Church of St Mark
SO 98 NW 6/183
1846-9, by J.M. Derick. Completed by Lewis Stride.
MATERIALS: Gornal sandstone ashlar, tiled roofs.
PLAN: Cruciform plan with crossing and transepts, and short chapels to their east (that on the north for the vestry). Clerestoried nave of five bays, with lean-to aisles and a porch-tower near the west end of the south aisle.
EXTERIOR: St Mark is a large, impressive Early English style church in blackened sandstone ashlar, diagonally tooled. Attached to the south aisle is a big tower, almost free-standing, with the main entrance in its south face. It is of three stages with clasping buttresses. The intended bell-stage and tall broach spire were never completed. The top stage was raised to give three square bell-openings and topped with a gambrel roof during Webb & Gray's restoration (1926). The steep-pitched roofs over nave and chancel have brown tiles with fishscale banding; coped verges on all the gables. Everywhere are Early English lancets, either singly or grouped, with continuous stringcourses at sill level. The aisle lights are paired, the clerestory in even groups of three. Cornice tables emphasise the eaves lines on aisles and clerestory levels. The west end has a doorway, above it a widely spaced pair of very tall lancets, and a traceried spherical triangle in the gable. The east wall has triple lancets and a rose window, similarly composed. The low south chapel with lean-to roof originally housed the family of Lord Ward, the church's major donor.
INTERIOR: The high clerestoried nave and long chancel are impressive. The nave and crossing are roofed together, i.e. with no wall or arch west of the crossing. The nave arcades have circular piers of red Gornal sandstone with alternating foliate capitals, and double chamfered arches. The higher chancel and transept arches have bulky piers with attached shafts; decorative stonework was carved by W. Dempster. The open timber roofs are dark stained with high collars and steep arched braces, and two tiers of windbraces. At the west end of the aisles, glazed partitions form meeting rooms, part of a re-ordering by Roy Pugh of Jennings, Homer & Lynch, 2006.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The chancel panelling and reredos with Art Deco angels are by Webb & Gray, 1925. Around the sanctuary are wall paintings of the Instruments of the Passion by T. W. Camm (probably Florence Camm). The chancel and sanctuary are floored with good Minton tiles given by Herbert Minton in 1849 (one of 46 such donations he made in Staffordshire 1844-58). Elaborate patterns in blue, buff and terracotta. Lewis Stride designed the timber chancel and parclose screens, the choir stalls and the heavy stone pulpit with blind arcaded sides. The arched panels have paintings of the Evangelists by the Rev. C.W. Dicker, 1882. Stride's font is heavily decorated with foliage (lettering and alabaster shafts by Hardmans, 1882). Pale oak pews, 20th century. Stained glass: east window possibly by O'Connor, 1862. The north transept lancets are by Brian Thomas, 1966, mainly in blue, on a theme of industry and craftsmanship. The south transept, 1963 and 1969, and south aisle west, 1968, are all by Francis Skeat. In the south chapel, one by C.E. Moore, 1938. Several aisle lights by T. W. Camm, c. 1937-60.
HISTORY: Begun in 1846, opened in September 1849. The cost was c. £6,700 of which Lord Ward (subsequently the 1st Earl of Dudley, an active improver of his estates) gave £5,500. The initial architect was John MacDuff Derick (c. 1805/6-1859), whose career needs further research. He was Irish born, a pupil of Sir John Soane, and practiced from c. 1835, initially with a Mr Hickman. He had offices simultaneously in Oxford, London and Dublin in the 1840s. Derick was removed from the job at Pensnett for misconduct, and replaced by Lewis Stride. This may have contributed to a break in his career and possibly a return to Ireland in the 1850s. Financial losses forced a resumption of work, and he emigrated to New York in 1858 and died there in 1859. Pensnett marked a low-point in his uneasy relationship with The Ecclesiologist; the issue of August 1846 complained that, 'It is designed too much for effect' with 'needless profusion of ornament', and asserted that the design 'ought never to have been entertained.' Stride (c. 1823-79) completed the work and designed many fittings, although the proposed spire does not appear to have been built; the present roof was installed in the 1920s. By 1910-14 mining subsidence had caused structural faults, and the south aisle and transept were threatened with collapse. A major repair and rebuilding was undertaken by Webb & Gray, c. 1924-6, with further repairs in 1956-8. Further refurbishment in 2006.
Mottram, P., John Macduff Derick (c. 1805/6 - 1859) ; a Biographical Sketch, Ecclesiology Today, 32 (January 2004), 40-52
Pearson, L., Minton Tiles in the Churches of Staffordshire, (report for the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society, 2000.)
Pevsner, N., Buildings of England, Staffordshire, (1974)
New York Evening Post, September 23, 1859 (Derick's obituary)
Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) archive, file 03573 (www.churchplansonline.org)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The Church of St Mark, Pensnett, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* An impressive 1840s church on a full Camdenian plan, in a serious Early English style that anticipates developments in the 1850s, and thus was a progressive design in its day.
* Imposingly sited on a hillside with a dominant tower in front of the south side, and built on a very ambitious scale.
* Equally impressive interior with 1840s chancel screen, pulpit etc., good glass in the east window, and elaborate Minton tiles in the sanctuary
* The patronage of Lord Ward, and the church's foundation at a time of major economic expansion, are important elements in the history of Pensnett.
* Successive campaigns of repair and reordering in the 20th century introduced various good fittings, e.g. stained glass and wall paintings by T.W. Camm, glass by Skeat and Brian Thomas.