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The Roman Catholic Church of St David

A Grade II* Listed Building in Whitford, Flintshire

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Latitude: 53.2742 / 53°16'27"N

Longitude: -3.26 / 3°15'36"W

OS Eastings: 316071

OS Northings: 375991

OS Grid: SJ160759

Mapcode National: GBR 5ZPK.0Z

Mapcode Global: WH76J.WYSS

Plus Code: 9C5R7PFQ+MX

Entry Name: The Roman Catholic Church of St David

Listing Date: 25 May 2001

Last Amended: 25 May 2001

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 25240

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: Adjoining the R side of Pantasaph Friary and in the grounds.

County: Flintshire

Town: Holywell

Community: Whitford (Chwitffordd)

Community: Whitford

Locality: Pantasaph

Traditional County: Flintshire

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In 1846, Viscount Fielding (later the 8th Earl of Denbigh) married Louisa Pennant, heiress of Downing Hall. Both High-Church Protestants, they decided to have a church built in honour of their marriage. St David's church, designed by the architect T H Wyatt, was started in 1849, the foundation stone laid by Lady Fielding. However, one year later, before the church was finished, the donors converted to Catholicism. A legal argument ensued and the courts agreed that the church should become Catholic. Money raised by public subscription throughout England and Wales was used to build 2 parish churches in lieu, at Brynford and Gorsedd. St David's was completed and Pugin was brought in to provide a Catholic finish to the fittings and furnishings. His work included the altar, Lady Chapel, font, pulpit and rood screen. St David's was opened in 1852, and in the same year, the Friary was established with Franciscan Friars of the Capuchin Reform. Underneath the altar in the Lady Chapel is a reliquary containing the remains of St Primitivus, a Roman martyr. These were donated by Pope Pius IX when he heard of the donors' conversion. Some alterations have occurred to Pugin's interior, including those by A E Purdie c1893. The altar has been moved and altered; the rood screen has been dismantled and the pulpit replaced, but the church retains a fine assemblage of High Gothic fittings.


Nave, chancel, S aisle, S porch, tower and spire in angle of aisle and chancel. Constructed of snecked stone under slate roofs with sandstone dressings, the windows with Geometrical bar tracery. Detail includes angle buttresses, a plinth, dentilled stone eaves cornice, raised copings and ornate cross finials. Sill band, except to the N side. The gabled S aisle is lower and narrower than the nave. It has a gabled porch offset to the L. Pointed-arched doorway with roll mouldings and ball flower ornament supported on attached shafts with foliage capitals. Dog-tooth enrichment to jambs; planked door with strap hinges. Small trefoiled light to E side of porch. Most of the windows are pointed-arched with 2 cusped lights and a trefoil or irregular foiled light above, the hoodmoulds with head end bosses depicting a man and woman. There is one window L of the porch, and 3 to the R, separated by angle buttresses.

Three-stage tower surmounted by a stepped pyramidal spire, with a polygonal stair turret to the SE angle. Angle buttresses as elsewhere. The lower stage, inside which is a small chapel, has a 2-light window to the S side, as aisle. String course to the short 2nd stage which has a trefoiled lancet to the S side and a pair of similar lancets to the E. The 3rd stage of the tower is narrower with offsets and has an ornate eaves cornice with a band of blind trefoils. Louvre openings to each face with 2 cusped lancets rising from a central colonnette with a quatrefoil above and a quatrefoil frieze to the sill. Each face of the spire has a lucarne. Small gabled porch on S side of stair turret with angle buttress rising from its apex, which contains a pointed-arched doorway with planked door. Small stairlights to S and SE sides. Ornate spire to stair turret including tall gablets over blind or narrow trefoiled openings with attached shafts.

The S side of the chancel is 3-bay, each bay separated by an ornate buttress with blind foiled motif under a gablet enriched with ball flower ornament. To the L is a pointed-arched entrance with several orders of mouldings and attached shafts. Underneath is a blocked doorway with Tudor-arched head. Above the entrance is a rose window. To the centre and R bays are pairs of tall cusped lancets with individual hoodmoulds with foliate end stops. Set-back buttresses to angles with gablets. A boundary wall runs E from the SE angle. Ornate 5-light E window with cusped lancets, with an irregular foiled motif under the arch head flanked by cinquefoils. The N side of the chancel has windows as S side, but the buttresses are plain and without gablets. The R bay has a shallow arched window opening.

The W end consists of the gable ends of the nave and S aisle with angle buttress between. Ornate W window with 4 trefoiled lights and a heavily cusped rose. Small quatrefoil in gable above. The aisle has a 2-light window as elsewhere. Four windows to N side of nave, with angle buttress between the pairs. Friary building adjoining at right angles to the far L.


Five-bay nave with cusped arch-braces on long wall posts which rest on large stone corbels bearing angels. Smaller alternating arch-braces, more heavily cusped, on foliated corbels at wall-plate level. Five-bay arcade to S aisle with double-chamfered pointed arches on clustered shafts, set diagonally, with ringed capitals and bases. High pointed chancel arch with several orders of chamfers and mouldings, the inner ones supported on short black marble shafts with foliated capitals and ringed bases. Doorway to N side of nave with similar mouldings and attached shafts, containing double wooden doors leading to friary buildings. Above, and lighting the corridor beyond, is a short shallow-arched window. Between and flanking the N nave windows are 7 arched stone recesses containing the stations of the cross in high relief. The remaining 7 stations are to the S aisle.

The chancel has a keel-vaulted roof, boarded and panelled with foliate bosses. A crucifix is suspended from the ceiling and was originally attached to the rood screen. The stone altar is in the centre of the chancel (having been moved from the rear). The table is supported on 4 marble columns with foliate capitals. Panels to rear bearing biblical scenes in relief. There are now choir stalls around the E end. Flanking the E window are marble statues of St David and St Asaph under canopies decorated with pinnacles and crockets. These are by Pugin. Heavily cusped rere arches to windows. Door to L of N side to confessional and aumbrey to far R.

The S aisle has a roof of closely-spaced scissor-braces. To the R side of the entrance is a stone piscina with trefoil-arched head. Shallow double-chamfered arch on short shafts to E, leading to the Lady Chapel which is under a vault beneath the spire. On the R of the archway is a statue of mother and child beneath a canopy with pinnacles. The marble altar table is on red marble columns with ringed capitals and bases. Beneath the table, behind glass, is a reliquary of wooden open-work with 3 sexfoils to the front, under a hipped rooflet with frieze to ridge. In the reliquary are the bones of the Roman martyr, labelled 'Corpus Sancti Primitivi M.' Decorative marble reredos, the central part covered by a banner and flanked by statues under highly ornate canopies.

Large octagonal stone font to W end of nave (by Pugin) supported on circular marble shafts around a central stem and on an octagonal base. Each face of the font bears the emblems of the Evangelists in relief, including winged beasts, angels and foliage. Wooden pews with plain moulded bench ends. Small C20 wooden pulpit to SE of nave, and pipe organ to SW in a fine wooden Gothic-style case, by Henry Poyser, Chester. On the S side of the organ is a fragment of the former baptistery screen.

In the N wall of the chancel is an effigy of Rudolph William Basil, 8th Earl of Denbigh (1823-92), erected by his 2nd wife, Mary. It was designed by Purdie and undertaken by Boulton & Sons. The effigy is under an ornate vaulted and ribbed canopy, the triangular head with crockets and pinnacles, the depressed arched opening with cusping and foliate bosses. Black marble shafts to reveals supporting statues of a man and woman. The front of the tomb has 5 bays divided by black and red alternating marble shafts, each with a trefoiled blind arch. That to the centre bears a coat of arms flanked by symbols in quatrefoils including birds, a cross and a tree. Further R is a sepulchre to Lord and Lady Fielding, consisting of 2 cusped blind arches containing brass tablets inside a frame with Tudor flower enrichment and a triangular head. To the R is a small brass tablet to their daughter, Hilda, who died at 1 year.

Fine stained glass to E window depicting the life of Christ including the Crucifixion. The N nave windows have stained glass bearing saints, by Hardman, 1852. That to the R is dedicated to Thomas and Elizabeth Kent. Stained glass to S aisle windows, mainly C20, that to the W by Harry Clarke 1931-4. Further stained glass in chancel. The church retains a fine collection of High Gothic fittings, including encaustic floor tiles and deeply-coloured stencilled wall coverings.

Reasons for Listing

Listed grade II* for its exceptional High Gothic interior and assemblage of fittings, which are an excellent expression of Roman Catholicism in the mid C19. Also listed for its historic interest and for group value with the friary.

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Other nearby listed buildings

  • II* Franciscan Friary
    Set back from the road in grounds and approached by driveways. The Church of St David adjoins to the R. A linking range to the L joins the friary with the guest house and includes the entrance to th
  • II Entrance piers and flanking walls at Pantasaph Friary
    Set back from the road and bounding an area of tarmac and gardens in front of the friary. The entrance is to the SW.
  • II* Guest House including linking range at Pantasaph Friary
    Set back from the road and approached by driveways. The linking range, which includes the main entrance, joins the guest house with the friary, which is to the R.
  • II Archway to the Way of the Cross at Pantasaph Friary
    Set back to the NW of the friary buildings, and forming the access to the Way of the Cross and The Grotto.
  • II Chapel of the Sepulchre, including walls flanking entrance
    Located to the N of Pantasaph Friary and reached by a path which zig-zags up the hill following the stations of the cross. Located close to the summit, in front of the Calvary, and built into the slo
  • II West Gate
    On the W edge of the grounds of Pantasaph Friary and facing S. The lane on its W side runs N to Carmel.
  • II Telephone Call-box
    At the roadside to the SE of the Fielding Arms Public House on the NW edge of Pantasaph.
  • II Limekiln
    In a prominent position fronting the road between Carmel and Gorsedd. On the S side of the road and at a junction with a lane running N.

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