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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: 218586

OS Grid Reference: SP3166082536
OS Grid Coordinates: 431660, 282536
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4399, -1.5357

Location: Tamworth Road, Coventry CV7 8JJ

Locality: Coventry
County: Coventry
Country: England
Postcode: CV7 8JJ

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Listing Text

833/19/306 TAMWORTH ROAD
24-JUN-74 (East side)

Completed in 1847 to designs by Benjamin Ferrey in the Early English style. A large extension on the north side built in 1989.

MATERIALS: Rusticated ashlar masonry of red sandstone, with ashlar dressings and tile roofs. The extension is rendered and painted.

PLAN: Simple plan of aisleless nave with small chancel. Central west tower and south porch. C20 extension against north side of church.

EXTERIOR: The church is set within a large, carefully planned and created churchyard, bordered with low stone walls and square gate piers and some fine planting. Set back within the plot the church has a distinctive character and is well-executed; the land falls away from the church, a result of landscaping the site before construction. The design is regular and each bay, containing a two-light plate tracery window (with alternating trefoils and quatrefoils in the heads) are neatly placed within bays articulated by simple buttresses with set-offs. The wall is topped with a carved corbel table of abstract designs. Much of its distinctive character is provided by colour and the texture. The almost blue tiles cover a steeply pitched roof that sits over the carefully laid mottled red sandstone walls. The combination of the self consciously 'random' placing of the stone of different hues and the slight rustication applied to the surface (intended to give the impression of age) provides a textured quality to the building. The corbel table, string course at window sill level and low moulded plinth provide horizontal articulation. A tall south porch with chamfered doorway and hoodmould is in the second bay from the west.

The tower is impressive and dominates the approach and street view of the church. It is square with clasping buttresses terminating in big octagonal pinnacles. A modest west doorway sits beneath a triple lancet west window; the belfry is lit by a 2-light plate tracery opening like those in the nave. The tower has a parapet pierced with 'arrow loops' above a toothed cornice and slender broach spire with large lucarnes with transoms.

The chancel is small and square and set back from the nave wall. It has two single lancet windows and a small corbel table with clasping corner buttresses and a triple lancet east window with nook shafts to the jambs with a large rose window above.

The northern extension runs parallel to the northern exterior wall, its west wall set back slightly from the corner angle buttresses. It has a shallow red tiled roof and a smooth rendered appearance with a double door in its west wall.

INTERIOR: The nave, now entered from the modern extension, has four large bays and is broad, open and aisleless. The surfaces are plastered and painted and the floor is covered with stone (York) slabs. The roof was originally painted to resemble the colour of old oak. It has a tall, broad and plain chamfered chancel arch. The chancel roof with a truss and rafters without collars, plastered behind, with one tier of purlins and 2 tiers of windbraces. The nave roof is derived from a hammerbeam design with two tiers of purlins and windbraces.

The rose window in the chancel provides an eastern focus. A large gallery dominates the western bay - it has a plain panelled frontal supported on two cast iron columns. The gallery has been altered with a (central) flight of C20 neo-Gothic timber stairs into the nave and it now supports an organ. Beneath the gallery is a very narrow chamfered door into the tower. A raised wooden altar platform could cover tiles.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Timber communion rails relocated and extended, probably 1847 in origin with trefoil headed arcading on shafts with moulded capitals. Wooden altar table in keeping with Gothic arcading and dogtooth at the corners appears to belong. The font, aligned with the west and south doorways has an octagonal bowl with quatrefoil decoration on a stem of clustered shafts and corbels with carved heads.

Contributing significantly to the character of the interior are the box pews with naïve poppyhead designs against the wall and the aisle. Documentary and archaeological evidence indicate the presence of a central row of benches previously existed creating 2 narrow aisles within the nave. These, now lost, seats were to be the free seats and were specified to be made the same as the pews except that the latter were to have dwarf doors. Children's forms were provided in the chancel in oak and the gallery housed free benches and children's forms without backs.

It seems that the seating arrangements changed during subsequent decades; the choir was definitely housed on chairs by the 1890s, and in 1898 pews or seats were to be added to the chancel when the choir was transferred to the newly adapted gallery. The box pews remain substantially intact including their numbers.

The original plans for the church included the provision of 'good second Newcastle glass in lead casements' with diamond squares. Some of these still survive, although others were replaced in the 1870s with memorial windows. The fine east window of angels also dates to this time.

Brass wall monument on north wall of chancel to Thomas Wilmot, d 1846 and signed P Collins. Plaque to celebrate completion of church in 1847 put up by William Thickens, Minster and the Churchwardens at the back of the nave, and which records the contribution of £200 from the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) to the construction of the church on the condition that 320 of the total 420 seats would be free seats and unappropriated for ever (although these figures differ from other secondary records of the same, ICBS records confirm the agreement and the confirmation of this by the Vicar to the ICBS once the church was completed).

The pulpit rather deviates from the dominant Early English gothic style with its 17th century appearance. It appears to use 17th century pieces of furniture created into a Victorian octagonal pulpit and has been given a moulded cornice on a timber stems with attached flight of steps. Interesting, in contrast to the seating, the pulpit is not detailed in the original specification, at which time money was simply set aside for it to be decided upon later.

The gallery although an original feature has undergone alteration on at least 2 occasions. Firstly in 1898 when it was strengthened to accommodate a new organ and secondly a more recent construction of a central staircase with Gothic detailing. It retains some of its original seating however. There are 5 bells by C and G Mears.

HISTORY: Keresley and Coundon were hamlets which were consolidated with a chapelry (of St Peter Harnall taken out of Holy Trinity parish) in the early 1840s. It comprised essentially detached parts of the parishes of Holy Trinity and St Michael's. At this date it was a rural, agricultural location and the local landowner, TB Troughton, of Coundon contributed land and stone (from a quarry adjacent to the site) for the building as well as £40 per year towards the endowment. The latter was the subject of a dispute in 1849, as the parish claimed Holy Trinity had not honoured this. The estate in Coundon was deemed Glebe for the parsonage and future residence. The areas later became more populated, in particular as a result of the opening of the north district colliery and in the 1920s a Mission Room was opened. The current church however, still has a rural setting.

The original design included a vestry on the south side of the chancel as a lean to but this was put under the tower instead. The church nave seated 420, with 320 of these free and unappropriated for ever in line with the ICBS grant (for which see above). The church cost over £3000 and was built by Mr James Needham. The bond for the construction, dated 31 July 1844, survives in WRO - in which it is described as being erected in accordance with 9 plans, drawings and elevations, sections and sealed specification drawn and prepared by Benjamin Ferrey of Bedford St, Bedford Square, London (design and plans cost £1469 and £1845 for builder for its construction).

Benjamin Ferrey (1810-80) was a well-known Victorian church architect. He was a pupil of Auguste Charles Pugin and knew his son, the great A W N Pugin, well and became his biographer (1861). He also studied under William Wilkins. Ferrey set up in independent practice about 1834. He was the diocesan architect to Bath and Wells from 1841 until his death, a post which explains the large amount of church work he undertook in that diocese. He occasionally worked in the neo-Romanesque style in the 1840s but is best known as a Gothic revivalist. In his Gothic work in the 1840s he was putting into practice the newly adopted principles of church design and arrangements which involved the careful and faithful copying of medieval precedents. St Thomas' is a fine example of his approach in this respect.

The appearance of the building was, in fact, very carefully conceived - an approach revealed perhaps most clearly in the selection of stone from the quarry, which sought to avoid top beds and select use deeper strata to recover perfect stones without scaliness. Care over the aesthetics of the church is matched by that over its robust construction, with the walls being strengthened by binders passing through their entire thickness. And Ferrey's planning extended to the church's setting. That the current appearance of the churchyard was consciously created is known from evidence about the site's preparation: The site was levelled to create a uniform slope and fall around the building, and earth from the 3'6" foundations was used to raise the chancel floor. The churchyard was also consecrated in 1847 and extended in 1886. Minor changes were made with the introduced of a new path in 1952, at which point 6 graves were levelled which had no headstones and whose next of kin could not be traced. In 1930 the parish became part of the city of Coventry and there was a subsequent further extension of the churchyard in 1938.

N. Pevsner and A. Wedgwood, Warwickshire (1966), 326.
F. Smith, Keresley past present and future: the village the people and their friends (c.1942) centenary booklet.
Victoria County History, Warwickshire, volume 8, (1969) 358, 367.
Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS): and Lambeth Palace Library.
Warwickshire Record Office (WRO) for letters, faculties, bond and specification: DR 565/19/1-2; DR 565/1-2; DR 565/211-10; DR 565/21/4; DR 565/20/1-10.

The Church of St Thomas Keresley, Coventry is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is an early and well conceived design by the noted church architect Benjamin Ferrey, with an impressive tower.
* It stands in a landscaped churchyard and setting with considerable presence.
* The presence of original fixtures and fittings of good quality which charcharactise the interior.

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.