Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

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

Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SZ 20558 93519






DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: 1843-4 (by John Bemister, probably as builder-architect). Enlarged 1867 possibly by Benjamin Ferrey, again in 1932 by Reynolds & Tomlin, and in 1990-1 by Richard Scott.

MATERIALS: Limestone with blue slate roofs.

PLAN: Cruciform plan, much extended to east and west, and somewhat confused by a big west narthex, with toilets, a staircase and storage spaces along the north side. North-east vestries, south-east organ chamber. A corridor of 1990-1 links the south transept with the hall complex, south-east.

EXTERIOR: The original small cruciform church is still discernible, and several masonry joins reveal its dimensions, for example, on the north wall of the chancel, and west of the second window on the south side of the nave. This window is one of the original uncusped lancets in deep splayed recesses, of which several survive. The third nave bay on the south marks the extension of 1867, perhaps by Benjamin Ferrey. Of the same date must be the bellcote over the west gable. The masonry blocks of 1842 have diagonal tooling which is repeated in the additions. The east gable has a triple stepped lancet framed in a blind arch, all of 1932. The north transept has diagonal buttresses and its north window has Dec Gothic tracery, both probably of 1867. At the north east is a low vestry with flat parapet (Reynolds & Tomlin, 1932-3). It is echoed in the low addition west of the north transept (Richard Scott, 1990-1). He also designed the staircase projection like a west transept, which replaced a porch of 1932. Against the west gable is a high narthex extension (1990-1) with glazed doors in each side, and a west window with triangular head.

INTERIOR: Multiple additions and reordering have left the interior even less coherent than the outside. The small outer porch leads to a big vestibule and library, then into an open space beneath the west gallery. This has a railed front of varnished pine (c. 1991), and is accessed by a staircase to the north. The walls are painted throughout. The kingpost roofs are of 1881, at which date very large beams on corbels were inserted over the transepts to carry the rafters of nave and chancel in a continuous run. In the north-east corner of the north transept is the vestry doorcase, ex-situ and perhaps 14th century French; an elaborate vaulted canopy with heavy finial and flanking pinnacles. It was probably given by Lord Stuart de Rothesay, who perhaps intended it originally for Highcliffe Castle nearby, which re-used various elements of French historic fabric.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: A very mixed bag. The oak altar rail and pulpit, both with some Continental woodwork were given by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. The pulpit has a timber staircase and a base of two very large scrolled brackets, perhaps from a doorcase. The carved wooden decoration has been cut and applied quite randomly. One or two pieces may be medieval French (e.g. the Flamboyant tracery on the upper south face) but most is probably from Jacobean furniture or Victorian infill. The altar rail likewise has Jacobean-style arches on turned balusters, in the same style as the credence table which was cobbled together in 1932. The pews are mixed, Victorian and early 20th century. The stained glass includes the east window, of 1935 by Powell & Sons. The north transept north is a memorial (d. 1870) and the north transept east was designed by H.T. Bosdet (1856-1934). The nave has two north windows c. 1901 by Clayton & Bell. On the south side, one signed Lavers, Barraud & Westlake, c. 1879, and one unsigned c. 1886. The oculus in the west wall has golden glass by Henry Haig representing alpha and omega. In the chancel are fine Gothic tablets to the Stuart family.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Big triangular churchyard with a good war memorial c. 1920 at the north end (separately listed at Grade II). Many good Victorian graves, and a fine group to the Selfridge family who leased Highcliffe Castle 1916-22, the American department store moguls. Gordon Selfridge's mother has a luxuriant Neo-Renaissance tomb chest with cherubs, his wife (who died of influenza, 1918) has an Art Nouveau angel. Gordon Selfridge has a simple headstone nearby; he died in poverty in 1947.

HISTORY: The land was donated by Lord Stuart de Rothesay (1779-1845), a former ambassador to France who built Highcliffe Castle (1831-5) nearby. The foundation stone was laid on April 14, 1842 and the opening was on January 27, 1843. The founder has a Gothic memorial tablet here. John Bemister of Christchurch was the builder, and probably acted as architect too. The original entrance was in the north transept. The enlargement of 1867 (probably by Benjamin Ferrey, who also came from Christchurch) lengthened the nave westward by about 20 feet and added a gallery, and a north doorway. Kaiser Wilhelm II worshipped here in 1907: evidence of the high social standing of Highcliffe Castle and its church. In 1932-3 the chancel was similarly lengthened and the vestry and organ chamber were added. The architects Reynolds & Tomlin were a commercial Bournemouth firm who designed the ABC cinema, Boscombe in 1930-1. Alterations of 1990-1 were dedicated on April 14, 1991.

SOURCES: St Mark's church, Highcliffe, Dorset (undated church guide), and website (accessed 27 June 2010).

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The church of St Mark, Highcliffe, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * A small lancet style cruciform church typical of the unarchaeological Gothic of the early 1840s * Founded by the first Baron Stuart de Rothesay, who also gave pieces of architectural carving probably left over from the collection installed at Highcliffe Castle, a notable picturesque seaside villa of great ambition. * Various alterations and additions c. 1867, 1932 and 1990, with fittings to suit, reflecting a complex evolution. * Some good quality stained glass, Victorian, 1930s and recent * Early 20th century monuments to the Selfridge family


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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: 22 Sep 2000
Reference: IOE01/02291/19
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr F.G.G. Hawkins. Source Historic England Archive
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