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Autumn at St Mary’s Church

Autumn leaves are beautiful! God’s blessings are breath-taking! In the shadow of Bramall Lane.

It has seen joy, laughter, sadness, and tears. Life and death. And has witnessed murder more than once. There were those who tried to set it on fire, and German bombs virtually blew off its roof.

St Mary’s Church is one of three churches built in Sheffield under the Church Building Act 1818 (the other two being St George’s Church, Portobello and St Philip’s Church, Netherthorpe), and the only one still to be used as a church.

Built between 1826-1830 by Joseph Potter of Lichfield with the foundation stone laid by the Countess of Surrey. The construction was supervised by Robert Potter, his son, who resided in Sheffield during progress, and afterwards practised here as an architect for the rest of his days. It was consecrated on 21 July 1830 by the Archbishop of York.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

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Buildings People

A church in Madrid with Sheffield connections

St George’s Anglican Church in Madrid. Built in 1926

It might be out of the question now, but if you get chance to visit Spain’s capital city there is a Sheffield connection.

The answer lies in a tablet over the south door of St George’s Anglican Church, on the corner of Calle Núñez de Balboa and Calle Hermosilla in the barrio Salamanca district of Madrid.

It reads:

“To the memory of William Edgar Allen. Born March 30th, 1837. Died January 28th, 1915. By whose generosity, this church was completed A.D. 1925.”

William Edgar Allen is a familiar name in Sheffield history. In 1868, he founded the firm of Edgar Allen and Co, Imperial Steel Works, at Tinsley. Taking advantage of his knowledge of continental firms, he soon obtained extensive orders for foreign arsenals, dockyards, and railway companies.

Besides other donations, Allen gave, in 1909, the Edgar Allen Library to the University of Sheffield, contributed £10,000 to Sheffield hospitals, and founded, in 1911, the Edgar Allen Institute (in Gell Street) for Medico-Mechanical treatment, the first institution of its kind in this country. It proved especially beneficial during the First World War; a great number of soldiers having recovered the use of their limbs through the effectiveness of the treatment.

In 1913, Edgar Allen, staying in Madrid, asked Edward Mitchel Gibbs, the famous Sheffield architect at Gibbs, Flockton and Teather, to visit the Spanish city and draw up plans for a Protestant Church.

The church, in Early English-style was to have seated 150 people, funded entirely by Edgar Allen. Unfortunately, the estimates for the building amounted to £10,300, a larger amount than Edgar Allen had anticipated, and the plan was abandoned.

However, at the suggestion of the architect, Edgar Allen, who was in failing health, bequeathed a legacy of £6,000 for a new church to be built.

Edgar Allen died at Whirlow House two years later, and his bequest was put towards the building of St George’s Church, the church of the British embassy, completed in 1925.

Spain was a Roman Catholic country, and rules as to the building of churches other than those of the Roman Catholic communion, were strict. Because St George’s was built on the premises of the British Legation, such restrictions did not apply.

“The workmanship and material of the church throughout were the best, and everything was in excellent taste.”

St George’s was designed by the Spanish architect Teodoro de Anasagasti, who blended elements of the Spanish Romanesque style (cruciform plan, semi-circular apse, bell tower, tiled roof) and the characteristic brick-and-stone construction of the uniquely Spanish “Mudéjar” tradition with specifically Anglican forms.

The chaplain of the church was the Rev. Francis Symes-Thompson, who received a grant of £250 per annum from the Foreign Office.

St George’s Madrid

William Edgar Allen (1837-1915), Founder of the Edgar Allen Institute. (Image: Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust/ArtUK)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.