Wolverhampton's Locally Listed Buildings

Holy Trinity Church

Oxford Street, Bilston

Listing: Locally listed in 2004. Began as a chapel in 1833 in gothic style and enlarged in 1845.  Brick with stone and buff terracotta detailing.  John Henry, later Cardinal, Newman, was assistant priest here in c.1849.

Comment:  St. Mary's (the Church of England church to the left of the photo above) is statutorily listed but Holy Trinity is not.  Attempts were made to have it statutorily listed in 2003, mainly on the grounds that one of the Pugins once did some work here.  But what he did has almost vanished, so local listing is all this interesting building gets.

This is the main Roman Catholic church in Bilston.  St. Mary's, seen to the far left here, is Church of England.  Note the different orientations - but this is almost certainly not theological but connected with the size and shape of the available site. 

The part of the building to the right, with the rather elaborate, gabled facade, was originally the school.  It is now used as a church hall.  The complex includes a fairly modern (1960s?) presbytery behind the church and a modern social club to the rear.  It always has been one of the great community centres of Bilston and remains so today.

After Catholic emancipation in 1829, when Catholics were allowed to build public churches, Bilston was not slow in joining in.  But it is said that the immediate motivation for the promotion of a new church was that, during the disastrous cholera epidemic of 1832, three Catholic priests from Wolverhampton, Fathers O'Sullivan, Mostyn and Ross, did such sterling work in the town that local Catholics were moved to ask for their own church.  Father O'Sullivan seems to have been a prime mover in this and he managed to collect £1,800 for the cause. The site was bought from a Mrs. Price, work started and the church was opened on 11th September 1834.  The first priest was Father Thomas Sing who soon got Father George Fox as an assistant priest.  It was Fox who promoted the building of the school (the building with the curly gables to the right of the photo at the head of this page). 

In 1845 it was decided to enlarge the church by the addition of a chancel.  This was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin - but it seems that, if there every was any typically Pugin elaboration in its decoration, it has long since gone. 

In 1849 there was another disastrous outbreak of cholera when the priest, Father John Sherlock, temporarily in charge due to the illness of the parish priest, distinguished himself by his selfless devotion, which included carrying the sick to hospital on his back.  The event is also remembered for the fact that one of the priests who came to assist him was later to become Cardinal Newman.  The statutory listing refers to him as an Assistant Priest but it was only a temporary appointment and Newman was in Bilston for about three weeks. 

The church and its school was an important educational and social centre and remains so to this day, thought the school has moved out to a new site and its building is used as a church hall.

The church and hall have been in a bad way recently.  The parish is not a rich one but the congregation made great efforts and raised the sums necessary to repair the church roof, make the church wind and watertight, and to redecorate it throughout.  The work was finished in 2008 and the parish then moved on to restoring the hall. 

For many months the congregation had to sit under a great square arch of scaffolding whilst repairs and restoration took place.
But when it was all over the church looked as good as it ever has done. 

This small side chapel, near the east door, now looks very fine and splendid for christenings.
The east window was made by Thomas Waite in 1846 and shows Our Lady and Child in the centre light, with St. Thomas a Becket and St Augustine in the other two. 

This window is a memorial to the Rev. Michael Crewe and was presented by his sister, Sara Woods.  It is dated Feb. 22nd 1889.  With its clear and simple design, and its rich colours, it is quite striking. 
The church as some good tiles which may date from 1845.