Gregory Avenue, Weoley Castle, Birmingham B29
A large and imposing traditional post-war design and late work by Adrian Gilbert Scott, occupying a prominent location in a formal planned suburb. The design, which displays Scott’s trademark camel-vaulted arches, has good-quality finishes both inside and out, and is relatively little altered.
The parish was founded in 1933 to serve the interwar housing estate of Weoley Castle, built from 1929 by Birmingham City close to Bournville. The initiative for the new parish was led by the Rev. W. P. Bull from St Edward, Selly Oak; initially, Catholic children were taken by bus to school at St Edward’s. To begin with, the Rev. William Gardner, the first parish priest, said Mass at the Princethorpe Road School. A dual-purpose building designed by G. B. Cox and providing a hall and Mass centre was opened on Weoley Park Road in 1933 on land given by Mr and Mrs F. Smith, who were not Catholics; this survives next to the church and is used by the primary school. The unusual, and possibly unique (for England) inclusion of St Rose of Lima in the dedication is after the Smith’s daughter Rhoda (Greek for Rose), who had died from tuberculosis. In 1936 a new school was built, run by the Holy Child Sisters, and Mass was said there on an interim basis. The presbytery was completed in 1940.
The project to build a new larger church was led by the Rev. Charles O’Reilly, after parish debts were settled in 1951. From plans for a modest church seating 350, the project grew to provide a large church seating 500 and costing nearly £75,000. The foundation stone was laid in 1959 and the new church blessed by Archbishop Grimshaw on Whit Monday, 1961. The architect was Adrian Gilbert Scott, who also designed the furnishings and fittings; his drawings are deposited in the RIBA Drawings Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The west tower and entrance faces the circular green and park beyond Castle Road. The building is faced in brown Brockley brick, laid in English garden wall bond, with Portland stone plinth, string courses and details. Roofs are laid with clay pantiles; the sanctuary and nave are under the same roof. The style might loosely be called modern Italian basilican; the building is Gothic in its massing, though not generally in its detailing. The tower, which contains one bell, cast by Taylor of Loughborough, is dominated by a deeply recessed tall camel-vaulted arched entrance with a central doorway, flanked by side doors (figure 1). A Portland stone statue of St Rose by Michael Clark stands above the door, in front of a tall window. The blocky tower is treated plainly with tripartite openings to the upper stage, and plain parapet. The narthex is expressed by side projections with hipped roofs, screening the lean-to aisles, confessionals and side chapels. The tall four-bay nave has tripartite clerestory windows, protected with polycarbonate sheets. The sanctuary is expressed by set-back side walls, side tripartite windows and a stylised Lombard frieze. Sacristies wrap around the north, east and south side of the sanctuary, under a sweeping hipped roof.
Inside, the west entrance leads into a narthex below the gallery. A late twentieth century glazed oak screen separates the narthex from the nave, above and set behind this the west gallery has a plastered canted front. Walls are plain plastered over a dado of yellow-brown veined Hornton stone with contrasting lime pointing. The floor is parquet, and the flat ceiling plastered, with timber panelled sloping soffits with Gothic detailing to the long sides. The four-bay nave arcades have elliptical arches in plain plaster. The sanctuary is beyond a plain plastered arch, lit from the side and with a panelled painted ceiling, marble steps and floor. Here too is a high dado of yellow-brown Hornton stone.
Furnishings: the high altar is of blue Hornton stone with inscribed geometrical patterns and a dove grey marble mensa. Behind it is a high blue reredos with gilded hexagonal panels and attached crucifix, and a gilded canopy with coffered soffit and dove of the Holy Spirit. The forward altar complements the materials and design of the high altar. The sanctuary contains a large Hornton stone pulpit, and the oak altar rails remain in situ. The (south) Lady Chapel is richly fitted, with marble altar and floor, and a painted timber reredos with relief carved nativity scene by Ferdinand Stuflesser of Ortisei (photo bottom right). An iron screen separates the chapel from the sanctuary. At the west end of the nave, in the narthex, the baptistery retains its low iron gates, font and marble floor (there is also a portable timber font in the sanctuary). The nave pews are of hardwood. The Stations of the Cross (and the sanctuary crucifix) are said to be hand-carved copies of those in Scott’s church of St Anthony, Wythenshawe. The spacious sacristies retain their original fittings.
Architect: Adrian Gilbert Scott
Original Date: 1961
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed