St Cuthbert's Church Fir Vale

Lack of respect was the response of the Conservation Advisory Group and quite rightly so for a scheme which has been submitted for the third time since 2005. It was a reference to the proposed designs and if you saw them you’d see why. The site to be developed lies alongside the attractive St Cuthbert’s Church at Fir Vale, which is situated at the junction of Barnsley Road and Horndean Road. Coming down Barnsley Road you can’t miss it – it’s the one with a sea of bright red tiles on its roof. It used to have a very pretty school next to it which later became St Cuthbert’s Family Social Club but was sadly swept away in 2006. An application for demolition and twelve new apartments had been made in the previous year but were mysteriously withdrawn. The scheme was amended, approved, demolition took place then planning permission lapsed. Eh ?

Here we are, twelve years later and a new scheme has been submitted but the units have now been doubled to twenty-four which is gross over-development of such an important site. St Cuthbert’s (1901-5) was designed by famous Sheffield architect John Dodsley Webster and is one of his larger works. It contains some magnificent stained glass by Archibald Davies of the Bromsgrove Guild who was a well-known Arts and Crafts designer and who worked for Morris & Co between 1909 and 1928. His work at St Cuthbert’s features a later 1938 addition but by far the most prominent example is the stunning five panel War Memorial window of 1920 which shows mourning war widows dressed in purple overlooked by the risen Christ.

Another window in the Church was actually designed during the Great War by Kayll and Reed and installed in 1917. This one is much less avante garde but its colours are much brighter than the Memorial window.

St Cuthbert’s was built to seat 350 but its next door neighbour Trinity Methodist Church, which is slightly earlier at 1889 and designed by John Wills, seated 950. Both are in the Gothic Revival style and both were Grade II listed on the same day in 1993. Trinity also had its own Sunday School which was added in 1907, but with the recent addition of a minaret this has now become an Islamic Centre. Further down Owler Lane, the Primitive Methodist Chapel has now become a discount furniture retailer.

Our forebears would never have believed the re-incarnations of our religious buildings but at least they have survived, unlike St Hilda’s just up the hill at Wincobank which was sadly demolished last year. Another use could have been found for it, but as is so often the case it is so much easier to sweep away these tiresome old buildings.

At the beginning of this article we mentioned the drawings of the proposed new St Cuthbert’s block. If you can’t find them online, then take a stroll down Queens Road and have a look at the new St Wilfred’s block near Havelock Bridge .

Must have gone to the same school of architecture.


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