Friday 9 August 2013

Pugin's Gem - St Giles Catholic Church, Cheadle

These are the magnificent West doors to St Giles Catholic Church in Cheadle, Staffordshire.  By happy coincidence we ended up there on our journey back to Sheffield, because we had missed our junction to leave the M6 and ended up one further on, and heading across country.  Imagine our delight to see a signpost for "Pugin's Gem" at the head of a small road we needed to take.  My daughter quickly consulted her mobile, and found that it was in Cheadle, which we had to go through anyway.

The same heraldic lions appeared in miniature on the side door.

A simple stained glass window showing the Agnus Dei.  (This is the title for Jesus, coined by John the Baptist, who said, on seeing Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."  The Lamb of God title is used in Christian prayers, and the Agnus Dei is a standard part of the Catholic mass.)

The church was mostly in darkness as we went in, although the High Altar and Pulpit were lit.  We explored, marvelling at the beauty of the interior, and only when giving donations at the end, did we notice that there was a meter which if you put £1 in, gave you 15 minutes' lighting!!!

THAT was more like it!  What stunning patterns . . .

I think what the colour and designs did, more than anything for me, was to give an idea of what churches looked like in Medieval times, with colour and wall paintings illustrating scenes from the Bible.  Which is, of course, what you also got in St Giles'.

Whilst this might not be to everyone's taste - this did actually remind me of the colours and painting on an old steam Fairground ride I once saw in Salisbury - it has Pugin absolutely stamped all over it!  (As an aside, I was watching a programme with Kirsty Allsopp in it the other evening, and she had a dress in green and yellow that was for all the world like the wallpaper in Pugin's house, only without the Gothic lettering . . .)

I have to say, it just left us speechless.

The floor tiles looked so Medieval too.

The beautifully-carved figure of Christ.

The Virgin Mary.

Lastly, the High Altar.

Today, Alton Towers to us means the huge theme park, but in the 1840's it was the home of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a practicing Roman Catholic.  He commissioned Augustus Pugin to commence work on a Catholic Church in Cheadle in 1841.  Pugin toured "the very cream of Norfolk's churches" in preparation for his designs, drawing various aspects of Medieval design, and he also travelled to Antwerp to find inspiration for the windows at Cheadle.  Local quarries produced the sandstone for the building, whilst the extensive estates of Lord Shrewsbury provided some wonderful Oak and Elm . . .

Detail of a pew back.

HERE is a link to the Wikipedia page which will give you greater details.  I hope you get the chance to visit this amazing building one day.


  1. Certainly a 'wow' impression of all those beautifully painted walls, etc. I can't watch Kirstie's new program because someone else wants other things to watch but I can catch up on the computer with the new programs and the old of course - inspiration to us all ;)

  2. There is so much inspiration here BB, particularly for embroiderers and textile artists. Beautiful.

  3. Had I been with you I think I might have simply sat down and gawked. Difficult to find fresh words to describe such splendor.
    I pounced on mention of Cheadle;--it is one of the villages, along with Dilhorne and Trentham--where J.'s ancestral tribe resided. I believe the name is still familiar in Staffordshire.
    What an odd way of collecting funds for the cathedral--a collection box which turns on the lights!

  4. MM - if I'd known that, I would have taken lots of photos. It was a nice little place - reminded me a bit of both Brecon and Abergavenny in places, strangely enough. I took a photo of the market cross, so I will add that one for J. We saw signs for Dilhorne.

    Weaver - I had only seen it on a tv programme before, about Pugin I think. It was just so . . . over the top I suppose you could call it - but also when you think of Pugin's self-imposed workload, there were so many incredible ideas here . . . No wonder he died at just 40.

    thelma - Keith isn't keen on her progs either, but I record them and watch them when I am doing the ironing, or if I get up extra early. This church certainly had the WOW factor.

  5. What a beautiful church and lovely photos. The colours are just amazing. If I had only known such a place was so close to Alton Towers area on all the trips we used to take there when son and daughter were younger.

    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  6. Speechless too. Just beautiful. x

  7. Incredible what man has built over the centuries. Places like this one remind of Ken Follett's book Cathedral (I think) of the building of one such magnificent homage that it took centuries and generations of craftspeople to do it. Thanks for sharing these pictures.