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Church of St Thomas, Coventry

Description: Church of St Thomas

Grade: II
Date Listed: 24 June 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 218504

OS Grid Reference: SP3507583765
OS Grid Coordinates: 435075, 283765
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4507, -1.4853

Location: Hurst Road, Coventry CV6 6DD

Locality: Coventry
County: Coventry
Country: England
Postcode: CV6 6DD

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Listing Text

833/22/294 HURST ROAD

Church designed in 1874 by John Cotton of Birmingham. Minor alteration with the enlargement of the vestry in 1880s.

MATERIALS: Red brick in Early English style with Bath and Attleborough stone dressings. 84 ft spire of pressed buff bricks with red bands and large stone pinnacles. The roof is of Staffordshire tiles though the hidden aisle roof is slated behind parapet of blue brick crosses. The interior is lined with buff brick with banding and patterns of red and blue with buff mortar

PLAN: Chancel and nave with north aisle, tower in north west corner over porch, vestry to the north of the chancel opening from the east end of the south aisle.

EXTERIOR: Set on a corner plot facing onto Longford road, a main artery road in and out of Coventry. The design is typical of Cotton's style (see below). The tower is designed to have presence on the street façade, and has a striking use of brick to decorative effect. It is designed in a Decorated style.

INTERIOR: Large and lofty nave with small and low north aisle, low roof and small lancet windows. Exposed brickwork throughout and open timbered roofs plastered and coloured between rafters. The chancel floor is covered with encaustic tiles - the remainder of the church (now all carpeted) in red and blue quarries. The windows had 'cathedral' glass and glazing in tracery is of coloured floriated design.

When constructed and pewed it could accommodate 289 people, all in free seats, the ghosts of the pews can be seen on the high square pier bases. The chancel was reordered in 1916 with the provision of internal panelling, the installation of a reredos and the replacement of the pulpit and choir stalls and enlargement of the 1881 organ.

The current nave platform was installed in 1991.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Removal of pews and carpeting of interior has impacted on the character of the church as an entity. Evidence of where pews were located is still clear against north aisle piers. A plan in the vestry shows that these ran through from the nave to the aisle. In 1916 the reredos was carved and the pulpit and font that are in use today were given to replace those put in by Cotton. The 1916 re-ordering remains largely intact, except for the choir stalls. It contains glass mostly spanning the late 19th and early 20th century, largely by Jones and Willis of London (St Paul at the west end of the nave and St Thomas at the east end of the nave and St Laurence - in memory of Jane Jones) in the chancel for example). The tower clock gifted in 1886 by grocer Mr Arthur. It has 8 bells by Taylor of Loughborough of 1892. A plan of the church by the architect hangs in the vestry.

HISTORY: The 1860s and 70s saw the hamlet of Longford, 3 miles north of Coventry, transformed through population expansion linked to industrial development in and around Coventry. Primarily the area was occupied by miners and factory workers (weavers). It was decided to construct a chapel of ease to St Lawrence's parish, Foleshill in response to the increasing population of the area and the related and rapid planting of Nonconformist chapels. It remained a chapel of ease for the first 35 years of its existence.

The foundation stone for St Thomas' was laid 25 June 1873 and the church was consecrated 14 April 1874. The architect Cotton had not been the first choice for the new church; Frederick Preedy from Worcester had been discussed before A W Blomfield was asked to provide a design. Even at this stage it was envisaged that this would be a red brick church with white and blue brick as decoration. In the event Cotton was approached. John Cotton (1844-1934) had worked for nearly a year with Waterhouse and Nesfield in London after receiving a Pugin scholarship before starting his firm in Birmingham in 1870. St Thomas' was the third of eight new churches designed by the architect, all in the midlands area; his first two were at Luddington (1871-2) and Bromsgrove (1872).

The overall design of his Coventry church has much in common with his first sketch for Bromsgrove church of 1872, and in general terms the Longford church contains what be considered archetypal features of Cotton's church designs in the use of an offset tower, a tower porch, a lack of clerestorey and a clear preference for Decorated architectural motifs.

Cotton's first sketches were not accepted, being returned by the Worcester architectural society for rethinking. There appears to have been issues over the cost of the church from the beginning. A sketch of 1872 showed the option of a south aisle to accommodate at least 100 more seats; the church as built accommodated 289 people in free seating. The suggested aisle was not favoured by the architect on account of its relationship to the nave, which had been kept low on account of cost. The church was constructed by Mr Nelson of Dudley and at a cost of £2,350; carvings were by Mr Roddis of Birmingham and the bell by Messrs Blew and Son, Birmingham.

Apparently there was some concern over increasing costs during construction as well, mostly as a result of the increasing cost of materials, notably bricks, and at one time it was agreed to sacrifice the full height of the tower and the spire to save money. In the event it was agreed that these should be built and they were to be 'durable and effective of pressed buff tinted bricks moulded to a battered face and set in cement'. A detached school room was built in 1876 by Mr Wilkins.

Improvements to the heating and lighting were made in 1891. The Masser family had been leaders in the planning of St Thomas' in the 1870s and in 1916, in memory of another Masser, the reredos was carved (Cotton did not design reredoses) and the pulpit and font that are in use today were given to replace those put in by Cotton. These works seem to be part of an east end re-ordering involving the panelling of the chancel and its rearrangement with new choir stalls along with the enlargement of the Nicholson and Wards 1881 organ. This latter alteration necessitated the enlargement of the vestry. The church changed status when its parish was created out of Exhall, Foleshill and Sowe in 1908. Further alterations to the chancel took place in 1925 when it was described as lowered. A nave platform was introduced in c.1991 and associated re-orderings have removed the fixed seating from the nave and choir.

Cowley, G A, Folks Hill: A history of Foleshill Warwickshire 1745-1945 (2000)
Mcgregor-Smith, J, John Cotton, The Life of a Midlands Architect 1844 to 1934 (2002)
Pevsner, N and Wedgwood, A, Warwickshire (1966), 279
Victoria County History Warwickshire volume 8 (1969), 361-7

The Church of St Thomas, Longford, Coventry is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* A 19th century church with streetscape presence on an historic arterial route
* A well executed building by a renowned regional architect
* Fittings and glass mainly of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with local connections such as the reredos, chancel glass and panelling.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

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