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HER Number:MDV19366
Name:Church of the Immaculate Conception, Higher Church Street, Barnstaple

Summary

Catholic Church built between 1844 and 1855, aisleless with apsidal chancel and 3-bay nave. The adjacent school and presbytery buildings have been demolished and their sites redeveloped.

Location

Grid Reference:SS 561 329
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/149
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II): 485808

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CHURCH (XIX - 1844 AD to 1855 AD (Between))

Full description

Wood, J., 1843, Plan of the Town of Barnstaple from Actual Survey (Cartographic). SDV91852.

Site shown as undeveloped on plan of 1843.


Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: North Devon, 47 (Monograph). SDV336196.


Department of Environment, 1973, Barnstaple, 67 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV89941.

Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple.1855, Romanesque style with apsidal sanctuary, porch.


Devon County Council, 1981, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Film 473 (Ground Photograph). SDV344383.


Timms, S. C., 1982, Church of the Immaculate Conception (Personal Comment). SDV344382.

Application to demolish church because of its small size and state of repair was subject of public inquiry in 1981, when considerable evidence was presented about its construction and design. Secretary of State in letter of 29th January 1982 refused demolition of church but allowed demolition of adjacent buildings including presbytery. Inquiry inspector's report (conclusion in letter of 29th January 1982) expresses doubt about identity of architect. The "Tablet" of 1844 named Boyce a local architect, whilst at the consecration Pugin was credited with design and Boyce, a leading Barnstaple architect, was credited with completion of building. Date of consecration not given.


Greenoff, W. A., 1986, Application for Listed Building Consent to Demolish the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple (Report - non-specific). SDV344385.


Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 151-2 (Monograph). SDV325629.

Begun in 1844 largely at expense of Sir Bourchier Palk Wrey of Tawstock Court for the benefit of his Catholic wife. Tall, apsed, and aisleless. A west wheel-window, otherwise plain outside. Chancel arch with chevron, chancel with plaster rib-vault, neo-Norman pulpit and font. Accompanying vestries, school, etc. all demolished, the church itself derelict.


Child, P., 2001, Application for Removal of Building from Statutory List: Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple Devon (Correspondence). SDV351281.

The church is an important piece of 19th century architecture, significant in the context of Barnstaple's history and important in its townscape. Although the building has been redundant for some years and has suffered decay since its merits as a building were examined at a public enquiry in 1986, its condition is not bad enough to merit de-listing.


English Heritage, 2001, Application for the Removal of Buildings from the Statutory Historic List (Correspondence). SDV351282.


North Devon District Council, 2003, North Devon Buildings at Risk Survey 2000-2003, 28 (Report - Survey). SDV344372.

Render falling off to south end by door. Top half of east gable parapet missing to north side (tarpaulined). Broken stained glass to north-east and apse. Broken panes to wheel window. Other details: Photographs.


English Heritage, 2010, Historic Houses Register (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV154869.

Roman Catholic church, opened 1855; probably by Gideon Boyce of Tiverton and completed by R.D. Gould of Barnstaple. Funded by Sir Bourchier Palk Wrey of Tawstock Court; contractor, Norman. Random rubble with ashlar dressings; slate roof with coped gables; cast-iron rainwater goods. Romanesque style. Once part of a complex including a priest's house (demolished). Aisleless church with apsidal chancel and 3-bay nave.
Exterior: round-headed windows with moulded architraves and cushion capitals to the shafts; moulded string at cill level. Bays defined externally as recessed panels with pilaster buttresses and corbelled dentil cornice. Apse has similar surface treatment but with chalice and other carved symbols in the cornice and a single window to each facet (windows blocked at time of survey); nave windows arranged as one triplet to each bay. West end has a coped gable with a toothed string parallel to the verges. Wheel window and 2 tall blind statue niches with engaged shafts and cushion capitals; gabled porch with segmental-headed doorway with decayed tooth moulding; 2-leaf door with diagonal boards and ornamental strap hinges.
Interior: Simple arched-brace roof springing from scalloped corbels. Semicircular chancel arch springs from carved shafts, the arch with 3 orders of moulding; plaster-vaulted chancel springing from attached shafts; coloured floor tiles to chancel. Simple Romanesque font with circular stem and scalloped shaft. Late l9th century Romanesque circular pulpit with semicircular niches with symbols of the Evangelists on the drum on a polychromatic marble stem. Timber west gallery on timber posts with Romanesque capitals.


Ordnance Survey, 2010, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV344030.


Green, T. + Parker, R. + Walls, S., 2014, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Barnstaple, Devon: Results of a Desk-Based Assessment & Historic Building Recording (Report - non-specific). SDV358346.

South West Archaeology Ltd. was commissioned to undertake desk-based research and conduct a programme of historic building recording on the now disused Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception situated on Summerland Street, Barnstaple, Devon.

The original design may have been supplied by A. W. N. Pugin, in which case it would be a rare example of his early work, however there is no proof of this. G.A. Boyce, of Tiverton was almost certainly the lead architect (and possibly the designer) on the project.

The church is not traditionally orientated, lying towards the north, north-west rather than the east. It is a two-cell structure consisting of a very tall nave and narrower chancel terminating with a semi-circular apse, raised above a high podium containing a vaulted crypt.

The main doorway to the church is sheltered by a porch, which although is built of different and contrasting material to the main fabric, is presumably an original feature. At the front of the church, above the porch is a large wheel window with a recessed frame of three chamfered orders. The central window in the apse is now blocked in yellow bricks but may have been intended to be glazed. It was probably blocked at the addition of a new stone reredos and canopy over the alter in 1899.
It is clear from the variety of textures and colours of the stone employed throughout the building, that the church was intended to display its masonry rather than concealing this with render, as was usual in most early 19th century churches.

The church stands over a vaulted undercroft housing burial vaults, these chambers may have been intended as large family vaults for sale or rent.

The interior of the church is a single space undivided by screens or partitions , apart from the very large chancel arch. The nave walls were formerly plastered and show traces of rich colour, but no visible traces of stencilled or other painted decorations survive. The chancel roof and walls are treated with greater elaboration that the navel. Although there is no evidence of painting in the apse, there are elaborate gilded bosses at the intersections of the vault ribs.

The chancel arch may have been inserted to replace an earlier undecorated opening into the chancel or perhaps simply rebuilt following damage during the period of inactivity between 1844-5 and 1851.

The original high altar probably stood close to the east wall of the apse with only a passage behind it, but this no longer survives. The existing altar is modern.

The sacristy was added to the north of the church in 1851, adjoining the sacristy door is a very large plinth for a statue. The doorway to the sacristy extends below the level of the chancel floor and therefor implies that the 19th century encaustic tiled floors and footpace are later additions to the church, possibly representing refurnishing of the sanctuary in the late 19th century.

There are two Holy Water stoups within the church, both resembling a pillar piscina with a scalloped capital, one of which contains a ceramic bowl without a drain. The pulpit is of tub type, with a short cylindrical column of red granite supporting a broad, flaring foliate capital. The niches in the pulpit contained five statues representing the four evangelists and St Raphael, only two survive. The pulpit was designed by A.J.C Scoles, a priest and architect.

The west end of the church is dominated by a gallery, which appears to be an afterthought and not intended by the original architect. It is most likely to have been added in 1851.

The original church font has been removed to the new church.

Compromises seem to have been necessary to complete the building with reduced funds; the chancel vault is plaster and it is possible that the design of the roof was also revised during construction to incorporate a plaster ceiling.


Department of Environment, 30/03/1987, Application for Listed Building Consent to Demolish the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple (Correspondence). SDV344384.

Listed building consent for demolition refused as it would bring an adverse change in the streetscape and be detrimental to the character and appearance of the surrounding Conservation Area.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV154869List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2010. Historic Houses Register. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 151-2.
SDV336196Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Paperback Volume. 47.
SDV344030Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2010. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #82481 ]
SDV344372Report - Survey: North Devon District Council. 2003. North Devon Buildings at Risk Survey 2000-2003. North Devon District Council Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 28.
SDV344382Personal Comment: Timms, S. C.. 1982. Church of the Immaculate Conception. Not Applicable.
SDV344383Ground Photograph: Devon County Council. 1981. Church of the Immaculate Conception. Devon County Council Conservation Section Collection. Photograph (Paper). Film 473.
SDV344384Correspondence: Department of Environment. 30/03/1987. Application for Listed Building Consent to Demolish the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple. Letter to Tozers, Solicitors. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV344385Report - non-specific: Greenoff, W. A.. 1986. Application for Listed Building Consent to Demolish the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple. Department of Environment. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351281Correspondence: Child, P.. 2001. Application for Removal of Building from Statutory List: Church of the Immaculate Conception, Summerland Street, Barnstaple Devon. Letter. Digital.
SDV351282Correspondence: English Heritage. 2001. Application for the Removal of Buildings from the Statutory Historic List. Letter. Digital.
SDV358346Report - non-specific: Green, T. + Parker, R. + Walls, S.. 2014. Church of the Immaculate Conception, Barnstaple, Devon: Results of a Desk-Based Assessment & Historic Building Recording. Southwest Archaeology. 141028. Digital.
SDV89941List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1973. Barnstaple. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 67.
SDV91852Cartographic: Wood, J.. 1843. Plan of the Town of Barnstaple from Actual Survey. Unknown.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4599 - North Devon Buildings at Risk Survey 2000-2003
  • EDV6752 - Historic Building Recording at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Barnstaple (Ref: BIC14)

Date Last Edited:Jan 4 2019 10:05AM