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St Mary - Jackfield, Shropshire
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member SMacB
N 52° 37.416 W 002° 27.799
30U E 536329 N 5830536
Quick Description: St Mary the Virgin, erected in 1863 was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield is constructed of varied local brick and bears a passing resemblance to Keble College Chapel.
Location: West Midlands, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 6/14/2019 12:29:38 PM
Waymark Code: WM10R24
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
Views: 1

Long Description:
"In his will, he stated that he wished his executor:

“to apply such as sum as he may think fit for the better endowment of a church in Jackfield on condition that Jackfield be formed into a separate parish”.

When this wish was known 1862, there was enthusiastic support in a public meeting which concluded that “a church be erected in Jackfield to the memory of the late Mr George Pritchard,” banker, benefactor and High Sheriff of Shropshire, who had died on 24 December 1861. After a local cholera epidemic in the 1830s, he is credited as being the driving force behind bringing a clean water supply to the district.

So, St Mary’s Church was born.

Well over £3000 was willingly subscribed in just a few weeks from many parts of Shropshire. By February 1862, land had been offered free by Francis and Harriet Harries of Broseley Estate, the Church Commissioners had presented a proposal to Queen Victoria in Council at Osborn House with “a scheme for making better provision for the cure of souls” in Jackfield, and plans for the new parish established. By July, Arthur William Blomfield had been chosen as the architect and Nevett’s of Ironbridge appointed as the builder.

In the early 1800s, Jackfield had been a thriving community based on coal, iron and clay mining, manufacturing of iron and clay products and processing of tar. One of the earliest tramways in the country, known as Jackfield Rails, largely horse-driven and dating back to 1605, passed next to where the former National School is today, to the west of the church. This was an important route bringing coal and other products made in Broseley down to Jackfield’s wharves which were busy with the hundreds of trows plying the river. In transport terms, the river Severn was the motorway of its time. The area was dirty, noisy and polluted. Its reputation was as a violent, bawdy and generally unlawful place.

By the mid 1800s, much of the old industry had declined in what has come to be known as the “Ironbridge Gorge” and was being replaced largely by brick and tile manufacturing. Many of the houses had been destroyed by the great technological advance of the new Great Western railway line which opened in 1862 to bring its benefits, but this also sounded the death knell for traditional river transportation.

On a hillside on the fringe of the community, an earlier St Mary’s Church built a hundred years previously was in a state of decay and disrepair as a result of mining subsidence. Church Services had been held in the nearby School which opened in 1844. Sunday School there offered minimal education to children as young as eight years old who worked long hours during the rest of the week under appalling conditions in local industries.

The land chosen for the new church was in the middle of this poverty-striken neighbourhood on the site of an old pottery, possibly the site producing “Jackfield Black” ware.

To the north of the site, beyond the surviving houses, the colourful life of the river wharves had declined. All around was a landscape of mining, waste and tips. Its site was once described as being “in the worst place in Jackfield”. Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine it as a desolate unattractive site, sandwiched between the railway lines and a track that is now Church Road.

The land immediately to the east had a history of subsidence, as demonstrated most dramatically years later in 1953 when a landslide destroyed much of the village of Jackfield. That area is now beautifully landscaped following the award-winning major stabilisation project, 2012-16. The new Craven Dunnill Encaustic Tile works, built in 1872, now the Jackfield Tile Museum, dominates the area.

In July 1863, the Reverend Henry Lee became the first curate. On 22 August 1863, The Bishop of Hereford, apparently arriving by the new train service, consecrated St Mary’s Church amid great celebrations by dignitaries and local people.

Today, there is no doubt that St Mary’s Church is in a much more attractive position in the landscape than it has ever been. Its important contribution to the heritage of the Gorge is increasingly recognised.

Most of the materials were donated by local manufacturers in Jackfield which was an important centre in England in Victorian times for producing and exporting decorative tiles, bricks and the renowned-quality Broseley roofing tiles.

The contemporary newspapers were full of praise for the workmanship and design of the Church and we can see why. Externally, the ornamental 75ft high turret with circular stone columns is spectacular.

The entrance porch – novel at the time – has an arch of specially moulded coloured bricks and deep red earthenware columns. The head of Jesus Christ is represented on the left and, particularly appropriately, St Mary on the right.

It certainly seems that the funds raised to build the church were generous and gave the designer an opportunity to create a masterpiece. Unusual in a small community church is the magnificent 15ft diameter window at the west end.

The builder was highly complimented by the architect at the completion of the church for his attention to detail. One place where this is shown is above the tower door near the church entrance. Bricks have been selected with dark lines on them – these resulted from firing bricks with tiles resting on them, as was common in the days before mass produced products. Selecting the bricks in this way produced an attractive decorative feature.

On entering the church, we are welcomed by the spacious nave designed to seat over 400 worshippers. While the external brickwork has become discoloured by the weather and pollution from industry, railway trains and homes, the internal walls and the main archway in particular, shows how spectacular the church must have looked.

Throughout its history, St Mary’s has benefited from significant gifts, legacies and bequests and help from innumerable residents and friends. The stone font immediately inside the entrance was presented to the church by the godchildren of George Pritchard. The altar was presented in 1863 by Richard Thursfield, a close friend of Pritchard. A treasure is a crimson velvet altar cloth designed by Blomfield and decorated by one of the leading supporters for the church, Mrs Lowndes.

The east end has the benefit of five magnificent stained glass windows. The central one, a gift from the architect, is an early work by the celebrated company Heaton, Bath and Bayne. It bears the words “It is finished,” in keeping with the design. These windows have been in place for over 150 years. It would be interesting to know when it was first realised that the top of one does not match the bottom half.

The remarkable triptych in front of these windows, behind the altar, was originally produced in about 1870 for an exhibition in Paris. It is a dramatic demonstration of the skills at Craven Dunnill in making hand-painted tiles.

The impressive floor to the eastern end is graced by the elaborate geometrical and figured patterns of Maw’s tiles.

These two companies were once the biggest of their kind in the World Some continuity between the old and new churches is maintained by incorporating the 18th century pulpit and the wooden screen behind the choir stalls, both added in 1919. It should be no surprise that the Church is Grade II listed by Heritage England.

The young architect was later knighted and became Sir Arthur William Blomfield (1829-1899). So, St Mary’s Church is an early work by one of the most influential architects of the Victorian era, famed for his Gothic style on prestigious buildings including the Royal School of Music, many colleges and chapels in Oxford and Cambridge, the Chapel at Eton College, churches at home and abroad including the Falkland Isles Cathedral, restoring the nave of Southwark Cathedral and the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.........and much more.

He was not the only architect in the family. His nephew Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield became famous as designer of the Menin Gate memorial to those lost in World War I.

Interestingly, throughout the time that St Mary’s was being designed and built, there was a young apprentice in Blomfield’s practice who later became one of this country’s most admired authors, Thomas Hardy. In 1863 Hardy was awarded a Silver medal for an essay in a competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects. That essay was entitled “The application of coloured bricks and terracotta in modern architecture”.

It seems inconceivable that he was not involved in St Mary’s or at least influenced by it."

SOURCE - (visit link)

See also - (visit link)
Date the Church was built, dedicated or cornerstone laid: 1/1/1863

Age of Church building determined by?: Church website

If denomination of Church is not part of the name, please provide it here: Anglican

Street address of Church:
St Mary
Church Road
Jackfield, Shropshire England
TF8 7ND


Primary website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

Secondary Website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

If Church is open to the public, please indicate hours: Not listed

If Church holds a weekly worship service and "all are welcome", please give the day of the week: Not listed

Indicate the time that the primary worship service is held. List only one: Not Listed

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