the short sides, with a pedimented gable. Externally the church is two storied, i.e. has two tiers of windows. The windows and doors are set within blind round-arched giant recesses and, curiously, the masonry around the windows is rendered within the recess. A photo of the church prior to conversion shows these areas to have been fair-faced brick.
The interior is largely one open space with plastered walls and ceiling, moulded cornice and west gallery supported on two iron columns. As part of the conversion work three rooms have been created beneath the gallery with the wall tactfully recessed in a curve so that the gallery still reads as such. The spaces within comprise a central lobby, a crying room/confessional and sacristy. There is a stone font (given in 1990) of heavy late Norman design, believed to have come from a demolished church in London. There is an organ centrally placed on the west gallery. Tabernacle with an intricate bejewelled Gothic front. This and the papal coat of arms came from the demolished Notre Dame convent in Northampton (1871, by William Hull). An eighteenth century-style brass chandelier (the gift of Lady Hesketh in 1976). In the eastward extension there is a meeting room on each floor. In the ground floor room hangs a painted triptych in Italian fourteenth century style.
Church, formerly non-conformist chapel. Built 1846. Coursed squared limestone and ironstone, slate roof. Single-cell plan. Classical style. Pair of rendered pedimented porches to south gable end with double-leaf doors. Round-arched windows above in round-arched recesses with rendered heads. Gable of red brick with moulded stone eaves continued across its base to form a pediment. Ironstone and limestone quoins, to front angles. Sides have 3 round-arched giant niches within arches framing segmental-headed windows to ground floor and round-arched windows above. 2- storey wing to rear gable end with pairs of round-arched windows to ground and first floors. Rear gable wall and left side of wing are of red brick, rear gable end of wing of coursed limestone and ironstone rubble. Windows all have cast-iron frames. Interior has gallery at entrance end on cast-iron columns incorporating clock by Sidney Hall, Towcester, to middle of panelled wood gallery front. Wing to rear houses vestry to ground floor and former school room to first floor with large round-arched hinged double-leaf panels which can be opened to give a view down into the chapel. Formerly an Independent Congregational chapel. Listing NGR: SP6931048598
Architect: Not established; George Mathers (conversion)
Original Date: 1846
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II