North Street, Wolverhampton WV1
A highly important church in the history of Midlands Catholicism. It adjoins the early eighteenth century Giffard House, home of the Vicars Apostolic of the Midland District, including Bishop Milner, in whose memory the church was built, and who lies buried in the crypt. It is a major neoclassical design by Joseph Ireland, and underwent an exemplary reordering in 2009. With Giffard House it occupies a prominent position in the city centre conservation area.
Wolverhampton has a long recusant history and for 200 years was the centre for the Catholic Church for the Midlands, East Anglia and the Welsh Marches. In this respect it owes much to the Catholic Giffard family of Chillington. Bonaventure Giffard (1642-1734) served as Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District from 1687 to 1703 and then of London until his death. Soon after the succession of William and Mary in 1688 a Mass centre was established in North Street, at the home of Miss Elizabeth Giffard. This was on the site of the present Giffard House, the family’s town house built between 1728 and 1733 from designs by Francis Smith of Warwick, which served as a Mass house and priest’s residence.
In 1804 Giffard House became the headquarters of the Midland District and home to Bishop John Milner, Vicar Apostolic. Shortly before his death in 1826, Milner met the architect Joseph Ireland (then working on the designs for St Mary, Walsall, qv) to discuss the extension of the church, or a wholly new church. Milner was an antiquary and a leading figure in the archaeologically correct revival of Gothic; he built a chapel at Winchester from designs by John Carter. Ireland prepared designs for Wolverhampton ‘in the Gothic style of Henry VII’ (quoted in Little, p. 64), but Milner died before these could be advanced. With the £1,000 Milner had bequeathed, it was decided to build a large nave and two transepts onto the house, adopting a grand Grecian classical manner. The church was to be a memorial to Milner, who was buried in the crypt. Work was begun in 1826 and the church was opened on 8 May 1828, when Dr Weedall (future patron of Pugin) preached.
In 1901 the south chapel and a sacristy were added, from designs by Edward Goldie. The north chapel dates from about 1920.
In the 1960s there were proposals to build a ring road, which would have involved the dismantling of the church and its relocation elsewhere. These plans were fiercely resisted by local Catholics and many other townspeople. Eventually the plans were revised to allow for the retention of the church in situ, although the school was demolished along with Milner Hall (the parish hall). Construction of the ring road led to instability of the church structure, which experienced deterioration (e.g. dry rot in the woodwork), resulting in the interior being scaffolded for twenty years. However, it was repaired and reordered in 1986-9.
A further reordering took place in 2009 under the architect Stephen Oliver of Rodney Melville Associates, Leamington Spa, following a legacy from two brothers in the Armstrong family (builders M. Parton of Wolverhampton). This provided four wooden steps up from the nave to a tiled area which is followed by a white marble step to a buff marble floor on which stands a suite of new marble sanctuary furnishings by Katherine Worthington, including a grey marble altar on a massive fluted columnar base, lectern, credence table, and pedimented tabernacle. Over the tabernacle is a fine aluminium Christus Triumphans crucifix by Rory Young. The font also dates from 2009, and stands on a fluted base. The work won the 2009 President’s Award of the Ecclesiastical and Surveyors Association.
List descriptions (amended June 2016, following Taking Stock)
A Roman Catholic Church of 1826-8 by Joseph Ireland in a Greek Revival style, adapted from the chapel of Giffard House in memory of Bishop Milner, with a side chapel and sacristy of 1901 by Edward Goldie, and further side chapel of 1928 by Sandy & Norris.
Reasons for designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul of 1826-8 by Joseph Ireland in a Greek Revival style, adapted from the chapel of Giffard House in memory of Bishop Milner, with a side chapel and sacristy of 1901 by Edward Goldie, and further side chapel of 1928 by Sandy & Norris, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: *Architectural interest: it is a particularly good and important example of an early-C19 Roman Catholic church by the nationally renowned architect Joseph Ireland, displaying high quality architectural detailing and decoration in a Greek Revival style; *Historic interest: built shortly before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and through its direct association with Bishop Milner, a prominent figure in early C19 Roman Catholic emancipation in England, and buried in the crypt, it has a particularly high level of historic interest; *Interior: its particularly high quality interior, despite having been re-ordered twice, contains a large number of high quality fixtures and fittings, some by nationally important artists; *Group value: it forms a very important group with the attached presbytery, Giffard House.
History: The Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul originated from the former chapel to Giffard House (the attached presbytery). This was built by the Roman Catholic Giffard family in the late C16/early C17, who opened it to Recusant worshippers. From 1804-1826 Giffard House was the home of John Milner, Titular Bishop of Castabala (Turkey) and Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District, who was a prominent figure in the early-C19 Roman Catholic emancipation movement and in the provision of poor relief. Shortly before his death, Milner asked the architect Joseph Ireland to draw up plans for a new church by extending the existing chapel at Giffard House. In his will Milner bequeathed £1,000 towards the new church which was built in his memory. Ireland adopted a Greek Revival style for the new church, adopting architectural detailing reminiscent of that employed by Sir John Soane. The inauguration of the church in 1828 was attended by 60 priests. Milner was re-interred in the crypt c1930 having originally been interred in the orchard at Giffard House. Joseph Ireland (1780-1841) belonged to a Roman Catholic family from Wakefield in Yorkshire, and was probably a pupil of Joseph Bonomi. He specialised in Roman Catholic churches in both Gothic and Greek Revival styles. Many of his churches have been demolished, but a small number survive, including the Church of St Austin, Wakefield, 1824-6 (listed at Grade II) and the Church of St Mary, with its presbytery, Walsall, 1825-1833 (listed at Grade II*). In 1901 the Sacred Heart Chapel and a Sacristy were added to designs by Edward Goldie, followed in 1928 by the Lady Chapel to the north, designed by Sandy and Norris. In 1962 plans by Wolverhampton Council to demolish the church were dropped. In 1967, as a result of the building of Wolverhampton’s new Ring Road, the graveyard to the church was removed. Plans to build a new church followed soon after, though these were later abandoned. In 1982 an application for its demolition was called in by the Secretary of State, and subsequently grants were obtained from the local authority and English Heritage for the repair of the church. In 1989 a re-ordering took place: the original High Altar was moved to the side of the nave, with its marble balustrade relocated to the north side chapel. A simple, wooden altar with a wrought iron crucifix was introduced. In 2006-9, following private donations, the interior was refurbished to designs by the architect Stephen Oliver of Rodney Melville & Partners. The re-ordering won the 2009 Presidents’ Award of the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association.
Details: A Roman Catholic Church of 1826-8 by Joseph Ireland in a Greek Revival style, adapted from the chapel of Giffard House in memory of Bishop John Milner, with a side chapel and sacristy of 1901 by Edward Goldie, and further side chapel of 1928 by Sandy & Norris. MATERIALS: stucco with ashlar dressings, parapeted roof. PLAN: T-shaped with re-entrant and sacristy to the south, stairwell to a crypt attached to the north, and with Giffard House, the presbytery (listed separately at Grade II* and under consideration for an amendment), attached to its east end. EXTERIOR: the main, south elevation consists of a projecting two storey re-entrant to the far left, a three by three bay sacristy with entrance porch, and a chapel (south transept). The tall nave has paired flat and angle pilasters to the angles, an entablature and clerestory with pilaster strips and cornice with blocking course. The west window has a battered architrave, frieze and cornice, with small-paned fixed glazing. The clerestory to the nave has lunette windows with archivolts, that to the west blind. The porch has angle pilasters, entablature and a coped parapet adorned with statues of St Peter and St Paul, with steps with iron railings flanked by two panelled piers leading to the main entrance with large timber panelled doors. The chapel to the far right has a large stained glass window with a paneled sill, similar to that of the adjacent sacristy, holding 12-pane horned sashes. The plain north elevation has three round-headed windows to the south chapel, and lunette windows to the clerestory lighting the nave. Attached is a small brick extension with skylight, housing the stairs leading down to the crypt. INTERIOR: the re-entrant contains a timber staircase leading to the gallery at the west end, with a swept handrail resting on twisted balusters. The gallery contains an organ of c1829 by George Parsons. The nave has a tunnel vaulted ceiling with coffered ribs adorned with roses, resting on flat pilasters with honeysuckle capitals to the side walls. The original early C19 coloured marble High Altar in Baroque style stands along the north side of the nave (moved there in 1989). Above it is a painting of 1784, ‘Christ appearing to St Thomas’, by Joseph Barney, a local painter, who also produced the large fixed paintings of the Evangelists in the nave and sanctuary. Opposite on the south wall is a large Gothic style brass plaque of c1826 commemorating Bishop John Milner, probably by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. The Sanctuary has a coffered dome ceiling with an entablature on pendentives and a lantern with an incised pattern. The marble altar, tabernacle, ambo and credence table were carved by Kate Worthington, and the wood carved crucifix suspended above the altar, clad in aluminium, and adorned with gold and silver leaf, is by Rory Young, all introduced as part of the 2009 re-ordering. The Sacred Heart Chapel to the right of the Sanctuary has a domed ceiling resting on Ionic columns with a central lantern. The altar recess has a coffered vault, with an elaborate sarcophagus altar with wood reredos with twisted pilasters, swan-necked pediment and shell vault. An oval bronze plaque to the side wall commemorates its erection in 1901 by friends (Henry Spink of the local locksmiths Joshua Spink & Sons) in memory of the Very Revd. George Canon Duckett (priest at the church from 1851 to 1898). The marble altar rail with decorative wrought iron gates, originally from the High Altar, was moved here in the 1980s. The mosaic underneath commemorates Francisci Cremonini (1840-1908), member of a well known local family of clock and barometer makers originally from Italy. The large stained glass window to the Sacred Heart chapel (artist unknown) depicts the Resurrection and is dedicated to the Glory of God and William Stanton (1825-1881). There are a number of brass plaques commemorating further members of the Stantons, a well known local family and great benefactors of the church. Opposite the Sacred Heart altar on the other side of the chapel, above the confessional, is a wrought iron crucifix in an oval setting made by Hardman & Co (manufacturers of ecclesiastical fittings and stained glass windows between 1838-2008). This formerly hung, after the removal of the original High Altar in 1989, above its replacement altar, which since 2009 is located in the Lady Chapel. The Sacristy and east entrance stairwell can be accessed from the Sacred Heart Chapel. The Sacristy contains bespoke cupboards and drawers to store the vestments. The Lady Chapel in the north transept is separated from the Sanctuary by a three-bay Tuscan arcade. It has wood panelled walls, a parquet floor and a barrel vaulted ceiling. Its east end has a barrel vault and saucer dome, containing a pastel coloured relief depicting the Annunciation above the altar (moved here in 2009). The three round arched stained glass windows of c1928 are by Hardman & Co, and depict King David and the Tree of Jesse. The crypt was probably also created in c1928: a door near the Lady Chapel gives access to it, and stairs lead down to the barrel vaulted crypt containing the large marble tomb of Bishop John Milner, re-interred here in 1930.
Books and journals: Colvin, H, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, (1995), 556; Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1974), 316.Websites: The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, A Guide to the History, the Architecture and Distinctive Features, by Tony Burdon, web edition Dec 2013, accessed 21/01/2015 from http://www.sspeterpaulwolverhampton.com/history.html. Other: The Architectural History Practice Ltd: Churches in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham – An Architectural and Historical Review prepared for Historic England and the Archdiocese of Birmingham (2015)
Presbytery (Giffard House)
A former townhouse of 1727-9 (now the presbytery to the Church of St Peter and St Paul), attributed to the architect Francis Smith built for the Giffard family of Chillington Hall for use by the Roman Catholic Church as a priest’s house with chapel.
Reasons for designation: Giffard House, Wolverhampton, a former townhouse of 1727-9 (the presbytery to the Church of St Peter and St Paul), attributed to the architect Francis Smith and built for the Giffard family of Chillington Hall for use by the Roman Catholic Church as a priest’s house with chapel, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Date: it is a particular good example of an early-C18 town house; * Architectural interest: it is an important example of domestic architecture attributed to the nationally-important architect Francis Smith, displaying particularly interesting composition, architectural detailing and plan form; * Interior: its principal rooms survive mostly intact, displaying particularly high-quality fixtures and fittings, including its skilful carpentry throughout, and in particular its elaborate staircase in the hall; * Historic interest: as an early-C18 Roman Catholic priest’s house, later lived in by Bishop Milner, a prominent figure in the early-C19 Roman Catholic emancipation in England, it has a particularly high level of historic interest; * Group value: it forms an important group with the attached Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul, which was built by enlarging the chapel to Giffard House.
History: During the C17 a large number of Roman Catholic recusants lived in Wolverhampton, which was mockingly referred to as ‘Roma Parva’, Little Rome. This included local gentry such as the Giffard family of Chillington Hall. The Giffards had two town houses in the C17, including one in Tup Street (now North Street) which included a secret chapel, and was used to offer shelter to Roman Catholic recusants and to house priests, monks and other visitors. In the late C17, during the reign of King William III, Giffard House and the chapel were attacked and all priests’ vestments burned. In 1727-9 Peter Giffard together with Roman Catholic clergy built, on the site of the old one, a new town house (the current Giffard House), to be used as a priests’ house with attached chapel. The design for the new house has been attributed to the architect Francis Smith. Francis Smith (1672-1738) was based at Warwick for over 30 years and became known as ‘Smith of Warwick’. He worked mainly for the Midland gentry, and is perceived to be one of the most successful master builders in English architectural history (Colvin, p 882). A large number of his buildings are listed, and many at a higher grade. From 1804-1826 Giffard House was the home of John Milner, Titular Bishop of Castabala (Turkey) and Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District and a prominent figure in the early-C19 Roman Catholic emancipation movement and in poor relief. Shortly before his death Milner asked the architect Joseph Ireland to draw up plans for a new church by extending the existing chapel at Giffard House, which became the Church of St Peter and St Paul, completed in 1828. Since then Giffard House has continued to be used as the presbytery to the Church of St Peter and St Paul. Between 1919 and 1938 a caretaker’s cottage was attached north of Giffard House. During this period Bishop Milner, having originally been buried in the orchard to Giffard House, was re-interred in the crypt of the church. In 1962 plans by Wolverhampton Council to demolish the Church of St Peter and St Paul and Giffard House were dropped. In 1967, as a result of the building of Wolverhampton’s new Ring Road, the graveyard to the church was removed. Plans to build a new church with a presbytery followed soon after, though these were later abandoned. In 1982 an application for demolition was called in by the Secretary of State. Since then the church and presbytery have been restored.
Details: A former townhouse of 1727-9 (now the presbytery to the Church of St Peter and St Paul), attributed to the architect Francis Smith built for the Giffard family of Chillington Hall for use by the Roman Catholic Church as a priest’s house with chapel. MATERIALS: Constructed in red brick with stone dressings, with a hipped tiled roof with a flat centre and two large brick stacks. PLAN: Double-depth plan. EXTERIOR: The main, east front, in Early Georgian style, is three storeys high. It has a five window range with top cornice and quoins. The windows have brick segmental arches with fielded-panelled keys and horned sashes with moulded frames. Those to the ground floor are of 15 panes, to the first floor of 12 panes and to the second floor of 9 panes. The windows to the centre bay are accentuated with architraves and keystones. The central entrance also has an architrave with keystone, and a 6-pane over-light, framing a large 4-fielded-panel door with knocker. The elevation has two rainwater heads with a monogram and the date of 1728, and square down-spouts. The left return has attached chapels belonging to the Church of St Peter and St Paul completed in 1828 to designs by Joseph Ireland, who enlarged the chapel to Giffard House, attached to the rear west of the house. Attached to the right is a c1930s housekeeper’s cottage. INTERIOR: the entrance hall has an elaborate open string stair with fielded dado panelling to the wall and three barley sugar column-on-vase balusters to the tread and a ramped handrail. Carpentry at ground floor level consists of deep skirtings, architraves to the door surrounds and raised and fielded panels to doors and linings. The principal room left of the entrance hall has full height raised and fielded panelling to the walls with boxed shutters to the windows to match. Its fireplace, possibly with later alterations, has a blue and green marble surround with moulded timber shelf. A door at the far end of the room leads into the Church of St Peter and St Paul (listed separately) which is attached to the rear of the house, and incorporates the site of the former chapel to Giffard House. Upper floors not inspected.
Books and journals: Shell County Guide: Staffordshire, (1978), 186; Greenslade, MW (author), Catholic Staffordshire 1500-1850, (2006), 171-173; Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1974), 319; Rowlands, M, Wolverhampton Millenium The Catholic Aspect, (1985). Websites: History of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, incl Giffard House, by Tony Burdan on the church’s website, accessed 5 April 2016 from http://www.sspeterpaulwolverhampton.com/history.html Other: Early C19 view of the south elevation with the church and Giffard House to the right, private collection
Architect: Joseph Ireland; Edward Goldie
Original Date: 1828
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II*