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Church of St Matthew and boundary wall and gate piers to St George's Place and Clarence Street

A Grade II* Listed Building in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.9011 / 51°54'3"N

Longitude: -2.0785 / 2°4'42"W

OS Eastings: 394697

OS Northings: 222508

OS Grid: SO946225

Mapcode National: GBR 2M4.PBY

Mapcode Global: VH947.XGKZ

Entry Name: Church of St Matthew and boundary wall and gate piers to St George's Place and Clarence Street

Listing Date: 14 December 1983

Last Amended: 2 June 2014

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1386868

English Heritage Legacy ID: 474280

Location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50

County: Gloucestershire

District: Cheltenham

Electoral Ward/Division: Lansdown

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Cheltenham

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Cheltenham, St Mary with St Matthew

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester

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Summary


Church of 1876-79, designed by Ewan Christian, with the tower completed and spire added in 1883-84. In 1952 the spire was removed, with the tower being reduced in height in 1972. A lean-to addition was added to the north aisle in 1988-89. The interior was reordered in 1972 and 1999-2000.

Description

Church of 1876-79, designed by Ewan Christian, with the tower completed and spire added in 1883-84. In 1952 the spire was removed, with the tower reduced in height in 1972. A lean-to addition was added to the north aisle in 1988-89. The interior was reordered in 1972 and 1999-2000.

MATERIALS: it is constructed from coursed, rock-faced, limestone with ashlar dressings. The nave and transept roofs are covered with clay tiles, the chancel and aisles with Welsh slate and the truncated tower with bituminous felt.

PLAN: the church is orientated north-west to south-east, though ritual compass points are used throughout this description. It consists of a wide nave with cross-gabled, clerestoried aisles of four bays on the south side and three bays on the north side, narrow transepts and an aisled chancel with a polygonal apse set at a lower ridge line than the nave. A truncated tower with a projecting north porch stands at the north-west corner and there is a narthex at the west end.

EXTERIOR: the building is of the Early English Gothic Revival style. It makes extensive use of lancet windows with continuous hoodmoulds and two-light windows with plate-tracery and label-stopped hoodmoulds. All doorways have double-chamfered, pointed surrounds with label-stopped hoodmoulds. The two-bay chancel is divided by offset buttresses and the polygonal apse is divided by angle buttresses with offsets. All gables are stone coped and their apexes, unless otherwise stated, contain triplets of stepped lancets framed within pointed ashlar surrounds with hoodmoulds. The nave and chancel both have a corbelled eaves course and several rainwater heads are dated 1878.

The church's truncated tower stands at the north-west corner, at the junction with Clarence Street and St George's Place. A string course divides its first stage from the truncated second stage which now acts as a deep parapet to the flat roof behind. At the top of the tower's lowest stage to Clarence Street there is an arcade of five, trefoil-headed lancets separated by plain pilasters and linked by pointed hoodmoulds. The middle three openings are blind whilst the openings to the flanks contain narrow, recessed lancets with leaded lights. An identical arcade exists on the tower's right-hand return to St George's Place with the even numbered openings being blind. Below this is a two-light window with plate tracery. The tower's left-hand return has a corbel table of five trefoil heads linked by pointed hoodmoulds. A gabled porch projects north across Clarence Street from the tower's lowest stage. Its double-chamfered doorway has roll-moulded arches of which the inner arch is carried on short, corbelled shafts with moulded capitals. Infilling the archway is a late-C20 glazed door with a fanlight and sidelights. To the left-hand side of the porch the three cross gables of the north aisle rise behind a late-C20, lean-to addition. A clerestory of five lancets sits over the gables. Projecting to the left-hand side of the north aisle is the gabled north transept. It has a tall window of three lancets separated by shafts with annulets and circular, plain-moulded, capitals and bases. Each lancet is linked by a pointed hoodmould with label stops. To the gable there is a rose window with plate tracery and three oculi with trefoil tracery. A recessed doorway to the transept’s left-hand side has a hoodmould which continues round to the gabled left-hand return as a sill course beneath two lancets. Its gable contains a rose window with plate tracery and an oculus with quatrefoil tracery at the apex. A canted bay with a clerestory of two lancets joins the transept to the chancel. Of two bays, the chancel has two-light windows with plate tracery to the ground floor and a clerestory of stepped lancets framed within pointed ashlar surrounds. At the east end, each of the three bays of the polygonal apse contains a triplet of tall, stepped lancets within pointed ashlar surrounds with continuous hoodmoulds. Adjoining the south side of the chancel is the former, lean-to vestry. Its east face has a shouldered doorway and a three-light mullioned and transomed window.

The south elevation of the church is essentially similar to the north face, save for the absence of the tower and porch and the presence of a fourth cross-gable to the south aisle. As the south side of the church is built up against an adjoining building, only the aisle’s cross-gables are visible at ground floor level. Its clerestory is comprised of seven lancets.

The gabled west face to St George's Place has a narthex with three doors to the ground floor. Between the centre and left-hand side doorway (now blocked internally) there is an arcade of seven lancets whilst an arcade of five lancets sits between the centre and right-hand side doorway. The head of each lancet is carried on shafts with annulets, circular bases and octagonal capitals. Above is a tall window of five lancets with shafts with annulets and circular bases and capitals. All the lancets are linked by pointed hoodmoulds. To the gable, set over a string course, there is a rose window with plate tracery. Its hoodmould, along with the hoodmould to the stepped lancets in the apex, continues across the gable as a string course.

INTERIOR: the foyer beneath the tower is accessed from the porch through a pointed, double-chamfered doorway with roll-moulded arches supported on paired shafts with polygonal plinths and circular bases and capitals. From the foyer, a doorway with a stilted arch with roll moulding carried on shafts with polygonal plinths and circular bases and capitals provides access to the main body of the church. The reverse side of this doorway has a pointed arch with roll moulding.

The nave arcade, which is of three bays on the north side and four bays on the south side, is comprised of double-chamfered, pointed arches carried on circular piers with octagonal bases and circular, plain moulded, capitals. Over each arch is a label-stopped hoodmould. At the west end a late-C20, flat-roofed, meeting room spans across two bays of the nave. All but the eastern most arches of the nave arcade, along with the transverse arches to the aisles, which are also pointed and double chamfered, were blocked up in the late C20 to create meeting rooms. The clerestory windows have a wide splay. The nave roof is barrel vaulted with bracketed crown posts carried on vaulting shafts placed between the springing of each arch. Intermediate ribs are carried on eaves corbels.

The transepts are of three irregular bays with each bay being comprised of pointed, double-chamfered arches. The two bays set beneath each gallery are lower and narrower with central piers with octagonal bases and capitals. The transept’s easternmost bays are canted towards the chancel at the crossing and have label-stopped hoodmoulds. Each transept has a steep gallery set beneath pointed, double-chamfered arches of which the inner arch is carried on short, corbelled shafts. The galleries have pierced quatrefoil balustrades along with trussed rafter roofs and contain high-backed, wooden pews.

The chancel is approached by a dais of shallow steps which was moved slightly forward from its original position in the late C20. It has a pointed, double-chamfered, chancel arch with roll-moulding, of which the inner arch is carried on corbelled shafts with circular capitals and annulets. The chancel arcade is again formed of pointed, double chamfered arches. However, the circular, central piers have octagonal bases and circular capitals with dog-tooth ornamentation. The south aisle contains the organ chamber. The clerestory windows in the chancel have rere-arches of two-light windows with plate tracery whilst the apse has rere-arches of three lancets under a single, pointed arch, all with shafts with annulets and circular capitals and bases. The chancel roof is barrel vaulted with ribs carried on vaulting shafts placed between the springing of each arch. Intermediate ribs are carried on eaves corbels. All responds throughout the main body of the church are comprised of short, corbelled shafts with stiff-leaf capitals.

PRINCIPAL FITTINGS: the church includes a number fixtures and fittings designed by Ewan Christian, including a marble and mosaic reredos wall panel depicting the Ten Commandments, flanked by panels of decorative stonework with panels of mosaic; it is now screened off by a curtain. Standing on the north side of the dais is a ‘wine glass’ pulpit of stone with a mosaic inlay of alabaster and marble. A Caen stone font stands in the foyer of the north porch. The original stained glass windows, and the west window of 1883, is by Clayton and Bell. The geometrical framework of the windows in the chancel is distinguished by a high proportion of silvery/white glass which was designed to let in lots of light.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to St George’s Place there is a late-C19, low boundary wall with chamfered, stone coping, formerly topped with iron railings. Two stone piers with pyramidal caps flank the entrance to the narthex's forecourt. An identical pier stands at the corner with Clarence Street from where the wall, topped with late-C20 railings, curves round to two identical piers which flank the short flight of stone steps leading up to the north porch. The walling and piers are of coursed, rock-faced, limestone with ashlar coping and caps.

History

The history of the Church of St Matthew is intrinsically linked with that of the Church of St Mary, Cheltenham's original parish church dating from the C12. In 1859, following the closure of St Mary's for restoration work, a temporary, iron church, designed to accommodate 1,500 parishioners, was built between August and November of that year on the north side of Clarence Street. Although St Mary's reopened in 1861, the temporary church remained in use as the congregation was too large to be housed in St Mary's alone. An attempt to unite the two congregations took place in 1863, when an architectural competition was organised by the Parish Church Restoration and Enlargement Committee to rebuild St Mary's to accommodate 2,000 parishioners. The only stipulation placed on the entrants was that St Mary's tower and spire should be retained. However, local opposition to the demolition, coupled with a lack of funds, resulted in the plan being dropped. In 1873, Ewan Christian (1814-1895), the architect responsible for restoring St Mary's spire in 1866, undertook a survey on the condition of the church’s building fabric. His report for the Restoration and Enlargement Committee resulted in the decision to restore St Mary's and build a new church dedicated to St Matthew.

In November 1875, James Agg-Gardener (1846-1928), a local brewery owner and Member of Parliament for Cheltenham on four separate occasions between 1874 and 1928, donated land for the new church on the south side of Clarence Street, on a site previously occupied by a building known as ‘Great House’, built in 1730 for Lady Stapleton and demolished in 1859. Ewan Christian, whose plans for the restoration of St Mary's were already being implemented by the builder Albert Estcourt of Gloucester, was commissioned to design the church, with Estcourt appointed as builder. Designed to serve 1,600 parishioners, with galleries to accommodate pupils from Cheltenham Ladies' and Gentlemen's Colleges, the church was built in 1877-79. It was consecrated on 17 April 1879, by which time it was complete, save for the upper stages of the tower, which was completed and a spire added in 1883-84.

In 1952, the spire was declared unsafe and removed, with the tower reduced in height in 1972. The interior was also reordered in 1972 by Denys Hinton and Partners, with a large meeting room created in the nave along with smaller meeting rooms in the aisles. A kitchen, new vestry and toilets were also added.

In 1986 a feasibility study was commissioned to examine the options for developing the buildings of the parish. This initially resulted in the addition of a lean-to extension, built in 1988-89 against the north aisle, to accommodate a bookshop and the parish and rector's office. Further reordering of the interior took place in 1999-2000 by Dearle and Henderson Design, including the enlargement of the meeting room in the nave and the resiting of the dais.

Reasons for Listing

The Church of St Matthew, built in 1876-79 by Ewan Christian, with later alterations and additions, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: despite the loss of the tower and other alterations, this is spatially a very distinguished church composition and one of Ewan Christian's finest designs. His handling of the canted bays and galleried transepts, linking the body of the nave to the apsidal chancel, is especially competent;
* Fixtures and fittings: it retains a fine series of fittings by Ewan Christian, of which the reredos wall panel depicting the Ten Commandments is a notable example, and good quality stained glass by Clayton and Bell, one of the most prolific stained glass workshops of the period;
* Historical association: it has a strong functional relationship with the town’s mother church of St Mary, now Cheltenham Minster;
* Group Value: it forms part of a distinguished group of Victorian buildings within the Regency new town including the Library, Museum and Art Gallery (Grade II); and Electricity House and Shaftesbury Hall (Grade II).

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