Roman Catholic church of 1815-16 in a Gothic style, within alterations of the mid-C19 and mid-C20.
Reasons for Designation
The Roman Catholic church of St Mary, Cresswell, built in 1815-16 and reordered in the 1960s, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an early, pre-Emancipation example of Catholic church building, and the first to be built in North Staffordshire after restrictions were lifted in 1791;
* Architectural interest: although architecturally modest, its simple detailing is typical of early-C19 Gothic which pre-dates the reforming influence of A W N Pugin on ecclesiastical building;
* Group value: with the attached presbytery and the mid-C19 churchyard cross which are both listed at Grade II.
The passing of the Second Catholic Relief Act on 24 June 1791, 232 years to the day after public Masses had been made illegal, allowed Catholics, subject to the swearing of an oath to the king, to practice their religion without fear of prosecution, and this included the building of churches. Church building proceeded slowly in the decades between the passing of the Second Relief Act and Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Activity tended to be greater in the rural areas as newly-liberated landowners built public chapels on or near their estates. The present church of St Mary was built in 1815-16 next to the existing priest’s house in Cresswell, an adapted C17 house (listed Grade II), and is believed to have replaced a church of 1791 on the same site. It was built by the Reverend Thomas Baddeley at a cost of approximately £800, funded by Lady Mary Stourton, a member of the family who owned the Draycott estate. Between 1817 and Father Baddeley’s death in 1823 the presbytery was used as a small seminary. At the beginning of the C19 Cresswell, together with Cobridge to the north, were the only Catholic centres in North Staffordshire, but by the end of the century the number of Catholic churches in the area had increased considerably. Until the mid-1930s when St Thomas's Church was built at Upper Tean, St Mary's remained the centre of the Catholic faith within the area. In the 1960s the elaborate mid-C19 interior which included a wooden rood beam with Gothic arcading and a stencilled decorative scheme was reordered and redecorated in a more simple style.
Roman Catholic church of 1815-16 in a Gothic style, with mid-C19 and mid-C20 alterations.
MATERIALS: constructed of red brick, with rendered gable ends and stone dressings, under a slate tiled, gabled roof with stone coping and kneelers to the south-east end.
PLAN: it is rectangular on plan, with a small mid-C20 porch at the north-east end and a nave and chancel of five bays under one roof. The sacristy is situated within the attached presbytery (separately listed at Grade II) which was built as a house in the C17 and was extended in the early C19.
EXTERIOR: the church is in a rural setting. Its entrance front (south-east) has a mid-C20 gabled porch with stepped corner buttresses. There is a pair of wooden doors in the porch, set within a pointed-arched, moulded, stone surround with a hoodmould and label stops. Above the entrance is a small, narrow light, and the side walls each has a single lancet window. In the gable apex of the church itself is an early-C20 statue of Our Lady set in a niche under a hoodmould. There are stepped buttresses to the corners which were originally surmounted by pinnacles. The side elevations are divided into five bays by buttresses and each bay has a two-light lancet window with leaded lights under a pointed-arched lintel of header bricks with stone stops.
INTERIOR: the interior is plain, with painted walls and ceiling. The organ gallery is supported by a pair of quatrefoil cast-iron columns and its front has a mid-C20 painted panel with scenes from the life of Christ. The upper level is accessed by a gothick timber staircase. Most of the fittings are C20, but there are some earlier features including a stained glass Annunciation window of 1848 by A W N Pugin and manufactured by Hardman; several wall-mounted memorials of the late C18 and early C19, some re-located from Paynsley; and a brass memorial set into the floor. Within the porch is a mid-C19, Romanesque-style stone font. It has previously been attributed to Pugin, but it is now considered that its design and rather crude carvings are not typical of his work (Architectural History Practice, see Sources). The sanctuary (south-west) has a C20 marble altar with mosaic and opus sectile (a type of mosaic work using stone, tile or shell cut into shapes) panels. In the sanctuary wall are two doorways with pointed heads and timber doors with cusp-headed mouldings to the panels. One leads into the confessional; the other to the sacristy which is situated within presbytery.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the modern access ramp to the front of the church is lined with low brick walls surmounted with metal railings.