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Church of St Simon, City of Plymouth

Description: Church of St Simon

Grade: II
Date Listed: 8 July 2014
Building ID: 1419847

OS Grid Reference: SX4959255223
OS Grid Coordinates: 249592, 55224
Latitude/Longitude: 50.3776, -4.1167

Locality: City of Plymouth
County: City of Plymouth
Postcode: PL4 8TD

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Listing Text


The Church of St Simon, Plymouth built 1905-7 to a design by Harbottle Reed, the west end having been completed in 1957.

Reason for Listing

The Church of St Simon, Plymouth, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the only complete church built by Harbottle Reed, known for church restoration work in Devon, its bold design, with heavy massing combined with considered use of graceful detail, is in an Arts and Crafts tradition which recalls the work of W D Caröe;
* Ornament and craftsmanship: for the imaginative and skilfully executed stonework, both in the window tracery and external details, and in the internal capitals and corbels;
* Fittings: for its early C20 furnishings, including the suite of furnishings by the Pinwill sisters, dating from the 1920s, and stained glass by Kempe and Co.


St Simon's was one of seven churches planned under Plymouth's late-C19 Three Towns Church Extension Scheme, which was intended to make provision for the spiritual needs of the fast-growing city. The development of the Mount Gould – or Mount Gold – area led to the establishment of a mission hall a short distance to the east of the current church along Salisbury Road, at the corner of Durham Avenue, and in 1900 the decision was taken to create a new parish and church. The architect employed for the project was Harbottle Reed of Exeter (1862-1941); Reed worked extensively in church restoration and repair, particularly in Devon, but St Simon's was his only church design to be built. It is understood that local Masons contributed much of the cost of the building. The church hall, used for worship until the church building itself was complete, was constructed first; this was opened in November 1901 and survives today, standing to the north of the church. The foundation stone for the church was laid by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 8 November 1905. The church was consecrated in September 1907, at which time the area to the south remained undeveloped, the houses in this section of Salisbury Road having been built some time before 1933; Reed's 1905 drawing of the church shows that the setting of the church was envisaged as being more open than it is now. Originally designed to seat 760 worshippers, the church remained unfinished at the time of opening, lacking the two westernmost bays and the south porch, and with a temporary iron projecting west end. The west end was finally built in stone in 1957.


Church, built 1905-7, with the west end being completed in 1957. The architect was Harbottle Reed, and the builders were Messrs Pethick Bros of Plymouth.

MATERIALS: random-coursed ashlar of local limestone externally, with Bath stone dressings. Slate roofs. The interior is clad in purple-grey Dulverton stone, with Bath stone piers.

PLAN: the church stands on a west-east alignment. The rectangular footprint is varied by the porch at the centre of the north elevation, and by the projecting east end and south-east corner, containing the church's functional areas, and a stair; the site slopes upwards from the south, making room for a lower-ground floor in this area.

EXTERIOR: the church's design responds to the slope on which it is set, with strong massing at the east end rising from the lower-ground storey, and with the dramatic verticality of the south, street-facing elevation, punctuated by slanting off-set buttresses. The east window is flanked by square, crenellated stair towers, and the gable within which the window is set is surmounted by a cross finial. The pointed tripartite window has flamboyant tracery, its forms taking on a distinct Art Nouveau flavour, and the mullions are enriched with unusual offset crocketed crops. The complex arrangement of the south-east corner is composed of the steep slope of the vestry and sacristy in the angle between the chancel and the south aisle, with the chancel parapet stepped above it; the flat-roofed projection of the lower-level vestries to the south-east, and the semi-circular stair tower projecting southwards at the junction with the aisle. The east gable of the south aisle has a ventilation shaft for the heating system. The four large windows on the south elevation follow varying flamboyant patterns, and have pointed segmental-arched heads, formed by relieving arches placed above them which span the bays between the buttresses. The easternmost bay has two much smaller windows, their tracery taking a tulip form, with crocketed hoodmoulds above. Doorways and adjoining windows in the two eastern bays are square-headed. The north elevation, with the ground rising steeply close behind it, follows the same pattern, but with a porch to the east having a louvred timber belfry with a pitched roof. The 1956 west front, constructed of local limestone salvaged from buildings destroyed in the Blitz, with window and door surrounds made of a composite material, does not match the style of the rest of the church, being relatively traditional in approach: the gable ends of the nave and aisles are presented in a single plane separated by short offset buttresses with stone cross finals to the gables; each gable has a large pointed window with Perpendicular tracery. At the centre, a pointed doorway with foliate carving and blank panels. A tablet placed low in the south wall commemorates the commencement of building by Randall Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, on 8 November 1905.

INTERIOR: the double-aisled interior is lofty, with wagon roofs. The floor of the nave is of brick-shaped tiles, with wood-parquet sections for chairs (now removed). The sanctuary floor is black and white chequered marble. The austere, open space, with its facing of purple-grey Dulverton stone, is offset by the arcades and dressings of richly-carved Bath stone. The piers have mouldings of a traditional Devon type, and elaborately carved crenellated capitals. In these, leaves, flowers and fruit are arranged around plaques in the form of pomegranates, which bear initials, presumably those of donors to the church – some of the plaques remain uncarved. Shafts in the spandrels between the arches provide carved corbels supporting the roof trusses, with paired shafts marking the transition between nave and chancel with angels heads forming the lower corbels. The capitals at this point are enriched with Biblical text. The pointed arches of the screens separating the chancel from north and south chapels are contained within segmental arches, with blank plate tracery to the spandrels; the piers between these arches are supported on carved angel corbels, one to the north bearing a cartouche with the words 'The highest'. Within the chancel, an ogee-headed picina with carved spandrels, corbelled base, and crenellation. Beside it, a plain segmental-arched sedilia niche, similar to niches beneath the aisle windows which hold radiators.

The chancel contains oak choir stalls by the Pinwill sisters, inscribed 1923, with carved angel figures to the ends and tracery panels; the communion rails too are carved with tracery panels. The carved oak lectern, thought also to be by the Pinwills, is a demi-octagon with deep radial buttresses, on a stone and tiled plinth. Possibly also by the Pinwills, the reredos is carved with figurative alabaster panels. The sanctuary is lined with wooden panels having richly carved borders; some disjunction in the flow of the inscriptions these bear suggests they have been reused from elsewhere. The north and south panels serve as a war memorial. Built into the chancel step, the hexagonal pulpit, inscribed 1908, is constructed of coloured marbles. The octagonal stone font with open trefoil panels has a pointed, crocketed oak cover. The south chapel contains the organ, originally built by Renatus Harris in 1707 for St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich, rebuilt and enlarged by John Pike England in 1794 and again by Hedgeland in 1866; the organ was brought to St Simon's in 1912. In the north chapel, a wooden reredos with an annunciation scene in carved and gilded panels. The east window of the north chapel, showing the Virgin and Child with the Magi, is by Kempe & Co, as is stained glass depicting individual saints in the south aisle.

The south-eastern section of the building, reached by a passage behind the organ, contains the functional areas of the church on two levels, connected by a stone spiral stair; the stair is lit by horizontally divided ogee-headed windows with internal trefoils, and crenellated transoms. On the upper floor, the principal vestry and sacristy, with heavy panelled oak doors; on the lower floor, the choir and clergy vestries, WCs, and former stoke hole and blowing room.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the brick church hall stands to the north of the church on higher ground. Constructed in 1901, with later eastern extensions, the building has steeply-pitched roofs with half-timbering to the gables, and brick buttresses. The original wagon-roofed hall has a stage and balustraded gallery (now blocked off).

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