A Brief Guide to All Saints’ Church
All Saints Road, Wolverhampton WV2 1EL


Situated on the corner of All Saints Road and Steelhouse Lane - All Saints’ Church is one of four churches in the Parish of Central Wolverhampton (together with St. Chad’s & St. Mark’s Church, St. John’s Church and St. Peter’s Collegiate Church).  Although All Saints’ Church is not statutorily or locally listed and has been much altered since the late 1980s - in 1990 the nave became a community centre - what remains today is something of a hidden gem and far more attractive on the inside than is hinted at by the rather plain exterior. The Church has an interesting history, particularly of dedications and memorials from the early twentieth century and its interior thus deserves to be more widely known and appreciated. Due to the large number of dedicated and memorial items, in general only those from the nineteenth century up to approximately the mid twentieth century are in general specifically referred to.

The east end of the church.

Mission Church & School

In 1865 a Mission Church and School were established in Steelhouse Lane by the Reverend Henry Hampton, the Vicar of St. John’s Church, to serve the growing population of the area. The Mission was, initially in and later, on the site of a former pigsty and Reverend Hampton was quoted as saying ‘it is not decent for a woman with any sense of propriety to walk down Steelhouse Lane’ as well as ‘this is essentially a poor mans’ (mission) church to provide for the miners and grimy iron-workers of Steelhouse Lane, Monmore Green and Rough Hills.’ It has been suggested that the inspiration to build All Saints’ Church lay as much in a wish to ease pressure on the free pews at, the socially more prestigious, St. John’s Church as to provide a church for the poor.  Whatever the truth may be, the quality of the interior of All Saints’ Church exceeds what might have been provided far more economically had cost been the main consideration (although the style of Anglo-Catholic liturgy used to this day at All Saints’ would not have been particularly well served by an austere non-conformist chapel-like setting).

Another view from the east.


The (Church of England) church was designed by London architects T. Taylor Smith & G. F. Roper in 1876, in the early gothic style, to replace the earlier Mission Church and School.  The 88 feet long by 25 feet wide by 54 feet high nave of the present building was built in 1877-79 by Highams of Wolverhampton and was consecrated on All Saints’ Day 1st November 1879 (and became a parish church in its own right in July 1881). The three year building programme was not due to the complexity of the design but rather due to an industrial dispute which saw the works severely delayed.  As early as 1891 the church was already too small for its growing congregation, although the nave was designed to seat 800, and plans were submitted for enlargement by adding a chancel and vestry but these plans were rejected and abandoned. In 1892 new plans were submitted by local architect Frederick Beck; these were approved and a 34 feel long by 22 feet wide chancel, vestry, sacristy and side chapel were added in 1892-93 by Willcock & Co. of Wolverhampton, consecrated on All Saints’ Day 1892 (prior to full completion).  Within a century the population of the area again declined and the church became too large for its congregation necessitating the decision to make the nave redundant.


It must be remembered that what externally appears to be the bulk of the church (viewed from the street) is now a community centre (divided from the eastern part of the building that is now used exclusively for worship and church activities). 

At ground level the community centre has been designed to provide maximum floor space and modern facilities with only the pillars and windows providing a reminder that this was once a reasonably large church.

To give further sense of proportion, the current church (excluding the choir vestry and sacristy etc.) contains only nine windows, the ‘removed’ nave and side aisles had a further twenty five plus windows.

The west end of the church.

The building as a whole is laid out in a traditional Christian church style, on an east-west axis, with the high altar pointing towards the Holy Land. Formerly the church comprised of a nave with side aisles to both north and south, a chancel and a separate side chapel together with an organ chamber and a choir vestry and sacristy. The church apparently never had plans for either a tower or a steeple and externally the only features which stand out are the former main north western porch (which used to be approached by a wooden lichgate donated in 1954 in memory of the first choirmaster, Mr. Gwinnett, since removed but with timbers incorporated into the structure of the new main north eastern church porch), the north eastern side chapel, a small new rendered north eastern porch, accessed via steps and wheel chair ramps, and a small bell-cot at the junction of nave and chancel roofs (that at the time of writing currently lacks its bell).

The porch.


Externally the church is faced with rusticated pinkish Codsall sandstone blocks with finer rubbed stone dressings around arches, windows and doors; the steeply pitched roof is in Staffordshire terracotta tiles.  The windows are early gothic style arched openings (with roundels above in most cases) and there is little, although some, variation in the style of these throughout the church. The windows on the whole are glazed with plain leaded lights - although the larger windows at the eastern end are more elaborate in design with fine stained glass.  There is a large ‘rose window’ at the western end that now lights the inserted upper floor of the community centre in the nave. The bell-cot on the roof has already been mentioned. On the eastern end wall of the chancel there is a buttress above which is a foundation stone, dated 1892, although of course the nave is some years earlier. The foundation stone was unveiled by Mrs. Enid Baker, the wife of one of All Saints’ most generous benefactors.  In common with other churches of this date, there was never a requirement to provide a burial ground since Wolverhampton’s Merridale Cemetery was already well established although there is an attractive garden area tucked away to the south of the church that could have provided a suitable burial ground and which was the site of a 1954 concrete and asbestos church hall (now demolished).

Part of the former nave.


The interior walls of the building are all in plain, but good quality, local red brick broken up by stone columns, stone banding, window surrounds and a plain, but rather dark toned, wooden ceiling. The stonework contains some rather unusual features which look as though they could well be heating or plumbing pipes – they are not; it is just a decorative feature. The blocking off of the nave and the fact that the chancel windows are mainly in stained glass largely accounts for the rather dark, but atmospheric, interior. The church is perhaps best viewed internally at night when candlelight picks out the ample gilding within.

The font.


The main entrance to the church cuts through a former window opening and the wall below, and so access to the chancel is now only possible via a modern porch that leads directly into the side chapel, although there are plans to reconnect the former nave to the side chapel, and chancel, via a new fully wheelchair accessible link. 

The re-ordering of the chancel, broadly as seen today, was necessitated by the loss of the nave. The chancel houses the high altar sanctuary which is slightly raised with the steps and platform being in both plain and glazed terracotta tiles laid in geometric patterns with some panels of encaustic tile work - this originally continued through the chancel and main aisle of the nave.  The floor height of the both the chancel and side chapel were modified in 1990.

The sanctuary also contains three arched niches that serve as cedilla seats and a fourth niche, surmounted by a cross, set into the north eastern wall. The sanctuary is divided from the chancel by a decorative brass altar rail donated in the early twentieth century by Lucie Lairne above which hang three sanctuary lights.  There is also a carved oak Bishop’s throne.

The reredos is rather unusual and was designed by Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson, 1867-1949, who was the architect of St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast during the 1920s and 1930s as well as diocesan architectural adviser to a number of British cathedrals.  The reredos is constructed of carved and painted/gilded wood and above the altar table incorporates statues of Jesus and Apostles Peter and John together with Saint Cedde and (Saint) King Edward the Martyr; it also has side panels formerly enclosing curtains which are surmounted by angels.

An impressive full colour design for the reredos (Nicholson & Corlette Architects of London) is located at Lichfield Record Office where some All Saints’ Church-related archival material is deposited. The reredos bears an inscription noting its dedication to the memory of Edward Baker a benefactor of the church who died in 1905 but was actually dedicated in 1908; it incorporates the original rather plain oak altar.

A painting of the nativity that hangs in the church.

At either side of the reredos is oak panelling dedicated to the memory of John and Mary Hunt and their children, it is probably slightly later than the reredos as it commemorates deaths in 1907 and 1908.  Above the panelling are oil paintings, on canvas, by Archibald Keightley Nicholson, 1871-1937, (at the time of writing these require professional restoration). The painting to the right is of the Resurrection dedicated to the memory of Helen Mortiboy who died in 1910 and that to the left is a composite Christmas Story dedicated to Reverend Henry Hanson Jevons and his wife Florence Mabel Jevons and is also dated 1910. 

Archibald Nicholson was Sir Charles Nicholson’s younger brother and was famous as a stained glass painter (with over 700 church windows to his credit) and so possibly these paintings were originally designs for windows? However the paintings bear painted dedications that do not appear to have been added later.  No Faculty (Church of England Planning Permission equivalent) has yet been located in connection with the acquisition of the paintings, which given the dated artists signature of 1912 strongly suggest that they were specially commissioned as this date is later than the respective dedication dates and so they undoubtedly were later additions after the reredos and panelling. An early photograph shows the original chancel and altar setting; yet the dates of the dedication of the different elements now in place all vary slightly and yet also appear to have been designed as part of a unified plan. Exactly why All Saints’ decided to commission the work of such prestigious artists is not yet known, however since other examples of the Nicholson Brother’s work (some since lost) were also acquired this suggests some personal link.

The rear of the chancel is now marked by a huge white plastered wall that separates the church from the community centre, both across the former nave/chancel junction and across both the northern and southern 11 feet wide side aisles. 

What the window that presumably occupied this wall prior to the construction of the chancel was like is not known, possibly it was the same one that now occupies the eastern wall of the chancel above the high altar but possibly provided with the rather impressive stained glass as seen today?

Another painting. This one is of the resurrection.

Against this wall is the stone font (that unusually carries no dedication or memorial other than a carved biblical verse - although it is reputedly a gift of the Anson Family who were Earls of Lichfield and Adelbert Anson was a curate at St. John’s Church for a time) and at high level the original rood screen donated in 1915 again by Reverend Henry Jevons, complete with three statues depicting the Crucifixion with St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary at either side, but now turned round to face into the chancel.

One of the side windows.

At the (blocked) entrance to the southern aisle are the remnants of a mid twentieth century carved screen that formerly divided off the Lady Chapel (again turned round from its original orientation), this is dedicated to Louisa and James Edwards.

At the junction of the chancel and side chapel is the elaborately carved oak lectern, in the form of an eagle atop gothic spires.  This was presented by Edwin Jones of Henwood House in 1881 and a brass shield notes that he carved the lectern himself.


A door from the chancel leads to the sacristy (intended as another side chapel as part of the late 1980s reconfigurations but never implemented) which contains nothing of great architectural significance except for a large ad hoc collection of church fittings, older photographs identify the original location of many of these items, and many brass candlesticks that furnished the nave prior to its conversion - as well as a pair of locally made safes for safeguarding the church plate collection.

Side (or Lady) Chapel

The 1892/3 side chapel was formerly accessed via the chancel and also a separate (now blocked up) doorway from the exterior, but entrance is now via the (new) main porch entrance to the church that cut through one of the original window openings. The side chapel is separated from the chancel by three arches and contains an oak altar with three front panels, the central one depicting the Lamb of God with grapes and vine foliage on the other two.  Behind the altar is an oak reredos of 1933 in memory of Alice Vera Edwards which has a central carved and painted shield depicting a vase of lilies. 

Above the reredos is a stained glass window inserted sometime in the late nineteenth century as a memorial to Reverend Hampton, the founder of All Saints’ Church, it shows Christ, The Good Shepherd, flanked by St. John and St. Peter. The chapel contains a canopied stature of the Virgin Mary that came from St. George’s Church and this chapel is accordingly known by some as The Lady Chapel.  A suspended brass Sanctuary light hangs above a curtained aumbry with an impressive brass door where the Sacrament is reserved. 

On the north wall is a brass war memorial to the memory of the fallen men of All Saints Parish – it is dated 1914 to 1919 (some war memorials use 1919 as the end date since this is the year the Treaty of Versailles was signed formally ending the war). The chapel also houses a richly embroidered Mothers Union Banner but this is not the same one that appears on an early photograph of the Chancel. One side window is interesting as it contains ‘roundels’ (St. Anne and the Virgin Mary, but depicted as a child), these ‘roundels’ are in memory of Mary Perry and Sarah Jane Perry and were inserted in 1990 but interestingly both came from an earlier full stained glass window of 1951 depicting St. Anne teaching her daughter the Virgin Mary to read, but this window was lost (irreparably damaged or accidentally removed?) during the conversion of the nave into a community centre but then in part reinstated.

Memorial plaques.

Organ Chamber

Although a sizeable arched enclosure off the rear of the chancel looks like another chapel, it is in fact the former organ chamber and would have been largely obscured by organ pipes as shown on an old but rather indistinct photograph.  It is interesting to note that the stone and brickwork within parts of this chamber is very irregular and this is accounted for by the fact it was never designed to be seen.  The northern wall displays the Stations of the Cross, relocated from the nave, as well as nine diamond shaped white marble memorial tablets to the memory of various parishioners, including Private Ernest Parkes who was killed in the Boer War in 1901. Against the blocked off side aisle to the nave is a colourful statue of St. George; this statue originally also came from St. George’s Church (now decommissioned and a home to a supermarket) but it is eventually to be moved to a new more appropriate home within the City. The chamber also contains the former nave altar and a relocated wooden memorial plaque commemorating the donation of a central altar cross and candlesticks (presumably the ones that formerly stood on the nave altar) in memory of Richard and Mary Smith and their daughter Lucy who was sometime Head Mistress of All Saints Infants School.  Two Victorian framed prints detail the origins of the Holy Catholic Church and the Succession of Bishops – both testaments to the Anglo-Catholic style of worship and All Saints’.  At the rear of the organ chamber are two plain leaded windows that each contains what appear to be the heads of saints, these are very similar in design to the ones in the Lady Chapel, although they bear no memorial, and so suggest a further re-use of fragments of older stained glass.

Choir Vestry

The choir vestry is beyond a door in the former organ chamber but is not open to the public and contains nothing of architectural interest.

The rood screen.

Former Nave

The All Saints Community Centre (leased by Wolverhampton City Council but operated by The All Saints Action Network or ASAN) is housed in the former nave of the church.  This former large unified space has been divided to provide a main hall, meeting rooms, kitchen, toilets etc. as well as a large room at a new first floor level.  The surviving pillars, arched windows, huge rose window (with stained glass largely obscured by an overlay of wired security glass) and fine wooden roof of the new upper floor room are the only reminders that this space was once the main body of the original 1879 All Saints’ Church.  All the other features have been incorporated into the current church, removed and put into store in the sacristy or relocated to other churches.

What became of the pulpit which had originally come from Christchurch is not known although the former carved screen that variously stood at the nave/chancel junction below the rood screen and at the rear of the nave in memory of Reverends Warner and Jevons still in part survives, although in store. Recent research has revealed that this too was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson. The double western door of the nave still survives but above it is a column of roughly tooled stone that suggests either something has been removed or that further decoration was originally intended but never executed.

‘Lost Treasures’

Whilst the current whereabouts of most (but not all) of the fixtures and fittings that became redundant at the time of the 1990 conversion of the nave is known, others have seemingly disappeared altogether.

For example in addition to the St. Anne/Virgin Mary window already referred to (and in small part reused) another full stained glass window depicting St. Ursula by Archibald Nicholson, again dedicated to Mary Perry who was Head Mistress of All Saints’ Girls’ School for forty two years has been lost altogether.

Other designs (some by A. K. Nicholson) might suggest that formerly the church possessed far more stained glass - although it could well be that these designs were never executed or their purchase fell through as there is nothing in the records except the designs.

The lectern.

All Saints’ School

To the west of All Saints’ Church is the former All Saints Infants and Junior School. This typical Victorian-style CofE School of 1894 (opened by Lord Barnard and recorded on a stone plaque) closed in the 1990s with its remaining pupils being transferred to Grove Primary School.  The school has been restored/modernised and extended by The All Saints Action Network and re-opened in October 2008 as ‘The Workspace’, a state of the art community facility offering a wide range of facilities.

The church, as seen from the canal to the east.

A Glossary of Church and Architectural Terms:

Aisle Pathway between pews or seats; side aisle a corridor at either or both sides of the nave.
Altar Table at eastern end of churches on which bread and wine is consecrated for use in communion services, symbolic of the table used by Jesus at the Last Supper.
Altar Rail The low barrier that surround the altar where the congregation kneel to take communion (consecrated bread and wine) or to receive a blessing from the Priest.
Anglo-Catholic Style of worship rooted in pre-Reformation form of services and rituals.
Aumbry A small safe-like enclosure, sometimes curtained, where consecrated bread and wine are kept. Some have richly decorated doors.
Baptism Ceremony of acceptance into membership of the Christian faith.
Bays Space within arches which form the walls of churches.
Bell-Cot Small structure in which a bell hangs.
Bishop’s Throne Elaborate chair reserved for a Bishop.
Buttress Column of stone or brick attached/built into a wall in order to provide stability.
Capital The top of a column, often decorative.
Cedilla Seats Seating for clergy officiating at a communion or mass service within the altar sanctuary.
Chancel Sometimes also known as the Quire; the eastern end of the church where the main (or high) altar is located, often separated from the nave by low steps and by an arch or screen.
Choir Vestry Room where choir practices and changes into choir robes before a service.
Communion Service commemorating The Last Supper sometimes also known as Eucharist or Communion.
Congregation People who attend church services, the worshippers.
Consecration Blessing by a Bishop which dedicates an item to the service of God.
Curate An assistant Priest or Minister attached to the Church (not the Vicar).
Encaustic Tiles Terracotta tiles with an inlaid pattern in a different colour.
Font A bowl that contains holy water used for baptisms.
Gothic Styles of architecture often characterised by pointed arches and elaborate decorations used in the Middle Ages and copied in the Victorian era (Gothic Revival). 
Lady Chapel Chapel within a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary usually containing an altar and a statue of the Virgin Mary.  
Lectern Stand that holds the Holy Bible or Prayer Book used by the preacher during services often in the form of an eagle (the symbol of the gospel writer St. John) with open wings.
Lichgate External gate with a structure above (like an open sided porch).
Mission Church presence often in a poor area.
Mothers Union Church of England organisation, each branch normally has its own richly embroidered banner.
Nave The main body of the church where service take place.
Non-Conformist Protestant churches not conforming to Church of England form(s) of worship.
Pews Enclosed or partially enclosed church seats.
Pulpit Elevated enclosed platform from which the Priest preaches the sermon.
Reformation Break between the English Church and the Roman Catholic Church instigated by King Henry VIII.
Reredos The wall immediately behind the altar usually decorated with a sculpture or a painting.
Rood Screen An open partition between chancel and nave of churches, often surmounted by figures of Jesus and saints.
Rose Window Large round window, normally at high level within a church, sometimes with stained glass panels.
Rusticated Blocks of stone dressed to look rough/natural.
Sacristy Room where church plate and vestments are kept.
Sacrament Consecrated bread an wine used in communion (Eucharist or Mass) service.
Sanctuary Area around the high altar, beyond the altar rail, often a raised platform.
Sanctuary Lamp Hanging oil lamp suspended above altars and aumbries.
Stained Glass Painted or coloured glass set within lead strips to build up pictures or patterns.
Sermon Religious lecture.
Stations of the Cross Illustrations or sculptures depicting Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion.
Side Chapel Separate chapel within a church usually containing an altar.
Vestry  The administrative office within a church. 
Vicar The appointed Priest or Minister in charge of the Church who may be assisted by a Curate.

Produced by Martin Rispin for the ABCD Heritage Project in September 2009.

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