The Mount, Glebe Street, Walsall WS1
An important building from the early days of the revival of Catholic church building in the West Midlands. It is a fine, chaste neoclassical structure reflecting the taste of the 1820s before the prevailing of Gothic orthodoxy in the late 1830s and early 1840s. The church and its adjoining almost contemporary presbytery are prominent features on a rising site in the Bradford Street Conservation Area.
Walsall was originally served from the Oscott mission but, on the appointment of Fr Francis Martyn (1782-1838) to Bloxwich in 1807 – said to be the first priest to be entirely trained in England since the Reformation – the Catholics population grew. In 1819 Fr Francis hired the Assembly Rooms at the Green Dragon Inn, which were opened for worship on 19 December. This facility proved too small and on 16 August 1825 the foundation stone of the present church, built from designs by Joseph Ireland, was laid. It was opened on 10 May 1827.
A new Carrara marble altar was installed in 1872 (destroyed in a post-Vatican II reordering of 1969) and much renovation was carried out in 1879. Marble altar rails were added in 1887 and the font installed in 1897. The impact of the unsympathetic late 1960s reordering was partially undone and some of the historic character of the interior reinstated from the early 1970s onwards under Fr Peter Taylor. Since 2012 the church has been served by the Society of Divine Vocation (Vocationist Fathers).
The exterior of the church is fully described in the list entry (below), the interior only briefly.
The interior is majestic. It is a plain rectangle under a segmental coffered ceiling and is lit by the high side windows. There is a west gallery, some fifteen feet deep, carried on a pair of columns; its western portion has been partitioned off to form a narthex, probably in the late twentieth century. The sanctuary is most distinguished, with four fluted Ionic half-columns against the east wall and three and a half pilasters against the side walls. The east wall itself is windowless and richly decorated. In each of the side bays is a painting of an Evangelist and in the centre a good plaster relief depicting the Crucifixion. The lower parts of the wall are embellished with small tiles (possibly Minton) and a tier of balusters, while in the dado are large painted squares with swirling stylised foliage; this latter decoration is continued on to the return walls. The paintings of the Evangelists were cleaned and restored in 1997 (as was no doubt the rest of the decoration).
All the windows are filled with stained glass, which is a unified scheme by Hardmans installed in 1909; much of it was paid for as memorials by the Thorpe family. The Stations of the Cross were made by Ignaz Raffl, born in Austria but settled in Paris in 1857; they are of high-relief plaster and of good quality. Victorian fittings that survived the 1960s reordering are the altar rails (reduced to short stubs on either side), the font made of various marbles (it is said to have been buried at the reordering but was unearthed as tastes changed), and the marble pulpit. The gallery houses an imposing organ.
Roman Catholic church. 1825-7 by Joseph Ireland, with presbytery of 1833. Stuccoed brick with slate roof. Greek style, with moulded plinth, giant Doric pilasters, entablature, and pediments at east and west. West wall has clasping pilasters, and two further pilasters flanking the doorway, which slopes inwards towards the top. This has an architrave and moulded cornice. The north and south walls are each of five bays, the outer ones recessed between pilasters. The windows have lugged architraves and a sill band. The east wall is similar to the west wall, but has no openings. To its left is a single storey one-bay link to the presbytery, which is pedimented and of two storeys and three bays. The two left-hand bays have a single bay window on the ground floor. The doorway is in the right hand bay.
Interior: the church has a shallow coffered tunnel vault. The west gallery with organ is carried on two Doric columns. At the east end are four engaged fluted Ionic columns with entablature, with pilasters on the return walls which have acanthus necking.
Listing NGR: SP0121698031
Architect: Joseph Ireland
Original Date: 1827
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II*