Roman Catholic Church of St Mary of the Angels


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Roman Catholic Church of St Mary of the Angels, Brownshill


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Statutory Address:
Roman Catholic Church of St Mary of the Angels, Brownshill

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

Stroud (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO 88299 02588



CHALFORD BROWNSHILL Roman Catholic Church of St Mary of the Angels 12-JUL-07 II St Mary of the Angels is a Roman Catholic church in a Romanesque style, dating from 1930-37, by William Douglas Caröe (1857-1938), for the Templewood community, with stained glass added c.1938 by Douglas Strachan (1875-1950).

MATERIALS: The building is constructed from local limestone ashlar and rubble brought to course, under a Cotswold stone slate roof, with a shingled timber bellcote. The ceiling is a continuous concrete barrel vault. The interior has limed oak fittings.

PLAN: The church is a simple rectangle on plan, with an apsidal sanctuary at the east end, and an attached vestry with confessional to the north, with a porch set in the angle between the vestry and the church.

EXTERIOR: The west end has a central entrance door with round-arched top and wrought iron strap hinges, and a rectangular light with stained glass above, all enclosed under a truncated round arch in relief, with moulded ashlar quoins. The south elevation is of five bays, each with narrow rectangular stained glass lights with round arched tops; there is an entrance door towards the east end. The north side is similar but has its entrance at the west, with the vestry and porch towards the east. The east end has a full gable, which is partially oversailing to the south eastern corner; the apsidal end of the church is expressed externally only to the left hand side, and the relationship of the full gable to this canted wall is resolved by the use of a stepped motif running from the gable at eaves level to meet the angled wall below. To the right, adjoining the porch, the wall remains flush, with the internal apse resolved by using a deeply recessed window which emerges on the flush wall to the exterior. A key has been left at the north-eastern corners of both the church and the vestry in order to allow for the later addition of a presbytery (not built).

INTERIOR: The interior of the church is very simple, There is a timber gallery running across the west end, enlived by diamond-patterned carving to the front panels, supported on square-section columns on moulded plinths with moulded cushion capitals and pads. The nave retains its parquet and terracotta tiled flooring, and its simple elm chair pews, in continuous rows of four sets each. The east end has an apsidal sanctuary which is divided from the nave by a very large and impressive Norman arch, set on cushion capitals, which spans the entire width of the church, and is decorated with bold and archaeologically correct Romanesque chevron designs. The sanctuary has its original stone altar table with simple columnar legs under cushion capitals, and three stained glass windows by Douglas Strachan, commemorating the founders of the Templewood community and a major benefactor. The apron beneath the central window is decorated with a gold mosaic panel. The doors to the confessional and vestry are set under a decorative hood mould, with a niche between the two. The doors here and throughout the church have elaborate, Arts and Crafts style strap hinges, studs and latches of wrought iron, the latches to Caröe's own innovative design. There are decorative stoups for holy water beside each entrance door.

SOURCES: John Fendley: 'The Little Company of Hope and the tradition of spiritual healing at Brownshill', Journal of the Catholic History Society (Summer 2002) 3-21 Jennifer M Freeman: WD Caröe: his architectural achievement (1990) 81-2, plate III

HISTORY: The religious community at Brownshill was founded in 1927 by Miss Bertha Kessler and Miss Katherine Hudson, who purchased their first house, then called 'Tanglewood', as their base. After suffering and witnessing mental trauma during service as nurses in the First World War, they devoted their lives to the spiritual healing of patients suffering from mental illness. Both were later received into the Catholic church. Their settlement became known as Templewood, and by 1934 the pattern of treatment was established: Miss Kessler and Miss Hudson lived as a family with their female patients, running the household together simply, with the days organised according to religious discipline and punctuated by regular prayer. The Bishop of Clifton, Bishop Lee, suggested that the pair should build a chapel at Brownshill to support their work; Miss Kessler and Miss Hudson appointed WD Caröe, then the architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to design their new church, giving £1,000 each for the purpose. The church opened in 1937. During the following year, stained glass windows were inserted in the chancel, designed by Douglas Strachan, which celebrated the founders and a major donor. The community was created a Tertiary Chapter of the Dominican Order in 1951; Miss Hudson became the Prioress, known as Mother Catherine, and Miss Kessler was styled Mother Margaret; the auxiliaries became novices. An order of nuns has been resident at the site in Brownshill ever since. Mother Catherine and Mother Margaret died within a few weeks of each other in 1963, and they are buried in the churchyard at St Mary of the Angels, as is Father Darley. Their graves, and those of the other chaplains and Sisters buried there are marked by simple, wooden crosses. The church was in use for daily worship by the Orders resident at the site until 2006.

The Roman Catholic Church of St Mary of the Angels is designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons: * A late church by William Douglas Caröe, a notable ecclesiastical architect of the late C19 and early C20, built for a healing community of nuns as the centre of their settlement * An accomplished design executed using high quality materials and demonstrating a high standard of craftsmanship * A high level of intactness and the retention of original fittings * Good quality stained glass of 1938, celebrating the founders of the community, which was designed by Douglas Strachan, a renowned stained glass artist of the period, and a rare example of his work for a Roman Catholic church * A good example of an inter-war church embodying the late flowering of Arts and Crafts principles in an area where the movement was particularly influential


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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.

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