History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, boundary walls and railings

A Grade I Listed Building in Woodchester, Gloucestershire

We don't have any photos of this building yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 51.708 / 51°42'28"N

Longitude: -2.2305 / 2°13'49"W

OS Eastings: 384167

OS Northings: 201059

OS Grid: SO841010

Mapcode National: GBR 1MY.T1T

Mapcode Global: VH954.9B5G

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, boundary walls and railings

Listing Date: 23 January 1985

Last Amended: 21 September 2017

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1340700

English Heritage Legacy ID: 132127

Location: Woodchester, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5

County: Gloucestershire

District: Stroud

Civil Parish: Woodchester

Built-Up Area: Nailsworth

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Woodchester St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester

Find accommodation in

Listing Text

(north side)

4/252 Church of Our Lady of the

Former Dominican Priory church, now Roman Catholic parish church.
1846-49 by Charles Hansom for William Leigh. Coursed and dressed
limestone; stone slate roof. Nave with aisles, and north and
south porches; chancel with south chapel, crypt and part of east
range of Priory cloister to north. Moulded pointed south doorway,
porch arch having attached octagonal column shafts in parapet
gabled end; quatrefoil side openings. Buttressed aisles with 2-
light windows having Decorated tracery; similar smaller 2-light to
nave clerestorey. Offset buttressed west end with heavily moulded
pointed doorway and 4-light west window with Decorated tracery.
Three-light chancel and chapel windows. Large 5-light east window
with elaborate tracery including rose containing 3 spherical
triangles. Part of Priory range to north has trefoil headed
casements with narrow trefoil lancets to lower floor. Tower set
in angle with Priory range has clasping buttresses, octagonal
belfry with broaching to short spire brought down below belfry
openings, resulting in spherical triangle opening to each face and
trefoil headed opening with pierced screen below those on cardinal
faces only. The striking design is emphasised by the positioning
of the octagonal stair turret in north west corner. Small cross-
gabled north porch formerly linked with west range of Priory
Interior: nave with 6-bay arcades having octagonal columns and
pointed arches. Wall shafts set between with head stops and
foliage capitals supporting scissor-braced trussed nave roof.
Moulded chancel arch with wall painting of the Last Judgement above
by Henry Doyle. Five-bay stone rood screen with tracery and
carved angel enrichment to string moulding. Richly coloured and
patterned chancel tiled floor with marble steps. Painted reredos
with statues in crocketed niches. Six-sided painted panelled
chancel ceiling. Triple south sedilia and shouldered arched
piscina. Pointed arched opening to Martyrs' Chapel has tomb of
William Leigh, died 1873, by Richard Boulton set below arch;
effigy is depicted holding a model of the present building. C19
choir stalls but pews are C20. Large octagonal stone pulpit with
carved panels. Tall canopied niches at east end of nave, north
containing St. Dominic, south Our Lady. Elaborate chest tomb with
robed effigy of Francis Nicholson, Archbishop of Corfu, died 1855;
against wall altar of the Rosary of c1894. Stations of the Cross
in panels set in aisles and west end of nave. Stained glass by
Hardman and Wailes. Built for the Passionist Fathers, taken over
by the Dominicans in 1850, and continuing as a parish church upon
demolition of the Priory buildings in 1971. Original scheme by
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin discarded through cost but Hansom's design is thought to contain many Puginian influences. Stands on promentory dominating
the Bath Road below. Composition stands up well despite loss of
Priory ranges on north side. Hansom's model showing the complete
set of buildings is preserved in Arlington Mill Museum, Bibury,
together with Pugin's original plan.
(D. Verey, Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds, 1979.)

Listing NGR: SO8416101060

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.


A Roman Catholic parish church, built in 1846-9 to designs by Charles Hansom as a Dominican priory church, endowed by William Leigh; with associated boundary walls and railings.


A Roman Catholic parish church, built in 1846-9 to designs by Charles Hansom as a Dominican priory church, endowed by William Leigh; with associated boundary walls and railings.

MATERIALS: Local limestone with Cotswold limestone slates.

PLAN: The building is orientated NE-SW, but liturgical compass points are used in the remainder of this description. The church has nave with N and S aisles, and N and S porches; chancel with S chapel; crypt; and part of the E range of the former priory cloister to N, housing vestry, sacristy and meeting room.

EXTERIOR: The church is in Decorated Gothic style, set on ground which slopes steeply to the E, allowing a crypt under the eastern end. Entrance is via the moulded, pointed S doorway, the porch arch having attached octagonal column shafts in the parapet gabled end, and quatrefoil side openings. The buttressed aisles have two-light windows with Decorated tracery; there are similar, smaller two-light windows to the nave clerestorey. The offset buttressed W end has a heavily-moulded pointed doorway, and a four-light W window with Decorated tracery. Chancel and chapel windows are each of three lights. The large five-light E window has elaborate tracery including a rose containing three spherical triangles. Part of the former priory range to the N has trefoil-headed casements with narrow trefoil lancets to the lower floor. The tower is set in the angle with the priory range; it has clasping buttresses, and an octagonal belfry with broaching to the short spire, brought down below the belfry openings, resulting in spherical triangle openings to each face, and trefoil-headed openings with pierced screens below those, on the cardinal faces only. The striking design is emphasised by the positioning of the octagonal stair turret in the NW corner. The small, cross-gabled N porch was formerly linked with the W range of the priory buildings.

INTERIOR: The nave arcades are of six bays, having octagonal columns with moulded feet and capitals, and pointed arches. The wall shafts are set between, with carved head stops and foliage capitals, each one different, supporting the scissor-braced-trussed nave roof. The pews date from the C20. At the W end of the nave is an elaborate chest tomb with the robed effigy of Francis Nicholson, Archbishop of Corfu (d 1855). The large, octagonal stone pulpit with stone steps has carved symbols of the Evangelists in painted and gilded quatrefoils matching those on the screens. The high-relief Stations of the Cross are in panels set into the walls of the aisles and W end of the nave. Tall, canopied statue niches with ornate decoration are set at either side of the E end of the nave; that to the N houses a statue of St Dominic, that to the S a statue of the Virgin.

The high, moulded chancel arch has a wall painting by Henry Doyle (1827-92) above, depicting the Last Judgement. The five-bay stone rood screen, by Charles Hansom, has cusped and crocketed tracery and carved angel enrichment to the string moulding, and trefoil piercing above. The lower panels have sculpted demi-angels in quatrefoils, painted and gilded, holding shields and symbols of the Passion. Above is the rood, a large painted and gilded Crucifixion flanked by statues of the Virgin Mary and St John. The chancel has a six-sided, painted, panelled ceiling which includes religious symbols. The floor is tiled with richly-coloured Minton tiles in various geometric designs; marble steps ascend towards the high altar, which remains in situ. The altar and reredos are painted and extensively gilded; the reredos has sculpted angels in crocketed niches to either side; the altar front has figurative scenes including the Crucifixion at the centre, in quatrefoil panels matching those on the screens. The triple-arched sedilia to the S side steps down towards the W. At its E side is a shouldered-arched piscina. The C19 choir stalls have carved head ends. A pointed-arched doorway to the N, with head stops, gives access to the remaining part of the former monastic buildings, which include the sacristy and a first-floor meeting room.

In the S aisle, the W end is screened off with a low, Gothic timber balustrade, to create a baptistery; the stone font is octagonal, with panels with symbols of the Evangelists, similar to those on the screen. The floor has polychrome Minton tiles. The E end of the aisle forms the Chapel of the Forty Martyrs of St Sebaste, divided from the aisle by a three-bay stone screen matching that in the nave. Set under the arch between the chapel and the choir is the elaborate alabaster tomb of William Leigh (d 1873) by Richard Boulton, his effigy attended by an angel, with a lion at his feet; he holds a model of the church. The N aisle has an altar at its W end, against the W wall, a relatively simple stone table with stencilled decoration. Against the N wall is the altar of the Rosary, added circa 1894; in stone, the reredos has a high, canopied niche at the centre.

The original stained glass windows are by William Wailes of Newcastle. Three in the aisles are by Hardman, installed in the late 1890s. In the N aisle is a rare signed work by WG Saunders, and a continental window of circa 1884. In the S aisle is a reset window of 1936 by Edward Payne, Arts and Crafts designers, brought here from the former chapel at Hampton Green near Box.

The crypt, accessed from the outside of the church on the S side, runs under the E end of the nave and chancel, and the remaining part of the E range of the monastic buildings. The crypt is vaulted, the ceiling carried on robust stone piers of square section with chamfers. At the E end, directly under the high altar, is a simple altar table carried on three slender piers, with foliate carving to the capitals. Under the S aisle chapel is the Leigh family vault, with burials in a stone matrix behind closing stones with carved inscriptions. The crypt continues under the stub of the monastic range, which has vaulted storage.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The churchyard has a public access from the S, through a gateway in the boundary wall. The path to the S porch is flanked by wrought iron RAILINGS of unusual design: widely-spaced barley-twist uprights support a continuous top rail with scrolled ends, from which rise tapering finials with ball tops.

The BOUNDARY WALLS of the present churchyard are a mixture of the original boundary walls and the remains of the monastic buildings demolished in 1970. They surround the space on two sides, and are irregular in their height, layout and construction. The original boundary walls have angled coping stones. There is a stretch of high retaining wall to the W.


The religious communities at Woodchester were founded and largely funded by William Leigh, a landowner from Staffordshire with lucrative property interests in Australia. Disillusioned with the Established Church, he converted to Catholicism in 1844. In 1845 he bought the Woodchester estate from Lord Ducie; from 1855, he began to build on the estate his own house, designed by Benjamin Bucknall; the house, known as Woodchester Mansion, was left unfinished at his death in 1873. In thanks for his conversion, and guided by the charismatic Italian Fr Dominic Barberi, the Superior of the Passionists, he planned to finance a new religious community at the E end of his property. AWN Pugin was invited to make designs but withdrew when Leigh decided to scale down the church. The commission then passed to Charles Francis Hansom, the eminent Catholic architect, son of Joseph Hansom. His church was built at a cost of £9,000. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Ullathorne, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, on 26 November 1846 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop Hendren, Vicar Apostolic on 10 October 1849, when the monastery was also inaugurated. In 1850 the Dominicans took over from the Passionists. The priory buildings were completed in 1853, also to Hansom’s designs. A model of Hansom’s priory is preserved within the church. The establishment was canonically raised to priory status in 1854, and became the novitiate for the English Province of the Order. William Leigh, on his death in 1873, was buried in the crypt, and an elaborate tomb was erected by his widow in the south chapel of the church; his effigy shows him holding a model of the priory church. Other family members are also interred in the crypt. A Franciscan convent, later occupied by the Poor Clares, was built in 1861-9 a short distance to the N, also designed by Charles Hansom. The convent closed in 2011.

The priory buildings closed in 1966 and were mostly demolished in 1970, leaving the church as the parish church, standing in partly-cleared grounds. The remaining friars moved to St Mary’s Hill House (now the presbytery) until 1985, when care of the parish passed to the diocese. Extensive works of repair and restoration took place in 1989. In 2000, the interior was reordered, with the temporary forward altar replaced with a new, permanent stone altar on a shallow sanctuary platform. The floor was tiled with Minton tiles manufactured to match the originals in the chancel. The painting of the Last Judgement over the chancel arch, by Henry Doyle, was cleaned and restored in 2015.

Reasons for Listing

The Church of the Annunciation, a Roman Catholic monastic church of 1846-9 by Charles Hansom, is listed at Grade I, for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the church is a fine piece of mid-Victorian Catholic church building, its restrained, Decorated Gothic style handled with his customary lightness and precision by Hansom;
* Historic interest: the church formed the centrepiece of a priory constructed by Charles Hansom for William Leigh in the early 1850s, one of the very earliest to be built after the Emancipation; the priory then served as the Novitiate for the English Province of the Dominican Order for over a century;
* Degree of Survival: the building has remained almost entirely unaltered since its completion, save for the addition of further glass and additional fittings, and the creation of a sympathetic dais for the forward altar;
* Interior: the interior is of high quality in its design and execution, and is richly decorated for a former monastic church;
* Fittings: the fittings are extensive and remarkably lavish, particularly in the context of a monastic church; those designed by the architect for their respective positions are of very high quality in design and craftsmanship.

Selected Sources

Book cover links are generated automatically from the sources. They are not necessarily always correct, as book names at Amazon may not be quite the same as those used referenced in the text.

Source title links go to a search for the specified title at Amazon. Availability of the title is dependent on current publication status. You may also want to check AbeBooks, particularly for older titles.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.