Anglo-Catholic church, predominantly in the Decorated style, built in 1862-63 to the designs of James Fowler.
Reason for Listing
The Church of St Michael and All Angels, built in 1862-63 to the designs of James Fowler, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: it is one of many churches designed by James Fowler, a prolific and successful local architect, whose ecclesiastical, domestic and civic commissions helped to shape the Victorian character of Louth;
* Architectural interest: it is an impressive and intriguing creation with its asymmetrical frontage dominated by what Pevsner has idiosyncratically called ‘a naughty polygonal turret’, and its strikingly contrasting interior characterised by a rich polychromy and spatial clarity;
* Interior: this has finely crafted details, such as the naturalistically carved stone foliage of the capitals, the clustered shafts that support the arcades, and the complicated roof carpentry of the Lady Chapel, all of which combine to create an interior of much visual and textural interest;
* Furniture and fittings: the high quality furniture and fittings, all designed by Fowler for the opening of the church, represent a complete ensemble that survives in its original state and adds considerably to the church’s character;
* Plan form: the large and clearly defined chancel, differentiated spatially from the nave by the elaborate chancel arch and screen and the raised floor level, expresses architecturally the Anglo-Catholic emphasis on the meaning and nature of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist;
* Intactness: the church has undergone some alterations since it first opened, but far from detracting from its architectural integrity, these have enriched its character. The addition of a chancel screen by Reginald Fowler in memory of his father is an attractive and fitting tribute; and his design for the Lady Chapel respects his father’s original scheme whilst enhancing it with an apse of fine proportions and adornment.
The town of Louth in Lincolnshire, often referred to as the ‘Capital of the Wolds’ has Saxon origins, and at the time of the Domesday survey was one of Lincolnshire’s 7 market towns, with a population of 600. Its medieval core is still discernible in the town’s street pattern, and was bounded by the River Lud, the streets of Gospelgate and Kidgate to the south and Church Street to the east. Street names including the suffix ‘gate’ abound in the medieval core, which is signed from a great distance in every direction by the spire of St James Church, completed in 1505, the tallest such spire of any parish church in England. Louth’s medieval prosperity was derived from exporting wool and grain, and its magnificent parish church is testimony to the wealth generated by agriculture in the region, and by Louth’s relative proximity to the east coast.
The town’s population was reduced by three-quarters by outbreaks of plague in the 1630s, and by the early C18 economic prosperity had understandably waned considerably. However, the opening of the Louth-Tetney canal in 1770 heralded a new era of prosperity, and the growth of industries related not only to the region’s agriculture such as malting and grain processing, but also activities such as tanning, boatbuilding and warehousing. Much of this development took place around the canal terminus at Riverhead, and the growth of the town eastwards, along Eastgate, James Street and Walkergate. In 1848, the East Lincolnshire Railway came to Louth, extending trade and communication links beyond those of the canal, and further enhancing the town’s economic strength. An expanding population stimulated the development of terraced housing and villas, churches, chapels, schools and a range of public buildings all graphically captured in the remarkable ‘Louth Panorama’, a two section painting produced by a local man, William Brown in 1844. The Panorama presents a view of the town from high in the spire of St James’ Church. It portrays Louth at the height of its development and prosperity, shortly after the arrival of the railway, set in its surrounding rural landscape, with the east coast seascape in the background. The structure of the town has changed remarkably little since the Panorama was created, and Louth has mercifully escaped the large-scale post-war redevelopment experienced by many communities in England. Louth remains a thriving historic market town with a high proportion of well-preserved C19 buildings.
The Church of St Michael and All Angels was designed by James Fowler (1828-92), a prominent architect and public figure in Louth. Fowler was born in Lichfield but moved to Louth at the age of twenty to work for the County Justices on Louth Prison. He established an architectural practice in the town and became known as Fowler of Louth but he also took on work in London and other counties. Fowler was a prolific architect, designing or restoring over two hundred buildings during his 38 years in practice, including 24 new churches, 40 vicarages or rectories, 13 schools, 4 almshouses, and over a hundred churches that he restored or rebuilt. Fowler had trained as a lithographer, and his extant plans and drawings show that he produced most of them himself, rarely relying on an assistant. Amongst his notable work in Louth are the King Edward VI Grammar School and Bedeshouses (1868-69), the Orme Almshouses (1885), and his restoration of the Church of St James’s (1868-69). He was also appointed Diocesan Surveyor, a Louth Borough Councillor, and was twice Mayor of Louth. There are over sixty buildings on the List associated with Fowler, ranging from churches and rectories to a town hall and almshouses, as well as the numerous churches he restored.
The land on which the Church of St Michael and All Angels was built was paid for by William White, Vicar of Healing from 1837 to 1859. The cornerstone of the church was laid on 22 July 1862 by his wife as White was absent due to illness and did not live to see the church completed. It was consecrated on 5 May 1863 by the Lord Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Rev. John Jackson. The building and equipping of the church cost £3,266.13s.11d, and the church wall and gates were erected at a further cost of £177 in 1864. The first district curate was Father George Nash, a pioneer of the Anglo-Catholic movement who laid the foundations of Catholic worship at St Michael’s which has been continued by successive vicars.
When the church first opened for worship the choir was positioned in the chancel, and there was a much smaller chapel and vestry on the south side of the chancel. A number of alterations have taken place since then. In 1875 the east window was filled with stained glass in memory of George Nash. It was made by Ward & Hughes to a design by James Fowler. The organ chamber and choir vestry were added, and a doorway was opened on the north side of the chancel to provide access to the new vestry. The chancel screen was erected in 1894 in memory of James Fowler by his son Reginald; and the aisle windows were filled with stained glass in 1902. Further changes were made during the vicariate of William Ernest Yates (1896-1915) including the enlargement of the west window in 1904 which was subsequently filled with stained glass at the Church’s Jubilee in 1913. The Lady Chapel, on the south side of chancel, was added in 1908 to designs by Reginald Fowler, at a cost of £1,300. This included the insertion of the large arch on the south side of the chancel. Fowler also designed the priests’ sedilia in the altar; and the reredos and windows in the apse of the Lady Chapel were given by Fowler’s sisters in memory of C. M. Nesbitt. In the mid-1970s the choir stalls were relocated from the chancel to the north aisle, and the altar was placed on an extra step.
MATERIALS: squared limestone rubble laid to courses with ashlared stone dressings and slate-clad roof.
PLAN: the church consists of a nave, north and south aisles, a west turret and porch, and an east chancel flanked by a Lady Chapel and priest’s vestry on the south, and an organ chamber and choir vestry on the north.
EXTERIOR: the irregular west front is dominated by a three-stage turret, in place of a tower. The broached, square first stage has a stone plinth and is lit on the west and north sides by a trefoil headed lancet window in a blocked surround. The octagonal second stage has, on alternate sides, gabled projections with foliate capitals at the feet and rounded, almost trefoil-shaped crosses at the apex, lit by trefoil headed lancet windows. The third stage has two stone bands, and a round shaft on each angle which rises to a moulded trefoil arch, surmounted by a gable with the same embellishment already described. The alternate faces are pierced by trefoil headed belfry windows, and the spire has lucarnes and a weather vane. Attached to the right (south) side of the tower is an open two-bay porch which has a parapet decorated with trefoils and a tall pinnacle in the form of an octagonal spire. This has two bands of continuous gables embellished at the apex and feet in the same manner as those on the turret. The pointed arches have a deep chamfer and four alternate round and hollow mouldings, and capitals carved with naturalistic foliage. The central pier is composed of four shafts of red sandstone, supported by a moulded base in the form of a quatrefoil on plan, whilst the outer piers have one shaft. The right return of the porch has a similar arch. The double-leaf door of vertical planks has a pointed arch moulded surround, and there is a smaller door on the left with a shouldered arch surround which gives access to the turret. The large west window has a moulded surround with foliate headstops and geometrical tracery consisting of three trefoil headed lights with three sexfoils in the window head.
The four-bay nave has a steeply pitched roof, surmounted with crosses at the gable ends, and is lit by a clerestory of small windows with alternate trefoil and cinquefoils set in approximately circular, polygonal surrounds. The aisles have a single pitch roof and are divided into four bays by buttresses with offsets. The west end of both aisles has an angle buttress with offsets and is lit by a window with geometrical tracery consisting of two trefoil headed lights and a trefoil in the window head, set in a moulded surround with foliate headstops. The aisle windows have plate tracery with two trefoil headed lights and a trefoil in the window head, set in blocked surrounds devoid of any mouldings. At the east end of the south aisle is a gabled projection with buttresses which houses the Lady Chapel. It is lit by a window with geometrical tracery consisting of three trefoil headed lights with a sexfoil flanked by long-lobed trefoils in the window head, set in a moulded surround with foliate capitals. The gable head is pierced by a small oval window with a headstop. Following this is a small projection under a single pitch roof which houses the vestry. The north aisle has a similar gabled projection for the organ chamber, and the east end is lit by a window in the same style as those on the long aisle elevations.
The east end has a large window with geometric tracery consisting of three trefoil headed lights with three circles in the window head, each containing six alternating round-lobed and long-lobed trefoils. It is set in a moulded surround with foliate headstops and has a moulded sill band. To the right (south) is a five-sided apse which is lit on all sides by lancet windows in blocked surrounds devoid of mouldings. The bell hanging between the roofs of the chancel and Lady Chancel is a memorial to Canon Jordan (1916-29), but was originally hung in the old Louth prison and dates from 1715.
INTERIOR: the polychromatic brickwork and dark timber roof trusses set against white ceilings imparts an intensity and richness of colour to the interior which is faced predominantly in red brick laid in English bond. The four bay nave has wide arches with soffits of alternate brick and stone bands, and surrounds of red, buff and black bricks (which are red bricks dipped in black paint). The arches are supported by round piers of reddish stone which have circular moulded bases on square plinths and octagonal capitals embellished with naturalistic carving of different kinds of foliage, including that of the chestnut tree and apple tree. Above the arcade, the clerestory windows are deeply recessed within arched openings. There are stone bands at sill and impost level, and between these is a band of dark green tiles with biblical quotations in an elaborate white font. The nave has a common rafter roof with collared principal trusses which are supported by moulded stone corbels and have spandrels pierced with a trefoil. The aisles have similarly closely spaced rafters and a single purlin. Both the nave and the aisles have a dentilled brick cornice. The aisle windows are deeply recessed within wide arched openings which have a surround of alternate stone and bricks, and a stone sill band. The windows are filled with stained glass dating to 1902. The east ends of the aisles are separated from the chancel by a group of three arches edged with black brick, supported on slender stone piers.
The west entrance opens into a porch with a timber screen consisting of wide double-leaf panelled doors, the arched upper panels with leaded lights, and a row of shorter arched windows above. The doors are flanked by carved figures under canopies, either side of which are wide arched openings with trefoils in the spandrels. The floor at the west end of the nave has been laid with coloured tiles in a geometric pattern. At the east end of the nave, two steps lead up to the large chancel. The chancel arch has the same polychromatic brickwork as the arcade with the addition of a moulded hoodmould and a moulded inner arch supported on marble shafts. The chancel screen, added by Reginald Fowler in 1894, has a marble plinth with attached shafts and a stone frieze of carved foliage. This supports the delicate timber screen which has three crocketed arches with pierced tracery, surmounted by a cross and angels. The chancel has a common rafter roof, and, like the nave, a dentilled cornice, stone banding and a band of tiles bearing inscriptions. The altar stands on two steps, behind which on a further step is the triple timber sedilia which has shaped elbows embellished with carved beasts and angels, and a stone canopy formed of crocketed pointed arches with inner trefoil heads, resting on clustered marble shafts.
On the left (north) side of the chancel is the organ chamber which has an arched opening with a polychromatic brick surround and moulded stone inner arch, and houses the 1864 organ from Foster and Andrews of Hull. To the right is the choir vestry door which has jambs with attached columns and a crocketed arch above containing a memorial plaque to the Revd William White, the founder of the church. On the right (south) of the chancel is the large Lady Chapel, added by Reginald Fowler in 1908, which is screened from the chancel by a large arched opening similar to that of the organ chamber (which it is opposite) and a group of four arched openings with a brick band surround which rest on two slender stone shafts. The Lady Chapel has a parquet floor, and a scissor and collar rafter roof used in a complex quadripartite form in which the rafters are carried at right angles to the main roof line as they approach the window. The apse has a similar arched opening to that of the organ chamber and contains an altar on three steps. Behind this is an elaborate timber reredos with panels embellished with blind tracery and brattishing, and a central section of three crocketed arches with blind tracery and crocketed finials. The windows are deeply recessed behind stone surrounds with moulded arches and jambs carved in the form of columns.
CHURCH FURNITURE: this was all designed by James Fowler for the opening of the church. The stone font, situated at the north-west end of the nave, rests on an octagonal plinth and base. It has an octagonal bowl with a carved timber lid, supported by an octagonal stem which has engaged black marble shafts with moulded stone capitals and bases as well as a stone band running around the middle. The pulpit, situated at the south-east end of the nave, is in a similar style and materials, consisting of an octagonal drum with engaged shafts, resting on a corbelled plinth. The fitted timber pews in the nave and aisles have boarded backs and plain ends. The timber choir stalls, relocated from the chancel to the east end of the north aisle, have backs pierced with pointed arches, a moulded top rail, and shaped ends with engaged shafts embellished with carved foliage.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the west of the church, on the east side of Church Street, is a high red brick wall with stone capping and intermittent piers with pyramid stone caps. At the north end are decorative wrought iron gates between square gate piers which have moulded stone pyramid finials with chamfered angles and a band of continuous triangles at the base.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.