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Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas Aquinas and St Stephen Harding and Presbytery, Market Drayton

Description: Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas Aquinas and St Stephen Harding and Presbytery

Grade: II
Date Listed: 20 February 2014
Building ID: 1416159

OS Grid Reference: SJ6779934193
OS Grid Coordinates: 367798, 334180
Latitude/Longitude: 52.9041, -2.4802

Locality: Market Drayton
County: Shropshire
Postcode: TF9 1JL

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Listing Text


Roman Catholic church and presbytery. 1886 to designs by Edmund Kirby. 1896 fitting of sanctuary. Cream coloured Wollerton bricks, red Ruabon brick banding and dressings, brown tiled roofs with red ridge tiles. Early English Gothic style. The modern porch at the south-east end of the liturgical south elevation of the church is not of special architectural or historic interest.

Reason for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas Aquinas & St Stephen Harding and its attached presbytery, Market Drayton, of 1886 by Edmund Kirby, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: the church and presbytery were designed by the notable ecclesiastical architect, Edmund Kirby, a devout Catholic, who has many listed churches to his name;
* Architectural interest: the church and presbytery were designed as a set-piece by Kirby using prolific red brick banding in cream brick walls;
* Interior: the simplicity of the nave is balanced by the small, exquisitely decorated sanctuary which includes painted roundels, a Gothic-style alabaster altar and a Caen stone reredos of the highest-quality design and craftsmanship;
* Artistic interest: the church contains a number of high-quality, stained-glass memorial windows, of which the pair in the sanctuary are particularly interesting, commemorating two young soldiers who died in the First World War, both from families who funded the church.


In 1857 the Catholic population of Market Drayton stood at twenty and it was not until 1884 the town gained its first resident priest. At this time Mass was said in a large room fitted out as a temporary chapel in Cheshire Street. The funds for converting the room were donated by Egerton William Harding. The conversion to Catholicism of the Harding family of Old Springs Hall, Tyrley, was a key event in the revival of Catholicism in the Market Drayton area. Egerton William Harding later gave a plot of land on Great Hales Street and his son, Egerton Harding, paid for the building of the present church and presbytery 'entirely at his own expense in thanksgiving of his conversion'. The church was opened on 7 November 1886 and it was consecrated by Bishop Knight on 17 August 1887. The buildings were designed by the ecclesiastical architect Edmund Kirby, a devout Catholic. The cost of the church and presbytery was £1,825, with an additional £1,175 given as an endowment.

In 1896 the Clifford family funded extensive decoration of the sanctuary including a new alabaster altar, a carved Caen stone reredos, and stained glass in the three cinquefoil windows. The south wall of the sanctuary was painted with roundels depicting scenes from the lives of the church's patron saints, St Thomas Aquinas and St Stephen Harding, co-founder of the Cistercian Order, who shared his surname with the family who had funded the church's construction. The reredos was completed in 1901 when panels were added painted by an unknown Italian artist copying paintings of the great masters. The quality of craftsmanship of the sanctuary fittings is high and it is likely that they were designed by Kirby or perhaps his son, Edmund Bertram Kirby, both of whom were accomplished designers of church fixtures and fittings as well as ecclesiastical architects. A pair of windows in the north wall of the sanctuary commemorate two sons of the Harding and Clifford families who lost their lives in the First World War. There are also three Second World War memorial windows and a 1948 memorial window in the nave.

The entrance porch at the west end of the south elevation was constructed in the mid 1960s as a memorial to Father Gerald Cavanagh, parish priest between 1933 and 1963. In 1986, the church's centenary year, the alabaster altar was brought forward and redesigned; the ambo dates from this time.


Roman Catholic church and presbytery. 1886 to designs by Edmund Kirby. 1896 fitting of sanctuary. Cream coloured Wollerton bricks, red Ruabon brick banding and dressings, brown tiled roofs with red ridge tiles. Early English Gothic style.

PLAN: whilst orientated north-west, south-east, liturgical compass points are used for the description of the church. Aisleless nave and canted apsidal sanctuary under a single roof, 1960s porch at west end of south elevation. Two-storey presbytery with cellar on east side of church attached to east end of south elevation of nave by single-storey link block containing sacristy.

EXTERIOR: the church is built of cream bricks with close banding and patterning in red brick, a plinth with red brick coping, a moulded red brick sill band, stepped red brick eaves courses, and a brown tiled roof. Facing the road, the west gable wall has three tall lancet windows with red brick surrounds and moulded brick hoodmoulds. The windows have diamond and square leaded glazing of clear and blue glass. There is a full-height buttress at each corner and two smaller buttresses between the windows. At the apex of the gable is a small cross in a circle finial. The south side elevation is partially obscured by a 1960s porch at the left-hand end. The original pointed-arch doorway with a chamfered and moulded red brick surround is now located within the porch. The doorway has a modern timber and glazed door; the original timber door has been moved to the porch doorway. To its right are four bays divided by buttresses. The first, second and third bays have paired lancet windows, those to the first bay separated by the east wall of the porch. The fourth bay is narrower and has a single lancet. All the windows have red brick surrounds with moulded brick hoodmoulds. Attached to the right-hand end of the elevation is a single-storey block containing the sacristy and linking the church and the presbytery. The canted apsidal sanctuary has diagonal buttresses with three cinquefoil windows in red brick with moulded brick hoodmoulds. The south side is blind, being obscured by the sacristy roof. The north side has two lancet windows. The north elevation is built close to the boundary and is not visible, but is similar to the south elevation with paired lancet windows.

Presbytery and sacristy: the presbytery and sacristy are built of cream brick with close red brick banding and a plinth coursing through from the banding and plinth of the church. The two-storey presbytery is of two bays with the entrance doorway to the left and a projecting gabled bay to the right. The wide doorway has a segmental-arched head with a panelled and glazed door with glazed side lights and overlight with square leaded glazing. It is set under a pitched, tiled doorhood. Above is a low, steeply-pitched tile roof with a wide, red brick stack built against the gable wall and projecting through the tiled sacristy roof. The right-hand bay has a canted bay window on the ground floor with a pitched tiled roof, and a segmental-arched head window on the first floor with red brick surround. The window has a two-over-two pane sash frame. The gable has timber bargeboards. A wide, red brick ridge stack is set back on the roof. The sacristy has a single segmental-arched window to the left and a three-light window to the right with red brick mullions and three segmental heads. The lights have diamond and square leaded glazing. The side and rear elevations of the presbytery continue the red brick banding from the front elevation. The windows have segmental-arched heads and two-over-two pane or one-over-one pane sashes. The left bay to the rear elevation has a half-hipped roof with catslide to the right-hand side. The right bay has a gablet, also with a catslide to the right-hand side.

INTERIOR: the aisleless nave is plastered and painted white with timber dado panelling and angled pews. It has an open roof with closely-spaced common rafters with collars and struts supporting candelabra of suspended iron rings from which five octagonal lanterns hang. The three left-hand windows of the south elevation have stained glass; two are Second World War memorial windows and one is a memorial window to a wife of a Clifford, who died in 1948. The right-hand window of the north elevation also has a Second World War memorial window. Between the paired windows and in the north-west corner are blind pointed-arch niches with oval relief Stations of the Cross in pottery. At the east end is a large, pointed arch chancel arch flanked by two-pointed-arch statue niches with St Mary and Baby Jesus to the left and St Joseph to the right. The moulded arch frames and the dado are decorated with painted foliate stencils. The small, canted apsidal sanctuary is richly decorated throughout. It has a timber-panelled dado and painted and stencilled walls and saints painted on the ceiling. The blind south wall has six roundels showing scenes from the lives of the patron saints. The three cinquefoil windows contain stained glass and the two lancet windows in the north wall are both First World War memorial windows. The altar is of alabaster with an elaborate Gothic design incorporating angels under pinnacled canopies. The Caen stone reredos is also a Gothic design with statues under pinnacled spire canopies, painted panels and an inbuilt tabernacle with a gold and jewelled door.

Presbytery and sacristy: the presbytery porch has small, diamond-set floor tiles of red and black. The staircase has moulded timber newels and hand rails and turned balusters. The ground-floor reception rooms have moulded cornices, and there are moulded door architraves throughout with six-panelled doors on the ground floor and four-panelled doors on the first floor. The front room has a grey marble mantelpiece with an inscribed cross motif.

EXCLUSION: the modern porch at the south-east end of the liturgical south elevation of the church is not of special architectural or historic interest.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.