Building » Yeovil – The Holy Ghost

Yeovil – The Holy Ghost

Higher Kingston, Yeovil, Somerset, BA21

A Gothic Revival church by the architect and mission priest, Canon Alexander Scoles, and one of his best designs. The church has an elaborately carved high altar and Lady Chapel altar, both of richly coloured and polished materials. A number of furnishings were installed in the 1920s, in memory of Canon Scoles, who is also commemorated in the founder’s chapel. The presbytery, also by Scoles, is slightly earlier than the church and its sacristy was used as a temporary chapel before the completion of the church. Church, presbytery and entrance archway and boundary wall form a prominent corner group.  

The mission at Yeovil was founded as a result of the efforts of the convert Charles Gatty, editor of the Western Gazette, in whose house Mass was first said on 13 November 1887. The following year, Gatty rented the medieval chantry chapel opposite St John’s church, to be used as a Catholic chapel. This was served by the Carmelites at Wincanton, a number of whom stayed in Yeovil at Devonshire Cottage in The Avenue (acquired 1889). In 1891, the Carmelite Fathers withdrew from the mission in Yeovil and the Bishop appointed Fr (from 1893 Canon) A. J. C. Scoles as the first resident priest at Yeovil. Scoles acquired the present site where he built the presbytery (completed in 1895) and sacristy first, using the latter as a temporary chapel.

The foundation stone for the church was laid on 2 June 1897 by Bishop Brownlow, accompanied by Scoles as the founder and Lady Arundell of Wardour as sponsor. The church was opened and consecrated on 17 May 1899, as there was no debt (due to Scoles’s generosity).

Early photographs show a darker, warmer colour scheme than that which exists today. This was described in 1928: ‘The upper part of the walls is plastered in terra-cotta tints, and the lower part in Pompeian-coloured polished cement, which, contrasting with the large amount of Bath stone and carving, gives the whole a warm tone of colour’.

In 1901, Scoles left Yeovil for Basingstoke, where he built another church dedicated to the Holy Ghost. He returned a few years later to Yeovil to oversee the installation of a statue of the Sacred Heart and the font. In 1903, the care of the parish was taken over by the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales, an arrangement which continues today. In the 1920s, a number of furnishings were installed. In 1923, a new pulpit was blessed as a memorial to Canon Scoles (designed by his nephew and partner in architectural practice, Geoffrey Raymond). This was followed in 1924 by altar rails (1924, by Raymond) to replace the original oak ones, the Stations of the Cross in 1926 (carved by Messrs Wall & Co. of Cheltenham who had also made the two altars and the altar rails), and the organ in 1928 (built by George Osmond of Taunton).

In the 1940s, the interior of the church was painted white. In 1969, following the Second Vatican Council, the altar rails and the pulpit were dismantled. In 1974, they were re-installed, in the case of the pulpit in smaller form and against the north side of the chancel arch instead of the south as originally. In the same year the reredos was coloured with blue and gold leaf to make it more legible from a distance. In 1981, a plain new forward altar of Bath stone was blessed.

The church is described in the list entry (below). However, this needs several corrections and additions. The following comments follow conventional liturgical orientation (the church actually faces north.)


  • Just outside the entrance is a column with a replica of a medieval Crucifixion panel, found in 1854 near the Anglican parish church. The original panel, installed outside by Scoles, has since 1975 been displayed inside the church, as it became too fragile. The original served as the altar crucifix in the medieval chantry chapel which was used before the construction of the present church.

  • The church was built using rock-faced Ham Hill stone for the exterior and Bath stone for the interior

  • A number of buttresses on the exterior of the apse and south elevation have niches. By 1928, four had been filled with statues. The remainder have been filled since. Those on the west elevation reputedly come from the Pro-Cathedral in Clifton

  • Above the sacristy at the northeast is the organ gallery, with two pairs of arched openings at first floor level overlooking the nave

  • The high altar and the Lady altar were both made by Wall & Co. of Cheltenham to Scoles’s design. They incorporate various coloured marbles, as well as Mexican onyx and alabaster

  • The two carved scenes of the high altar’s reredos depict Pentecost and the Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist, linking the dedications of the medieval Anglican church (St John) and the dedication of the Catholic church in Yeovil. The painting and gilding of the reredos dates from 1974

  • While the two altars were installed in time for the church’s opening in 1899, a number of furnishings are later in date: the octagonal stone font at the west end, the statue of the Sacred Heart in front of the chancel arch and its pedestal with marble colonnettes were erected shortly after Scoles left the parish (1901), but to his design. Other furnishings date from the 1920s: the pulpit (1923, G. Raymond, with an inscription in memory of Scoles, later reconfigured and re-sited), a statue of St Joseph on a pedestal by Raymond (1923), altar rails to the sanctuary and Lady Chapel (1924, Raymond), the Stations of the Cross of Caen stone (1926) and the organ (1928)

  • The Lady Chapel is also the founder’s chapel with a tablet commemorating the founder, Canon Scoles, and the church’s opening in 1899. It contains a fine sanctuary lamp of gilt repoussé brass

  • There are five stained glass windows in the apse, depicting the four Evangelists and an abstract design (centre). The rose window in the Lady Chapel depicts the Assumption. The nave’s west windows depict the Holy Spirit, flanked by the arms of St Francis de Sales and Bishop Rudderham. The nave windows have modern (probably 1970s) antique glass with religious emblems.



List entry Number: 1386818

Grade: II

Date first listed: 26-Apr-1999

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.




ST5561SE YEOVIL HIGHER KINGSTON 73/5/10008 Roman Catholic Church of The Holy Ghost




Roman Catholic church. 1894-99; by Canon A.J.C. Scoles, architect and the parish priest. Rock-faced limestone with freestone dressings. Red clay double-Roman tile roof with stone coped gable ends with apex crosses.


PLAN: 5-bay nave entered from W’ [S] end, polygonal apse, 3-bay S’ [E] aisle/Lady chapel, and vestry on N’ [W] with polygonal tower in NE [NW] angle. Early English style.


EXTERIOR: Nave and chapel have tall2-light windows with plate tracery, continuous hood moulds and buttresses with weathered set-offs and niches containing statues of saints. Cusped rose window in E’ end of chapel. Polygonal apse with lancets. West’ end of nave has large tripartite lancets with nook-shafts and lancet ventilation slits in gable with louvres; W’ doorway with two orders of shafts, deeply moulded arch and carved tympanum. Small tower on NE’ [NW] with polygonal louvred belfry and short tiled spire.


INTERIOR: Plastered walls and stone dressings. Waggon roof with moulded trusses springing from carved corbels. Tall moulded arch to apse, which has blind arcaded walls and lancets with nook-shafts, sedilia, aumbry, marble altar and elaborate painted and gilded reredos with spire. 2-bay arcade with octagonal piers and moulded arches. Chapel has marble altar, elaborate stone reredos and Communion rail. Carved stone pulpit and Stations of the Cross. C15 carved cross head found in the Chantry of St John’s Church.


SOURCE: Buildings of England, pp. 355-6.


Listing NGR: ST5572516324






List entry Number: 1386819

Grade: II

Date first listed: 26-Apr-1999

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.




ST5561SE YEOVIL HIGHER KINGSTON 73/5/10011 Presbytery adjoining W of Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Ghost




Presbytery of the Church of the Holy Ghost. Circa 1899, by Canon A.J.C Scoles, the parish priest and architect. Red brick with stone dressings. Red clay double-Roman tile roof with stone coped gable ends. Brick axial and gable-end stacks.


PLAN: Rectangular on plan with projecting central bay. Gothic style.


EXTERIOR: 2 storeys and attic. 1:2:1 bay south front, the central projecting gabled bay with cross at apex., large 5-light stone mullion-transom ground floor window with cusped lights and hoodmould; two 2-light Gothic windows above with plate tracery and 2-centred arches with hoodmoulds; cusped lancet in gable above; set back on right and left 2-light stone mullion windows with continuous cill stringcourse, pointed arch doorway on right with hoodmould and large later conservatory on left. Rear [N] 3 bays, centre bay gabled, 4-pane sashes.


INTERIOR not inspected.


Listing NGR: ST5570716324

Heritage Details

Architect: Canon A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1899

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II