Mantle Street, Wellington, Somerset, TA21
A row of Tudor Revival almshouses of 1833, converted into a church and presbytery in the 1930s. Further extended to the rear in the 1960s and internally altered more recently, the building’s main architectural interest lies in the gabled street elevation.
The mission in Wellington started in the 1930s, with Mass being celebrated by a priest from Taunton in the former town hall. In 1936, the former Popham Almshouses were acquired. These had been endowed in 1594 by Sir John Popham and a first building was constructed in 1606. It was replaced in 1833 by the present building (also known as Popham’s Hospital), which was designed by Charles Bailey, agent of Edward Ayshford Sanford of Nynehead Court. In 1936, new almshouses were built in Victoria Street and the old building was acquired by Mgr Iles of Taunton. It was converted into a church (dedicated to the newly-canonised St John Fisher) by John Willman of Roberts & Willman, Taunton, and opened by Bishop Lee in March 1937. In c.1963, the building was restored and altered by the architects Ivor Day & O’Brien. This included a rear extension to the east wing to provide a new presbytery and a parish room. The old presbytery was demolished. In 1990, the roof was repaired and in 1996, a new ceiling was installed.
The former almshouses building is a seven-bay range along Mantle Street. The western end was reportedly the chapel; this was converted to the church. The eastern end contains the presbytery and a parish room.
The style of the building is Tudor Gothic. The materials are red sandstone random rubble with stone dressings and a slate roof. The plan of the original range is oblong, with a projecting central bay. To the rear (north) are various flat-roofed single-storey extensions. The street elevation has gabled cross roofs over the individual bays. The three western bays have tall two-centred windows with Y-tracery and mullions and transoms. The central bay is framed by diagonal buttresses. The church entrance in this bay has a four-centred arch with hoodmould and corner shafts. On either side are two four-centred windows of two lights each, with hoodmoulds and diamond leaded glass. A similar, larger window is above. Just under the apex of the central gable is a small stone cross on a corbel (a former gable cross). While the pierced parapet visible in figure 1 has been removed, two finials on the gable’s kneelers survive. The eastern three bays of two storeys have oblong windows with mullions and transoms under labels. Above the ground floor windows are relieving arches of rubble. At the east and west ends of the street elevation are diagonal buttresses.
The door in the central bay leads into the church, while a side entrance at the east return elevation leads to the presbytery. Inside the church entrance is a 1960s internal lobby. The church interior has a suspended ceiling. The modern sanctuary furnishings are of timber. To the liturgical southeast is a flat-roofed side chapel with a two-light Y-tracery window.
Architect: Charles Bailey; John Willman (conversion)
Original Date: 1833
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed