Building » Wellingborough – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Wellingborough – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Ranelagh Road (corner of Knox Road), Wellingborough, Northants

One of several churches in the diocese by the London architect S. J. Nicholl. The church is distinguished by some highly original details, and has a largely intact and lavishly finished interior.

The establishment of a mission in Wellingborough in 1869 was largely due to the Arkwright family (Catholic converts) of Knuston Hall, two miles east of the town. Until a church could be built Mass was said in rented venues. Land for the permanent church was purchased incrementally between 1873 and 1882 and S. J. Nicholl was commissioned to design the church in 1884. The church was opened on 2 September 1886 and cost £5,281. The presbytery was built in 1893-4 at a cost of £1,558. An intended tower was never built.


See also list description, below. The altar faces north but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will be on the basis of an eastward facing altar. The list description is broadly accurate and comprehensive. Externally the church is in late Gothic style, with characterful idiosyncrasies such as the unconventional tracery of the rose window embellished with an enriched ogee hoodmould and the traceried niche above. Also the hood mould of the south porch rising to a finial topped by a winged angel that forms a central mullion to a four-light ogee-headed window.

The interior of the sanctuary and north transept is more idiosyncratic, with a feeling of the wilful ‘high Victorian Rogue’ design in the treatment of the wall and arches between the sanctuary and the organ chamber. The sanctuary has an unusual arrangement of a baldacchino integral with the east window. It is richly decorated and has an ogee rib vault. Half arches link to the sanctuary arcades and the whole has more of a Georgian Gothick character. Richly decorated high altar and side altar. Rood and rood beam with painted decoration to the roof above. Octagonal stone pulpit and font, both carved and ornamented. Other carved altars, sculptures and decorative  enrichments. Attractively painted organ case in the north transept, restored in 2001. Nineteenth century pews. Stations of the Cross purchased from Burns & Oates in 1887. Alabaster altar rail around a framed icon at the west end of the nave. Several stained glass windows in the sanctuary and north transept, some attributed in the list description to C. E. Kempe, but more likely by the Catholic firm of Lavers, Barraud and Westlake.

List description (church and presbytery)


Roman Catholic church and presbytery. c.1885-6, by S.J. Nicholl, Rusticated ironstone with ashlar dressings and plain-tile roof. Nave, aisled chancel transepts, baptistry and attached presbytery, all have north south axis. Perpendicular style. Single-storey church, presbytery has 2 storeys and attic. East elevation; chancel of 3- window range of 3-light windows with 2-stage buttresses between. Transept has large 3-light window with transom. Nave of 3-window range of irregularly spaced 2- and 3- light windows. Plain corbelled cornice and ashlar gable parapets with finials and foliated kneelers. Gabled porch to far left has door with ogee head and window above central statue. West elevation; nave is similar to east elevation. South gable elevation has large 6-light window. North gable elevation has central rose window, moulded stone ogee surround and blank 2-light window above with ogee head all flanked by pair of 3-stage buttresses. Presbytery to right has 2 projecting gables with arched entrance between. Gable to left has 8-light stone mullion window to ground floor. Other windows are sash with glazing bars and moulded stone surrounds. The ground and first floor windows to the right gable are linked by a moulded stone surround. Ashlar gable parapet and brick stack at ridge. Rear of presbytery is similar.

Interior: 2-bay chancel arcade of tall Perpendicular style arches. Large moulded stone canopy over altar has ogee-head arch with rose window behind. Marble altar with reredos. Chamfered arches, with foliated and corbelled capitals, to transepts. Wooden barrel and trussed rafter roofs, Marble chancel rail probably early C20 with elaborate flanking statue niches and figures on tie beam above. Nave windows have niches with statues between. Stone pulpit with niches and statues. Baptistry to left of chancel has marble altar and moulded stone font. Stained glass to baptistry and rose windows are probably by Kempe.

(Buildings of England Northamptonshire, p.453.) Listing NGR: SP8983467970

Heritage Details

Architect: Samuel Joseph Nicholl

Original Date: 1886

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II