Building » Woodlane – St Francis de Sales

Woodlane – St Francis de Sales

Woodlane, Yoxall, Staffordshire DE13

An interesting rural example of a post-1791 T-plan church and house, the church extended to a cruciform plan in 1830s Gothic style. The interior has lost many of its old fittings, but remains an evocative space. An older dwelling and stable/coach house form part of the setting.

The church is orientated north east-south west, but for the purposes of this report it will be presumed that the altar is at the east and the presbytery at the west. 

Hoar Cross Hall, about two miles to the northeast was a Catholic recusant house from the mid-seventeenth century, belonging to the Welles and then the Howard families, and Mass was said in its chapel. In 1735 the Staffordshire antiquary, Richard Wickes recorded two inscriptions there, ‘Wellys fundavit’ and Howardus erexit’. In 1767, forty three Catholics were registered in Yoxall and in 1776, the first priest at Woodlane, Thomas Flynn is recorded as the priest at Hoar Cross.

In 1794, Hoar Cross Hall was demolished before Charles Talbot, later the Fifteenth Earl of Shrewsbury, sold it to the Meynell family in 1795. It is said that he brought demolition materials to Woodlane (a hamlet about two miles north of Yoxall) for a new chapel which would be more accessible as it was on the main turnpike road. A small rectangular chapel attached to a house was built by 1794, to which the Rev. Thomas Flynn moved. He died in 1797 and the Rev. Gaspar Bricknell succeeded; he found it hard to live on his stipend and began to farm but remained in post to his death in 1833, when he was buried in the churchyard with a wall memorial in the chapel. 

His successor, the Rev. James Jeffries extended the chapel to its present size before leaving in 1840. The straight breaks in the brickwork are visible immediately to the west of the transepts and he added the north porch and buttresses to the existing chapel. The old windows in the western half have been enlarged; they were probably originally sash windows as seen now on the presbytery. A blocked doorway is visible below the window west of the porch on the north.

A. W. Pugin’s diaries record visits to Woodlane in 1841-2, when in the service of the Sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury, with the enigmatic comment ‘materials for the chapel at Woodlane’. It is possible that he furnished and decorated the sanctuary, perhaps glazing the ‘handsome’ (Kelly’s Directory) east window, and that the two standing angels holding the symbols of the Passion (now on shelves at each end of the west gallery balustrade) are from this refurnishing. The octagonal stone font with shields to each face is also possibly by Pugin, its proportions similar to the battered octagonal stone font once in the garden here, but now outside at St Christopher’s, Tutbury (qv). It reportedly from the medieval parish church of Yoxall (which has a nineteenth century font). The wooden lectern came from the chapel-of-ease at Marchington (now closed); the Gothic lectern now at Tutbury is unlikely to be by Pugin.

A visitation in 1881 recorded sixty eight communicants and annual income of £158. Listed with the church, sacristy and house are a stable-cowshed, ‘a building that had once been a dwelling’, a coach house and a pig sty, all but the last of which survive.

In 1907, the porch was reattached to the church with iron straps (plates still visible externally) and in 1912 the building was thoroughly overhauled inside and out, using monies raised for a school that did not materialise. By then, Burton had become the main Catholic centre for the area and this rural chapel was further overtaken by the growth of Barton-under-Needwood after World War II. Priests ceased to live here and the presbytery was leased.

Around 1965, the narrow benches were replaced by the present pews, brought with the dado panelling from a Methodist church in Earl Shilton (Leicestershire). In 1971, when the Barton parish (including Woodlane and Tutbury churches) was being served by the Sacred Heart Fathers of St Quentin based in Barton, the high altar was removed and a forward altar created. In 1983, the communion rail was removed and the sanctuary extended west for an organ (north) and the font (south), repositioned from under the gallery. The latter area was reconfigured with a reconciliation room and narthex behind a glazed screen. Altars to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart in the transepts were removed but their statues were retained and placed on shelves nearby. The two angels that until 1971 flanked the high altar were retrieved from an outbuilding and put on shelves at each end of the west gallery balustrade. The external pinnacles were replaced in concrete about this time.


In 1982, the ‘former dwelling’ was converted into the John Paul Room, marking the Pope’s visit to England. A kitchen and WCs were added and a staircase inserted to give access to the upper floor. It is still used as a social centre. In 1994, the Archbishop donated tiles left over from the refurbishment of St Chad’s Cathedral and these were used to pave the sanctuary platform.


The current list entry (below) is inadequate.

The church is orientated north east-south west, but for the purposes of this description it will be presumed that the altar is at the east and the presbytery at the west.

An early Roman Catholic chapel of c.1794 attached to a contemporary house on a T-plan, extended to a cruciform plan with a north porch in the 1830s. The church is of brick with a tiled roof, with white-painted wooden windows, cement buttress offsets and concrete pinnacles (1984). The long continuous roof covers the sanctuary, nave and sacristy, meeting the house roof at the west at right angles. The transverse roofs of the shallow transepts run from gables whose diagonal corner buttresses are not well bonded and are capped with thin concrete pinnacles. The windows have Y-tracery except in the east window, which is of three lights with complex cusped tracery set under a segmental head, and one lancet to the east of the porch. The two-storey north porch with entrance door is below a two-light Y-tracery window flanked by 1907 iron tie bar plates and long kneeler stones to the gable above. The diagonal buttresses have stone offsets. The staircase to the west gallery is immediately inside to the right. The south door leads into the area under the gallery, divided into a reconciliation room in the south half with a pointed niche in the west wall and a small narthex with a pointed niche and Gothic panelled segmental headed doorway to the sacristy (part glazed). The church is entered through a modern glazed screen beneath the west gallery front with late Georgian balusters.

The nave and chancel have a continuous segmental ceiling with a thin wooden chancel arch delineating the eastern arm; the shallow north and south transepts are also ceiled but at a lower level with a sharper profile. The tiled sanctuary floor is of 1994, using new Minton tiles left over from the re-flooring of St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. Some original quarry tiles can be seen under the west gallery. The nineteenth century stone octagonal font has shields to each face and a thin octagonal broached stem. Statues are of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart and two standing angels holding shields with the symbols of the Passion. The east window glass is by Hardman and Sons c.1983, when the church was reordered. There is one wall memorial, to the Rev. Gasper Bricknell, d.1833. 

The house, which is attached to the church to the west, is of two storeys and three bays, with brick gable stacks. It has three six-pane first floor sash windows above a central panelled door with semi-circular fanlight flanked by twelve-pane sash windows left and right. Its interior has not been inspected.



List entry Number: 1189006

Grade: II

Date first listed: 26-Apr-1984


1. 5369 YOXALL WOOD LANE SK 12 SW 9/11


Church of St Francis of Sales and Presbytery




2. Early C19. Brick with tiled roofs. The church is cruciform on plan with Gothic windows and doorways. The house, which is attached to the church to west, is of 2 storeys with brick stacks and 3 sash windows.


Listing NGR: SK1419620794

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1794

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II