St Mary, Great Yarmouth

St Mary’s is a peaceful haven, nestled amongst the busy seaside shops selling the usual buckets and spades, just off Yarmouth’s famous Golden Mile. It was built between 1847 and 1850 and was designed by the architect, Joseph John Scoles.

Born in 1798, Scoles was the son of a joiner and in 1812 became the apprentice of his relative and architect, Joseph Ireland. Ireland was the architect of several Catholic Churches in the Midlands and is attributed to the Flag Tower at Alton Towers. After his apprenticeship, Scoles travelled abroad carrying out archaeological and architectural studies before returning home in 1826 to resume his architectural work. From there he went onto to build many Roman Catholic buildings, including the sumptuous Farm Street Church in Mayfair, London and two Anglican churches in Yarmouth. He was also responsible for an ill-fated suspension bridge which once crossed the nearby River Bure. Unfortunately, due to defects during construction, the bridge collapsed resulting in many fatalities.

Then first thing I noticed on entering St Mary’s is the splendour of its painted ceilings. In the nave, the patterns are painted on a background of cream, turning to a rich crimson and blue in the Sacred Heart and Lady Chapels. The patterns are divided up into rectangular panels, each corner of which boasts one of over 800 bosses.

In the Lady chapel is a mural by Archibald Jarvis. It was commissioned in the 1920s by Father Thompson, when the Shrine of Our Lady of Yarmouth was installed at St Mary’s. The painting depicts Our Lady with the child Jesus along with the benefactors of the shrine and priests who were once imprisoned, due to their faith, in the local Toll House. Here you will also find a beautiful Annunciation window, which is thought to be by Hardman & Co.

St Mary’s has an interesting pulpit, the design of which is attributed to Augustus Pugin and its execution in stone by Myers. It features two angels with gilt wings that stand in the niches at each corner. The angels are dressed in white robes and holding blank scrolls which are likely to have once borne an inscription. 

In the nave there are several windows by Mayer & Co depicting the saints St Aloysius & St Theresa, St Joseph & St Francis Jerome and St Thomas A Becket & St Clement. There is also a much more modern window that depicts Mary appearing to St Bernadette at Lourdes. 

1. Head of St Augustine
2. St Mary's, Gt Yarmouth
3. Head of St Edmund
4. St Mary's, Gt Yarmouth
5. Nave ceiling
6. Font detail
7. St Mary's, Gt Yarmouth
8. Decorative gates to Lady Chapel
9. St Aloysius & St Theresa by Mayer
10. Pugin pulpit
11.St Joseph & St Francis Jerome
12. Painting by Archibald Jarvis
13. Annunciation window by Hardman
14. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
15. Ceiling of Lady Chapel
16. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
17. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
18. Stonework detail
19. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
20. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
21. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
22. The Sanctuary
23. The Sanctuary
24. Ceiling of Sacred Heart Chapel
25. Pugin pulpit detail
26. St Mary's, Great Yarmouth
27. St Thomas A Becket & St Clement
28. Mary appearing to St Bernadette
29. Lady Chapel detail