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Church of Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic)

A Grade II Listed Building in Hethe, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.9618 / 51°57'42"N

Longitude: -1.1452 / 1°8'42"W

OS Eastings: 458833

OS Northings: 229598

OS Grid: SP588295

Mapcode National: GBR 8WK.Z68

Mapcode Global: VHCWR.3YGH

Entry Name: Church of Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic)

Listing Date: 3 October 1988

Last Amended: 10 May 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1192879

English Heritage Legacy ID: 243632

Location: Hethe, Cherwell, Oxfordshire, OX27

County: Oxfordshire

District: Cherwell

Civil Parish: Hethe

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Hethe

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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The Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, Hethe built in 1832.


Roman Catholic church, 1832. The church is in a Gothic style.

MATERIALS: squared coursed limestone, with a slated roof.

PLAN: the building is rectangular on plan, on a roughly north/south axis, being entered from the south, with the altar to the north. The following description follows conventional liturgical orientation. The church is linked to the presbytery by a single-storey sacristy, at the north-west (liturgical south-west) corner of the church.

EXTERIOR: the church is of four bays, marked by offset buttresses; there are angle buttresses to the western and south-east corners. The west and east ends are gabled. The entrance is set within a broad projection, representing the vestibule. The central pointed-arched doorway with hoodmould and headstops contains the original plank and rail door. Above is a large four-light window with intersecting tracery; set back to either side is a tall single lancet. There is a stone cross to the central gables; the crocketed finials to the west end are replica replacements of 1997. To the sides, each bay has a two-light pointed window with Y-tracery, each having a hoodmould with headstops.

INTERIOR: the nave and sanctuary are combined, with the shallow vestibule to the west, above which is a gallery. The ceiling of the sanctuary is demarcated with a painted border, with a painted representation of the Trinity at the centre. The sanctuary to the east is painted with a rich scheme of stencil decoration, dating from 1932, with symbols of the evangelists in roundels above, and below, armorial bearings, relating to the Fermor family, all linked by vines. The altar, which has been attributed on stylistic grounds to A W Pugin (O’Donnell, R, The Pugins and the Catholic Midlands, 2002) is decorated with blind quatrefoil panels with a central open brass tabernacle throne; below the mensa are recessed trefoil niches. Above the altar is a C18 mirror copy of Jean Jouvenet’s Descent from the Cross. To the south of the altar is a stone trefoil-headed piscina. To either side of the altar, stone canopied niches hold carved angels; these were moved from the nave walls, probably in 1932. In the corners of the sanctuary stand polychrome statues of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart on Gothic pedestals, installed in 1932. The sanctuary is enclosed by original Gothic altar rails, with iron intersecting tracery and a mahogany rail, and brass doors. To the south is a timber pulpit with blind trefoil-headed panels, possibly of 1932. The paired lancet windows of the nave contain stained glass, mainly commemorating the local Collingridge family, dating from the mid-C19 to 1870; the five nearest the sanctuary are by Francis Barnett of the Edinburgh and Leith Glass Works, a relation by marriage. In the nave, the narrow oak pews, with ovals and quatrefoils cut into the sides, are thought to be mid- to late-C19. In the south-west corner of the church is an early-C19 chamber organ, originally in domestic use, acquired in 1986. In the south-east corner is the stone octagonal font with an oak cover, its sides carved with quatrefoils; this has also been attributed to Pugin, being similar to that at St John, Banbury where Pugin worked. The gallery has blind Gothic ogival arcading to the front; below are basket-arched doors with Gothic panels below and glazing above.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: at the north-west (liturgical south-west) the church is linked to the presbytery by a single-storey Gothic sacristy, with paired pointed windows below a hoodmould. This has been extended to the north in the late-C20, the style of the extension being consistent with the church as to style and materials; this part of the building is of lesser interest.


The Catholic parish of Hethe owes its existence largely to the long presence of the Catholic Fermor family in the area, first at Somerton, with which the family was connected from the late C15, and from 1642 at Tusmore, where a free-standing chapel was built. The servants and tenants on the Tusmore estate were largely Catholic, and the area was known for having many Catholic inhabitants. In addition to the chapel at Tusmore, a place of worship was provided during the C18 in the neighbouring Hardwick manor house, also belonging to the Fermor family. Following the death of William Fermor in 1806 Tusmore was rented to a succession of tenants, all Protestant, and eventually sold in 1857 to the 1st Earl of Effingham, who demolished the chapel.

The Second Catholic Relief Act of 1791 had allowed the building of Catholic chapels, and the 1829 Act of Emancipation removed many other obstructions. The establishment of a chapel to serve the spiritual needs of the many Catholics who remained in the Hethe area was undertaken by Father Alfred Maguire in 1831, who was charged with providing a building to hold 300. The cost of £800 was raised partly from local people; Maguire also made an appeal in the Catholic Directory, explaining that the death of the local squire had left his people ‘destitute of a place where they may be enabled to be present at the adorable sacrifice of the Mass’. The new church opened on 22 May 1832. The identity of the architect is not known. An early visitor was the Dowager Lady Arundell of Wardour, who investigated the possibility of commissioning an oak altar from A W Pugin; there is no documentary evidence that this was ever produced.

A number of changes were made to the interior of the church in 1932, including the replacement of the stencil decoration to the sanctuary with a more elaborate scheme, possibly by Elphege or Oswald Pippet; this scheme formerly extended around the lower walls of the nave, but was overpainted in the 1980s. Whilst many Catholic churches underwent internal changes following the Second Vatican Council of 1962-5, in response to the understanding that the celebrant was now required to face the congregation, Holy Trinity retained its high altar, with no forward altar, and its communion rails.

The presbytery was erected at the same time as the church, with which it is linked. The graveyard was acquired a year or two later than the chapel plot, with the first burial taking place in 1836. Land was acquired for a school in 1831, and work began, but the building was not completed until 1870.

Reasons for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, Hethe, built in 1832, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Date: as a church dating from 1832, built shortly after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and one of the earliest of the many Catholic churches built in the decades following that Act;
* Historical interest: as a small church built to serve a local community of working people, following the departure of the Fermor family, long-standing Catholic patrons;
* Architectural interest: for its simple but dignified Gothic design, characteristic of its early-C19 date, with sturdy buttresses and tall crocketed finials;
* Interior: the simple interior is largely unchanged, and retains some original fittings in Gothic style, including the gallery, and the high-quality altar rails; later additions of note include glass by the Edinburgh and Leith glass works, and the 1932 stencil decoration to the sanctuary;
* Group value: the church forms a group with the contemporary presbytery, and with the school.

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