Church of the Month

Categories: Church of the Month

St Alban's church, Retford

Photograph courtesy of Geoff Buxton

The featured church for August 2018 is the former church of St Alban in Retford. Although the church was only a short distance from the town centre it was actually in Ordsall parish and built as a chapel-of-ease to Ordsall All Hallows.

By the closing years of the 19th century this part of the town was growing rapidly and in 1899 a public meeting was organised in order ‘to further a scheme of church extension for South Retford.’ A site had been acquired by a syndicate of local dignitaries and the Durham architect, Charles Hodgson Fowler, was engaged to prepare plans for the building.

Unfortunately insufficient funds were available for building the church in its entirety so the chancel, choir, south transept and a temporary west front of galvanised iron sheets were erected in 1902-3. More fundraising allowed a resumption of building in 1912-13 and three bays of the nave were added. It took 18 years for the building to be completed by the construction of the remaining two bays of the nave and the west front.

The church consists of nave, north and south aisles, chancel, north transept, Lady Chapel on the liturgical south, a north-east vestry and toilet.

The nave is of five bays with the main entrance to the church in the west wall. There is a tall clerestorey.

The nave arcades have quatrefoil piers with moulded Perpendicular capitals; the arches are tall, pointed and double-chamfered. The roof was arch-braced with a collar.

The two-bay chancel has an organ loft on the north and an open arcade also of two bays to the Lady Chapel on the south. It had a wagon roof.

A distinctive feature of the church is the spirelet on the north transept. It was part of the first phase of building but it is unclear whether it formed part of Fowler’s plans as it does not appear on his initial drawings.

Reredos (before the 2008 fire)

Hodgson Fowler also designed the wooden reredos and altar. The reredos was carved from Austrian oak and contained figures of Christ, several saints and the Apostles.

The east window of the chancel was made by C. E. Kempe of London and showed St Hugh (of Lincoln), The Virgin Mary, Christ Enthroned, St Gabriel, St George, St Etheldreda, St Peter, St Michael, St Stephen and St Cecilia. The window was dedicated on 5 November 1905.

The congregation had dwindled in numbers by the late 1990s and the decision was made to deconsecrate the nave and use the chancel for services. The church took on new life as a local community arts centre, but it closed in 2003.

In 2008 the building was severely damaged by fire and is now a burnt-out shell.