The Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Dominic at Stone
Our parish has a wonderful Catholic history. Our bit of the Lord’s vineyard is associated with St Chad (patron of our diocese), the Augustinians of Stone Priory, Dominic Barberi CP, Mother Margaret Hallahan and Bishop Ullathorne, first Bishop of Birmingham.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception and St Dominic was commissioned by Mother Margaret Hallahan, concurrently with her establishing St Dominic’s Convent. The whole was designed as a ‘book of the poor’, depicting the principle truths of faith and also some of the history of the Dominican order. The foundation stone was laid in 1853. The Church was completed and consecrated in 1863. It was to replace the very small Pugin Church which had been founded by Blessed Dominic Barberi in 1842. This is to be found in the grounds of the Convent.
The Church was designed by Charles Hansom, apart from the Sanctuary, which is the work of Gilbert Blount. The exterior is Victorian Gothic. The interior has undergone several orderings, the latest occurring in 2000.
1. The Narthex
This fine Oak construction incorporating Organ loft, Confessional and Piety Stall is the latest structural development in the Church completed in 2002. Above the Piety stall is a large painted wood statue of St. Patrick. It was carved by Meyer of Munich. The window is in memory of the three young sons of Canon Northcote (a convert Anglican whose daughter became a Sister) all of whom died in childhood. In it are represented the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael.
2. The Font
This is in front of you as you enter the Church. On it are depicted Bible scenes relating to Baptism – Noah’s Ark, Moses striking the rock in the desert, the Baptism of the Lord, Our Lord walking on the water, and water gushing from the side of Christ on the Cross.
3. The Stations of the Cross
These run around the Church and were acquired and restored for the Church by Fr. Gerard Doyle in 2000. The original Stations were lost in a fire whilst being restored.
4. Windows on the right of the nave
St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Aloysius, St James, St Catherine, St Winifred, St Philip Neri, St Thomas Aquinas, St William, St Anne, St Agnes of Montepulciano, St Vincent Ferrer, and finally a whole window devoted to the life and death of St Winifred.
5. The Rosary Altar
This is to the left of the Sanctuary. The frontal depicts the Annunciation; above, the reredos shows the faithful at prayer on the left, the faithful in Purgatory on the right, being drawn out by prayer, symbolically represented by angels fishing with Rosaries. The central group is of Our Lady with the infant Jesus crowning St Catherine, while St Dominic receives the Rosary.
6. St Winifred’s Altar
This is to the right of the Sanctuary. This has various scenes from the life of St Winifred, and the Martyrs of Stone, Saints Wulfad and Rufin. The repainting of the frescoes around these side altars was completed in 2002.
7. The High Altar and Sanctuary
An altar more in sympathy with the High Altar has been installed. Behind it, the platform for the presiding priest’s chair is a new addition to the Church. On the High Altar the small, circular panels portray scenes connected with the Blessed Sacrament. From left to right these are: Abraham sacrificing Isaac; the offering of bread and wine by Melchizadech; and the feeding of Elias in the desert.
The large panels above the altar are of the Assumption of Our Lady (with St Thomas Aquinas, St Dominic, St Pius V and St Hyacinth) and The death of St Dominic. The statues to the left and right are the two Patronesses of the Dominican order – St Mary Magdalen, patroness of preaching and penance, and St Catherine of Alexandria, patroness of theology and philosophy.
To the left and right of the Sanctuary area are the patronal saints – St Dominic on the right, and Our Blessed Lady, The Immaculate Conception on the Left. The latter is of interest because it predates the apparitions at Lourdes and therefore is uninfluenced by the (now) more conventional representations of this subject.
8. The East Window
Lights from left to right: St Catherine receiving the stigmata, St Mary Magdalen with the angel of the Resurrection. The Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, St John the Baptist and St Dominic seeing a vision of Ss Peter and Paul.
9. Holy Family Chapel
In the right transept is the altar of St Joseph, which has the Holy Family with Angels on the Frontal. The reredos panels portray the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple, The espousal of Our Lady and St Joseph, and the Young Jesus in the workshop with St Joseph. The windows above show the child Jesus in Symbolic occupations – working with a wooden crossbeam, tending sheep, tending a vine, and harvesting grapes – above which are St Joachim and St Anne (Jesus’ grandparents) and Our Lady and St Joseph.
10. The tomb of Archbishop Ullathorne
On the left of Holy Family chapel. In fact Ullathorne’s body lies a little in front of the tomb, which was constructed before his death, as it was found to be over a watercourse when the bishop had need of it. Over the tomb is a representation of St Dominic in dispute with the Albigensians, and the miracle of the book. This was originally commissioned for the high Altar, but the subject was eventually deemed unsuitable to such a location.
11. The ceiling of the Church
This was repainted in 2000 by Denis Dowling.