Cromwell Avenue, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire
An attractive but architecturally unexceptional late Victorian church, originally intended as a dual-purpose school and chapel. It was badly damaged in World War Two but was subsequently restored and has good recent additions.
The spa, though founded circa 1838, flourished only in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. The London architect R. Adolphus Came laid out a planned development in 1887 and subsequently settled in the town, designing many of its buildings, including the Catholic church. In 1895 Fr Peter Sabela from Grantham opened a Mass centre and in the same year land off Cromwell Avenue was purchased; Thomas Young of Kingerby Hall, near Market Rasen, a major benefactor of Catholic building projects, provided most of the funds to build a church. Came’s original drawings remain in the Diocesan Archives. They show that the building was intended as a ‘chapel or school room’ but it is not certain that it was ever used for the latter purpose. The sanctuary was never built and the drawings show entrance by a north porch, also never built, entry always being from the west. A bomb landed near the church in 1943. The damage was so extensive that repair was at first considered impracticable. Extensions and alterations were made in 2000 and 2007 (architect Neil Dowlman of Alford).
The altar faces northeast but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will assume an eastward facing altar. Built of red brick with stone dressings and bands of stone under a Welsh slate roof. The church has mullioned and transomed windows of secular character, perhaps indicative of the original dual use proposal. Buttresses divide the nave into six bays on the south side but there is only one buttress on the north side. A curious feature is that the southwest angle buttress originally had a tall, corbelled out, stone bell turret with tall spirelet. Another undated old photograph in the centenary booklet shows a similar turret on the northeast buttress but not on the southwest one. Today the northeast buttress has a much more modest brick bell turret with a pyramidal roof. A pointed arch in the east wall shows the intended sanctuary which was never built. At the west end a porch or narthex was built in 2007 to designs by Neil Dowlman, a large and appropriate structure of brick with tall gabled buttresses and large glazed areas. The original west doorway, with tympanum carved with St Peter’s crest, remains within. Attached at the southeast corner is a two storey brick building (containing the sacristy and a room above), probably built not long after the church, and attached to the east of this is a hall built in 2000 to designs by Neil Dowlman. It follows the spirit of the late Victorian building and is less architecturally interesting than his west narthex.
The interior is simple with scissor braced roof trusses, ceiled only at the top. A stilted pointed arch opens into the small sanctuary and a pointed arch frames the altar against the rear wall. Interestingly this second arch is not visible in an old photograph reproduced in the centenary booklet, though this may simply be that the wall was painted in a single colour and the arch not therefore visible from a distance. The altar, with marble colonnettes, is the remnant of the original altar and reredos by Boulton & Sons of Cheltenham. The same photograph mentioned above shows wall paintings over the sanctuary arch. These have either been lost or painted over. Surprisingly the pews appear to be original, despite the bomb damage. A table in the sanctuary appears to have been made from inverted marble columns from the reredos. Above the altar hangs a painted crucifix, a replica of the San Damiano cross which hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare, Assisi.
Architect: R. Adolphus Came; Neil Dowlman
Original Date: 1896
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed