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St Clare's Abbey Chapel

A Grade II* Listed Building in Hummersknott, Darlington

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Latitude: 54.525 / 54°31'30"N

Longitude: -1.5799 / 1°34'47"W

OS Eastings: 427289

OS Northings: 514498

OS Grid: NZ272144

Mapcode National: GBR KJD3.RP

Mapcode Global: WHC5W.PJWD

Entry Name: St Clare's Abbey Chapel

Listing Date: 18 August 2009

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393424

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507081

Location: Darlington, DL3

County: Darlington

Electoral Ward/Division: Hummersknott

Built-Up Area: Darlington

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Blackwell All Saints and Salutation

Church of England Diocese: Durham

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Listing Text

907/0/10033 CARMEL ROAD

Chapel, Roman Catholic 1856-7 designed by Joseph Aloysius Hansom with Charles Hansom

MATERIALS: red brick with ashlar sandstone dressings and welsh slate roof

PLAN: rectangular under a single pitched roof of slate with projecting public chapel on north side and projecting vestry on south side.

EXTERIOR: the east end is supported by a pair of diagonal, offset buttresses and has a large pointed arched window with geometric tracery and head-stopped drip mould above with a blind trefoil window in the apex.The chapel has 6 bays with a moulded stone eaves cornice and stepped plinth and windows are pointed arches with geometric tracery. The north wall has a projecting public side chapel forming bays 1-3 with a single 3-light pointed arched window in the north wall and paired lancets in the east wall; bays 4-6 are alternated with stepped buttresses with pitched caps rising to the eaves cornice There is a 2-stage, octagonal spire at the north west corner, containing a louvered belfry in the lower stage with a conical roof, containing lucarne, surmounted by a cross. Garden wall attached to left with shoulder-arched entry to grounds.The south wall has a single storey projecting vestry attached to the eastern most 3 bays of the chapel; this has a mixture of 1, 2 and 3 light pointed arch windows. Above the vestry, the chapel wall has three pointed arch windows and bays 4-6 are alternated with stepped buttresses as on south wall. Vestibule at west end has an pointed arched entrance with double wooden boarded door and strap hinges; single trefoil headed lancets above and to the left with a 3-light mullion window above of similar style lighting the organ loft.

INTERIOR: sanctuary with single large stained glass window with geometric tracery depicting The Virgin Mary and St Joseph, six saints and bible and religious scenes. The reredos is formed of an elaborate cusped and crocketed stone arcade comprising alternating carved stone panels bearing biblical and religious scenes with niches containing carved stone figures on pedestals in relief. At the far right and incorporated in the reredos is an ornately carved stone piscina. The tabernacle is sited in a central position on the east wall with a cross in a niche above with the ornately carved stone high altar to the front. The altar front bears 3 carved panels alternating with marble colonnetes, the central panel containing a depiction of The Crucifixion. Walls are painted cream and the roof is of open trusses resting on stone corbels with a ceiling of decorative red and gold painted panels. The public side chapel to the left has a stone traceried screen with central entrance fitted with secure metal gate; walls are plain and painted and roof is scissor-braced. A full compliment of benches is retained. The vestry to the right is entered through an arched door with heavy stone surround; plain painted walls with wooden vestment chest and a wooden turn and hatch for passing objects including vestments and gifts through to the chaplain in west wall. A stone Choir Screen or Jubé separates the sanctuary from the nuns' choir in the form of a double arcade of 5 arches adorned with stopped drip moulds, inset carved stone angels supporting a platform with ornate carved stone balustrade pierced with trefoil decoration and centrally placed reliquary-like niche. Columns forming the outer arcade are formed of clustered shafts with Doric capitals carved with floral decoration; the inner arcade has octagonal shafts which formally housed a dado with tracery windows and grills. The nuns' choir has plain painted walls and a simple xx-stopped band and simple patée formée crosses and medallions. There are 2 tiers of fixed benches arranged against the north and south walls. The pointed arched organ loft housing a Harrison and Harrison organ high in the west wall with a stone balustrade pierced by 7 trefoils with a carved stone angel to either side. The main nuns' entrance to chapel from the monastic ranges, lies in the centre of the west wall containing heavy boarded wooden doors and strap hinges; this leads into a vestibule containing a stone piscina with double boarded doors leading to the exterior and a spiral staircase in the thickness of the wall giving access to an organ loft above.

HISTORY: The Order of Poor Clare Sisters, a Franciscan contemplative, enclosed order arrived back in England in 1795 to escape the persecution of the French Revolution; after temporary stays they settled at Scorton, North Yorkshire until 1850 when a site for a new monastery was sought. Twenty acres of land was purchased at a cost of £2000 from the adjacent Carmelite community in Darlington and the order remained in Darlington from 1856 until 2007 when their dwindling numbers forced their move south to join a sister community in Herefordshire. The daily life of the Poor Clares is occupied with both work and prayer and is a life of penance and contemplation, according to the rule of St Francis's collaborator, St Clare of Assisi, in 1253.

The monastery was constructed for the Sisters between 1856 and 1857 to designs by Joseph Aloysius Hansom, a leading Catholic architect of the time, under supervision of the Clerk of Works James Frith. Not only was Hansom the designer, he took a personal interest in the foundation from the earliest time, advising the abbess on the choice of site and monitoring the work regularly. At times he contributed financially and his daughter Winny was pupil at the convent. The sisters have been careful to preserve a full set of records regarding the construction and subsequent use of the abbey and they also hold original plans, photographs and financial accounts. Most important is a two-volume diary of James Frith in which all aspects of the building works are revealed from the period 7th April 1856 to 14th November 1857. A chapel for the Sisters was an integral part of the monastery and from this diary we know that a Mr Maycock of Clifton made the stained glass for its east window and it is likely that the designer was Hansom himself. The reredos panels were made by `Mr Farmer' of London and all were finally installed in 1860. This is likely to be William Farmer (later Farmer & Brindley) architectural sculptors and ornamentalists who contributed to some of the greatest structures of the Victorian era including the exterior of the Natural history Museum. Again, it is considered that Hansom himself was the designer of the stonework.

In 1987 the chapel interior was re-ordered with little disruption to original features. The only features removed were the stone dado with tracery windows filled with grills from the inner arches of the choir screen which separated the Sanctuary from the Choir, the ceiling was re-painted and an extra step was added to the sanctuary which was also extended forwards slightly.

SOURCES: Boase, C G `Hansom, Joseph Aloysius (1803-1882), rev. Denis Evinson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12225, accessed 7 May 2009]
Evinson, D `Hansom, Charles Francis (1817-1888), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/48460, accessed 7 May 2009]
Harris, P `St Clare's Abbey, Carmel Road, Darlington, Co Durham' unpublished research (2009).
Martin, C A Glimpse of Heaven: Catholic Churches of England and Wales (2006)
Michael, Sr M `History of the Poor Clare Monastery, Darlington' in Northern Catholic History 42 (2001).
O'Donnell, Dr R, English Heritage, pers. comm. (2009)
O'Hara, Edwin. "Poor Clares." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 21 May 2009 .
Pevsner, N The Buildings of England: Co Durham 2nd ed (1983)
Pugin, A W (with an introduction by Roderick O'Donnell), A Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts, their Antiquity, Use and Symbolic Significance 2nd edition 2005.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: This mid C19 conventual chapel by Joseph Aloysius Hansom with his brother Charles Hansom is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* designed by Joseph Hansom: one of the leading Catholic architects of the C19th and an independent-minded follower of A. W. N Pugin and the Gothic ideal

* it represents a high quality and little altered example of Catholic church design which retains significant elements of exceptional quality

* the quality and detailing of the carved stone reredos, alter and choir screen is exceptional in the national context

* the very rare survival of a high quality choir screen or jubé

* for its place in the Catholic Revival in mid Victorian England

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

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