Catholic Church of Our Blessed Lady & St Thomas
An early and economically-built Gothic Revival design by A W N Pugin. It was built 1839-40 and underwent a major reordering in the 1960s. The building is listed Grade II.
The mission was established from West Bromwich by the Hon Fr George Ignatius Spencer in 1835. Initially he celebrated Mass in a disused warehouse before hiring a Methodist chapel in King Street. In 1837 William Fletcher, a nailmaster in Dudley, acting on behalf of Fr Spencer and Bishop Walsh, bought the present site from the Bourne family. Pugin made the first designs for the church in 1837. The foundation stone was laid in the second half of 1839 and the church was opened on 29 December 1840, when Dr Wiseman preached. The church was cheap (£3,165 including vestments, fittings and decoration) but was considered by The Tablet ‘a perfect specimen of old English parochial architecture’.
The style is largely Early English and extensive use is made of lancet windows. Pugin’s building has an aisled
nave and a chancel that is somewhat lower, since he insisted that all parts of the church should be structurally differentiated. He also provided a southeast sacristy and northeast chapel. The clerestory consists of small lancet windows, one per bay. Pugin allowed himself a light mixing of styles in that the north chapel east window is Decorated (use of tracery detail) and the arch to north chapel is Perpendicular (use of Tudor arch).
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The interior is plastered. The nave is separated from the aisles by a five-bay arcade of double chamfered arches and fairly slender octagonal piers. The north chapel east window is by Pugin and made by Warrington, c. 1840 and depicts the Virgin and Child. The three lights forming the east window in the sanctuary are by Hardman’s and were fitted in 1862. Pugin’s glass, made by William Warrington, in the east window was transferred to the west end when the present east windows were installed in 1862 (the transferred glass has now been lost). Alterations took place in 1875 and a new high altar was installed in 1887.
In the early 1960s plans were formulated to ‘modernise’ (Catholic Building Review) the building when the open roof structure was covered by a ceiling, the choir gallery removed, the original sacristy replaced by a southeast chapel, access from the chancel to the side chapels created, and an external narthex built across the west end along with sacristies and confessionals on the south of the building.
Catholic Church - Heritage Open Day Guide
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