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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Oxfordshire (District Authority)
Chipping Norton
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The Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, Chipping Norton, built in 1836 to the design of John Macduff Derick.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, Chipping Norton, built in 1836 to the design of John Macduff Derick, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historical interest: as a church built in 1836, shortly after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, following the departure of the Talbot family, long-standing Catholic patrons; * Architectural interest: for its elegant Classical design, withstanding the loss of the western bell tower, the symmetrical public-facing elevation having twin porches with bold shell pediments to the porches; * Group value: the church, presbytery and convent and schoolroom building form a historic group, with the former workhouse of circa 1835, and its 1856-7 chapel by G E Street on the opposite side of London Road.


The Heythrop Estate, two miles to the east of Chipping Norton, was home to the Catholic Talbot family from the early C18. A chaplaincy was maintained, and mass said for local people in the chapel at Heythrop House. In 1818 the Heythrop estate was leased, and the chapel was no longer available to local Catholics. As a consequence the Church of St Mary was built at Old Heythrop, overseen by Father Patrick Heffernan, chaplain to the Shrewsbury family; the church opened in 1826. In the same year, the Talbots established their principal residence at Alton Towers, Staffordshire, and Father Heffernan resolved to build another church to serve local Catholics. A site was found and acquired at Rock Hill, Chipping Norton; it is understood that the site contained an existing house, which is now the presbytery. The necessary £5,000 was raised, the majority being donated by Miss Mary Bowdon of Radford; labour and much of the building materials came from the Heythrop estate. The architect was John Macduff Derick, born in Ireland and a pupil of Sir John Soane, who built Banbury’s Catholic church in Gothic style in 1835 (with his partner Hickman). The church, seating 300, was opened on 25 October 1836.

The church saw a number of changes during the ministry of Father Samuel Sole, between 1879 and 1921. In 1882-3, Father Sole oversaw the building of a convent and schoolroom, in Tudor Gothic style, to the north-east of the church. The Church of St Mary at Old Heythrop was demolished in 1882, and an altar brought from there to Chipping Norton and set up under the western gallery. In 1888 major alterations took place, with a Mr (probably G H) Cox of Birmingham as architect: a vaulted side chapel was added to the south side of the church; the sacristy was enlarged and a second sacristy built between the church and presbytery, with an organ loft above; and the interior of the church was redecorated, with a polychromatic paintwork scheme. In the C20, work took place in the 1950s, with further internal redecoration, and the blocking-up of the organ loft, which was converted to office space. In 1966 the church was extensively remodelled and reordered, with Desmond Williams Associates as architects. The work was necessitated partly for structural reasons, leading to the original western bell tower being taken down (the bell, dated 1816, now hangs on a timber scaffold to the west of the church). At the same time the interior was brought in line with new liturgical arrangements being advanced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, in response to the understanding that the celebrant was now required to face the congregation. A further major renovation took place in 1999, including the removal of the Heythrop altar to the south chapel, forming a new Lady Chapel. The church’s scheme of decoration today (2016) dates largely from that time, including the stone paving to the nave and sanctuary.

The parish’s connection with Heythrop Hall was revived in 1924, when the house was purchased by the Society of Jesus as a training college; from that date until 2008 the parish was served by Jesuit priests, even after Heythrop’s sale in 1969.

In 1958 and 1974 new school buildings were constructed to the east of the church; the C19 convent and schoolroom are now in use as an independent nursery school.


Roman Catholic church, 1826, in Classical style. The architect was J M Derick.

MATERIALS: the publicly-visible elevations, to the north, east and west, are of Chipping Norton limestone ashlar; the south elevation is squared and coursed rubble stone. The roof is now flat, having originally been hipped. The windows have timber frames.

PLAN: the church, which has a rectangular footprint, is oriented with the sanctuary to the east. There is a chapel to the south of 1888.

EXTERIOR: the five-bay north elevation, parallel to the road, is the most prominent, and is now perfectly symmetrical, following the loss of the western bell tower. The end bays project slightly, each having a round-headed niche above an entrance porch; the west door is the main entrance to the church, and the east gives access to the crypt. Each entrance porch has a square-headed doorway, with corner pilasters and arched windows to the sides; the pediment is formed of a large shell niche with sunburst incisions, containing a globe surmounted by a cross, the niche flanked by ammonite scrolls. The porches retain the original four-panelled paired doors. The three central bays have tall round-headed windows with square mouldings creating spandrels. Above is a square cornice, beneath a rebuilt parapet reproducing the original, with open-work sections. The east elevation has a recessed central bay flanked by broad pilasters, with a round-headed window; the west elevation has a niche topped by ornamental brackets supporting a dentil cornice. The simpler south elevation, with no parapet, has projecting outer bays: the three arched nave windows date from 1966, replacing blind openings with glazed lunettes; there is a blind opening remaining in the projecting western bay. The south chapel is also of coursed rubblestone; this has a frieze, cornice and parapet, but no other ornamentation.

INTERIOR: the interior is plain, and has lost its original finishes and furnishings; much of what remains dates from the 1960s and later. The flat coffered ceiling replaced the original segmental ceiling in 1966. The stone flooring dates from 1999. The west gallery was lowered in 1888; the segmental ceiling below it survives. The current gallery front was installed in 1999, together with the glazed screen below it. Within the vestibule, the stairs to the gallery are of the same date. Also of 1999 are the sanctuary furnishings and pews. In the Lady Chapel, lit by a central lantern, the Gothic Heythrop altar is set against the west wall. Another C19 survival is the east window of 1873, depicting the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Gothic font, now under the gallery but originally in the south aisle, is probably also of 1880s date.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURE: the sacristies are set between the church and the presbytery to the north; the eastern wall of the eastern sacristy is in line with the east elevation of the church, and is in corresponding style, with a pair of small round-headed windows to the ground floor. The sacristies retain few original features internally, but there is an 1880s stair with chamfered newels and Gothic finials leading to the former organ loft, which has a coffered ceiling.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Holy Trinity Catholic Church Chipping Norton 1836-2008, (2008)
Pevsner, N, Sherwood, J, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, (1974, 2002), 538-9
Victoria County History, accessed 16 February 2016 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol11/pp131-143


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 30 Jun 2001
Reference: IOE01/05949/35
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr David Sheppard. Source Historic England Archive
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