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Roman Catholic Church of St George

A Grade II* Listed Building in Taunton, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0128 / 51°0'46"N

Longitude: -3.0985 / 3°5'54"W

OS Eastings: 323033

OS Northings: 124287

OS Grid: ST230242

Mapcode National: GBR M1.JGTS

Mapcode Global: FRA 46DF.NPJ

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of St George

Listing Date: 4 July 1975

Last Amended: 7 November 2016

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1231201

English Heritage Legacy ID: 269632

Location: Taunton Deane, Somerset, TA1

County: Somerset

District: Taunton Deane

Electoral Ward/Division: Taunton Manor and Wilton

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Taunton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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Roman Catholic church, 1858-60 by Benjamin Bucknall in an early C14 style; tower added in 1875. Some late C20 re-ordering.


Roman Catholic church, 1858-60 by Benjamin Bucknell in an early C14 style; tower added in 1875. Some late C20 reordering.

MATERIALS: constructed of Monkton stone rubble with dressings of Bath stone under roofs covered in late C20 asbestos slates with stone-coped gables. Decorated tracery to the windows.

PLAN: the church is orientated N-W to S-E, aligning with Billet Street. It comprises a tower, clerestoried nave with aisles, sanctuary with side chapels, and a sacristy to the SW corner. The church forms an L-shaped plan with the attached rectory (Grade II) to the SW. For the purposes of this description, the rest of the text will follow conventional liturgical orientation.

EXTERIOR: the tower faces onto Billet Street and has four stages and corner buttresses. The large, pointed, W doorway has three orders of shafts and is set within a moulded, flat-arched surround with cinquefoil carvings to the spandrels. The second stage has a window of five lights with cusped heads, rising to flowing tracery, and the upper stages have long ogee-arched bell-openings that are pierced and traceried and divided by a transom. There is an openwork parapet with corner pinnacles. The aisles are of six bays, divided by buttresses, and each bay has a two-light window. Towards the W end of the S aisle is a deeply-chamfered, pointed-arched doorway. The clerestory has a similar window arrangement to the aisles, though the bays are defined by pilasters and the windows are smaller. The E (liturgical) end has a large six-light, traceried window and an inset carved stone trefoil above. The flanking chapels are also articulated by buttresses and each has a three-light E window with a stone trefoil in the gable apex. To the left is the sacristy which has a lower roof-line and a flat-arched window of four lights with cusped, ogee-arched heads. Its W elevation has a matching window of two lights and a small single window.

INTERIOR: late C20 glazed and timber screens form a narthex to the lower floor of the tower, above which is a large W organ gallery that has a canted wooden gallery front. The nave is in the early Gothic style of c1300 with an arcade carried on clustered columns with capitals. Within each spandrel of the arcade is a carved stone corbel of a head from which a short stone shaft rises to a further carved corbel in the form of an angel playing a musical instrument just below the clerestory string course. These angel corbels support the arched trusses of the scissor-braced roof. The aisles have lean-to roofs with arch-braced trusses. At the E end of each aisle is a small chapel. The N chapel has the relocated carved octagonal stone font, a Gothic reredos of five empty niches, and an altar frontal depicting the Death of St Joseph; the Lady Chapel has a similar Gothic reredos with statues of the Virgin Mary and female saints, as well as reliefs depicting the Adoration and the Visitation. The tall sanctuary arch is carried on clustered columns with carved capitals. To the left of the arch is a stone pulpit which has panels carved with figures of St Mary Magdalene, St George, the Good Shepherd and a bishop, and is supported on a base of coloured marble shafts; on the opposite side is a large statue of the Sacred Heart on a pedestal with marble shafts. The original high altar was separated from the reredos in c1969 and brought forward; at the same time it was given a new mensa (flat stone forming the top of the altar) of polished Ashburton marble. The reredos has eight statues in gabled niches on either side of the tabernacle and is attributed to CF Hansom (Orbach and Pevsner). It is flanked by matching wall arcades with larger statues of saints. To the side walls of the sanctuary are two pointed arches; the E arch on each side has a stone screen divided into three ogee-arched pierced panels with marble shafts and surmounted by carved angels with gilded wings. Full-height stone shafts rise from the floor to support the roof, with angel corbels to their lower parts.

The designers and makers of most of the stained glass windows are largely unknown. The E window of c1860 depicts the Virgin Mary and St George flanked by Saints Dunstan, Joseph, Walburga and Boniface; at the E end of the N aisle is a window of Saints Philip and James signed by William Morris & Co; and a stained glass window in the N aisle is a memorial to the Fallen of the Second World War. The W window, depicting Christ in Glory, is by Patrick Reyntiens and was installed in 2009 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the church. The wooden Stations of the Cross, added in 1977, were carved by Tom Preater of Taunton, and in the narthex is a First World War memorial in the form of a wall-mounted timber Calvary.

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 16 August 2017.


The Taunton mission was established in the 1780s by the Reverend George Baldwin and received further impetus after the arrival in 1808 of Franciscan nuns from Bruges, via Winchester. In 1821-23 a small classical Catholic chapel (now the Masonic Hall, listed Grade II*) was built in The Crescent, dedicated to St George. By the 1850s, it had become too small as well as unfashionable in style, and plans were made for a larger church. The present site on high ground at the S end of Billet Street was bought by the nuns and the foundation stone was laid on 19 August 1858. The architect was Benjamin Bucknall and the builder was John Spiller of Taunton. The original plans for the church included a tower with a high spire; however, it was not added until 1875 and the spire had to be omitted for structural reasons. The completed church was opened by the Bishop of Plymouth on 24 April 1860; it was consecrated on St George’s Day 1912.

In 1969 the roof of the church was re-covered with asbestos slates, the stonework repointed, and worn tower pinnacles were replaced in artificial stone. The following year the interior was reordered and refurbished by Shirley-Smith & Gibson. The altar was moved forward and the sanctuary rails modified, while a new narthex was installed with a cry room. In 1991 the current parish centre (to the SW) replaced a parish hall of 1933.

Reasons for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of St George, built in 1858-60 and designed by Benjamin Bucknall, with a tower added in 1875, and which underwent some late C20 re-ordering, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: as a well-detailed and assured church of lofty proportions by the architect Benjamin Bucknall, a recognised exponent of true Gothic Revival architecture;
* Interior: it is of a very high quality in its design, execution and materials, with high-quality C19 and C20 fixtures and fittings;
* Group value: it forms a coherent and interesting ensemble with the rectory, gateway, garden building and boundary railings, which are listed at Grade II.

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