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Roman Catholic Church of St Cuthbert by the Forest, including detached campanile

A Grade II Listed Building in Mouldsworth, Cheshire West and Chester

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.2304 / 53°13'49"N

Longitude: -2.7331 / 2°43'59"W

OS Eastings: 351157

OS Northings: 370621

OS Grid: SJ511706

Mapcode National: GBR 7J.0GM6

Mapcode Global: WH889.Z2PC

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of St Cuthbert by the Forest, including detached campanile

Listing Date: 26 March 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1418016

Location: Mouldsworth, Cheshire West and Chester, CH3

County: Cheshire West and Chester

Civil Parish: Mouldsworth

Built-Up Area: Mouldsworth

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Ashton Hayes St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Chester

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Summary

Roman Catholic church, 1953-5, by Francis Xavier Velarde. Blockley Park Royal brick facings laid in stretcher bond with artificial stone dressings, Staffordshire tile roof, detached campanile. Arts & Crafts-influenced design with some simplified Gothic and Germanic references

Description

Roman Catholic church, 1953-5, by Francis Xavier Velarde. Blockley Park Royal brick facings laid in stretcher bond with artificial stone dressings, Staffordshire tile roof, detached campanile. Arts & Crafts-influenced design with some simplified Gothic and Germanic references

PLAN: the church is set back from Station Road on a raised plot of land and is aligned east-west with an apsidal sanctuary located at the west end. A detached campanile lies to the south-east side. The following geographical references will be referred to in their ritual sense.

EXTERIOR: The Roman Catholic Church of St Cuthbert by the Forest is a small church built to accommodate 72 worshippers with an exterior faced with Blockley Park Royal bricks and a pitched roof covered with handmade Staffordshire tiles. The west end elevation comprises a twin-gabled narthex lit by two diamond-shaped windows, behind which rises the taller nave; the nave’s gable end is adorned with a large cross erected to mark the church’s Golden Jubilee. The main church entrance lies on the north side of the narthex and consists of a pointed-arched opening containing boarded double doors. The 3-bay nave has battered buttresses and is lit by paired metal lancet windows containing a mixture of clear and tinted Cathedral glass, separated by artificial stone mullions carved with angel figures. The nave’s ridge is surmounted by three decorative mast-like cross finials. The pitched-roofed sacristy projects out from the south side of the nave and has a square-headed doorway to the centre of the south gable end flanked by slender square-headed windows with angled sills; a similarly styled window exists to the west wall, whilst the east wall has three broader square-headed windows with carved mullions similar to those to the nave. A chimneystack rises from the sacristy’s south-west corner. The east end of the apsidal sanctuary is windowless, but the north and south sides are lit by paired windows in the same style as those to the nave. The detached campanile tapers slightly and is nearly 44ft tall. It has a stone bell cote containing loudspeakers for an electronic bell system, and a copper-clad pyramidal roof surmounted by a tall cross finial. The campanile was not included in the original design, but was added in 1954; a Pieta originally planned for the west face was never installed. The campanile's entrance lies on the south side opposite the church’s main entrance and consists of a pointed-arched opening containing boarded double doors.

INTERIOR: the church interior has exposed brick walls formed of Buckley Junction mixed-grey rustics, and exposed side purlins and rafters to the plastered ceilings of both the nave and apse. The bays of the aisleless nave are defined by the presence of two wide diaphragm arches, with a further arch located at the entrance to the sanctuary. The window mullions have the same treatment as on the exterior and are decorated with carved angels. Two pointed-arched openings in the nave’s west wall lead into the two parts of the narthex: a tiny chapel and a small vestibule inside the church’s entrance, which is accessed via modern glazed doors. The carved-timber Stations of the Cross within the nave were made in the South Tyrol and were paid for by individual parishioners. The bench pews are a late-C20 addition, replacing two previous seating schemes (the church originally had chairs brought in from elsewhere). Located at the eastern end of the nave on the south side are two square-headed doorways with panelled doors and artificial stone lintels each carved with three simplified Patee crosses; that on the left leads into the largely modernised sacristy, and that to the right leads into a former confessional, which is now used for storage. Some of the church furnishings, including the font and lectern were installed in the early-C21. The sanctuary is carpeted (the original terrazzo floor possibly survives underneath) and the altar was moved forward in 1976, which also resulted in the narrowing of its base. The altar platform was also removed to improve the line of vision between the congregation and priest. Attached to the apse’s east wall behind the altar is a stone bracketed shelf produced by the Manchester sculptors Alberti, Lupton & Co, which was added in 1976 and is surmounted by a tabernacle. The shelf is flanked by further smaller timber shelves supported by scrolled brackets that are arranged in a stepped pattern on each side and are surmounted by candlesticks. The ground floor of the campanile is now used for storage.

History

The land surrounding Mouldsworth is largely agricultural and in the 1920s an influx of Irish seasonal farm workers led the landlady of the Station Hotel to persuade a curate from St Werbergh’s to say Mass in a wooden pavilion behind the hotel. At first Mass took place monthly, but as the local Catholic population increased services became weekly; services always being timed to coincide with the British Rail timetable to enable the curate to travel to Mouldsworth. The pavilion was used for nearly 30 years.

After the end of the Second World War Mrs Spann, the landlady of the hotel, purchased land from the Northgate brewery and presented it to the Diocese for the purpose of constructing a church. Plans were produced by the architect Francis Xavier Velarde in 1953 and construction began in the same year by William Browne & Son of Chester. The church, which was built to accommodate 72 people, was opened on 15 September 1955 by the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Rt. Rev. Mgr. John Murphy. The final cost was approximately £8000 including the campanile, and funds were raised by the local community. The church became part of Tarporley parish in c1958 and it acquired its present extended name when ‘by the Forest’ was added in 2000.

Reasons for Listing

Roman Catholic Church of St Cuthbert by the Forest, including detached campanile, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: this tiny church with its carefully proportioned composition and massing with a detached miniature campanile has a commanding presence despite its diminutive scale, and it is an excellent example of a small modern country church;
* Interior quality: the little-altered interior is an intimate and striking space that has an elegant simplicity of design achieved through the juxtaposition of bare brick walls and plastered ceilings with exposed rafters, which are complemented by a series of three wide diaphragm arches that span the small aisleless nave and sanctuary;
* Architect: it was designed by the notable ecclesiastical architect, Francis Xavier Velarde and is one of his best small-scale works drawing on Arts & Crafts, Gothic Germanic ‘Rundbogenstil’ influences;
* Historic interest: the church was constructed to serve the seasonal farm workers who came over from Ireland every year to work on the surrounding farms, many of whom later settled in the area.

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