Whitchurch - St George Protector of England

Claypit Street, Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13

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A simple Gothic school-chapel of 1878 by James O’Byrne. Hemmed in on both sides, the constraints of the elongated plot required the interior to be top-lit. There is good post-war stained glass in the sanctuary. The presbytery is one of a pair of late Georgian town houses.

In June 1876 James O’Byrne drew up a perspective view of the ‘Proposed New School and Presbytery, Whitchurch, Cheshire’. Sufficient funds were raised for building to start on 28 August 1877 but the building which opened on Whit Monday 1878 was but half of the proposal set out in O’Byrne’s June 1876 drawing.  The presbytery was not built at this time, and when the Revd T. Bolton, the first resident priest, arrived in 1892 he lived at no. 11 St John’s Street. In 1902 the mission was left  the late- eighteenth century properties at Nos. 17 and 19 Claypit Street opposite the church (No. 17 remains the presbytery, while No. 19 was sold in 1996).  The original intention that the church should also serve as a schoolroom was evidently never realised, but screens to divide the space remained well into the twentieth century.

The original narthex was lost in 1914 when the gallery was built. Another early alteration was the installation in 1906 of a new altar and reredos. The church was first reordered in 1969, when the 1906 reredos was removed and the coeval altar brought forward. A pulpit of 1904 (erected in memory of Fr Bolton) and the communion rails were removed at this time or possibly later, and the door opening between the sanctuary and the west passage infilled. During a second re-ordering in 1985 panelling was installed in the sanctuary and the 1906 altar moved to its current position beneath the chancel arch.  In one of these reorderings the font was moved from the back of the church to its current position near the chancel arch. The organ came from a Methodist chapel and was installed in the gallery in the early 1990s.

A  plain  brick-built,  slate-roofed  mid-Victorian  school-chapel  building  (although never used as a school).  Of rectangular plan form, the building’s street frontage has a central door with three lancets over and a bellcote.   Envisaging that the presbytery would abut its eastern flank, the architect lit the interior with a long glazed lantern on the ridge. Inside, the lantern casts generous light on the dark stained trusses and purlins and whitewashed ceiling plaster and walls.   The nave is accessed via the enclosed area beneath the organ gallery.  The main space has timber pews on either side of a central alley.  The (ritual) east wall of the nave has three segmental headed openings, the larger central one giving on to the sanctuary, the narrower flanking doors leading to the confessional and sacristy.  The sanctuary is lit by three high level lancets  with  stained glass  windows, by Patrick Pollen (1928-2010), pupil of  Evie Hone and great-grandson of John Hungerford Pollen; they were given after World War II by the Crossley family of Combermere Abbey. The sanctuary has been reordered at least twice and does not contain furnishings of historic interest. The Stations of the Cross in the nave may be early or original.

Diocese: Shrewsbury

Architect: J. O’Byrne

Original Date: 1878

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not listed