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St Matthew



Built in 1873 to the designs of J.C.Neale but the south aisle was not built until 1887, which is a little surprising as in my opinion this always seemed older and plainer than the rest of the church and I had believed this had been the original church building on the site. The tower was never completed, yet has been completed by a picturesque timbered belfry stage with gable ends to the east and west.

The north front faces the busy A420 Church Road. Here is the main entrance and a row of plate traceried aisle windows, and paired spheical triangle windows for the clerestory. The apse is a little lower and has a north transeptal vestry. The west front in Cowper Street has a large five-light plate-traceried window above a portal. The south aisle has stepped west lancets.

The interior is notably wide but more conventional than other churches Mr Neale designed in the city (St Gabriel and St Andrew-the-Less). There are some signs of his playfulness in the chancel arch and tracery of the north aisle. The clerestory has internal two-bayed wall-arcading with central detached shaft. The above picture taken from a postcard shows the pre world-war two interior. When first built the apse had beautiful stencilling around the windows, a biblical text above them running around the apse, and below the windows panels with the decalogue, creed and Lord's prayer among stylised floral trails, sadly whitened over when tastes changed. After the war the altar was redesigned and even the contrasting stone banding below and around the windows were painted giving the sanctuary a blandness never originally intended.

Since the war the area has seen many churches close around it. St Lawrence, Christ Church Barton Hill, even St George and St Mark Easton out of whose parishes that of St Matthew was created. The large Russell Town Congregational Church has been demolished and Redfield Methodist church is now a Hindu Temple. On February 1st 1998 the church held its last service and closed. The church also founded two missions, St Chad and St Saviour both closed during or shortly after the second world war.

In January 2000 the church made the news as the venue for a New Year's Eve "rave", the font used as a wine cooler apparently. Shortly afterwards the lower church windows were boarded up, as the church continues in the "waiting period." A plan (August 2000) has been posted on the door for it to be converted into seven flats and offices. At least this will mean that the streetscape value of the church will remain but the interior will be lost forever and who knows what colour the apse will be painted next.

POSTSCIPT May 2003. The conversion is finished and from outside the church looks pretty much the same at a quick glance apart from lower square windows inserted below the apse windows, and the net curtains, window-boxes etc. Now known as Stockwood Chambers, it has a "Blue Plaque" commemorating the incumbency here of Dr Mervyn Stockwood.

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page updated 18th May 2003