St Maries Roman Catholic Church,Rugby,Warwickshire

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Church History

The church was built by its bebefactor Captain John Hubert Washington Hibbert to provide local Catholics with a permanent church. Previously they had had to travel nine miles to finda church or alternatively meet in local houses.

Captain Hibbert, though not himself a Catholic, arranged for a priest, Father John Nickolds, to be permanently at the little chapel at the Hibbert's home, Bilton Grange, about two miles from the centre of Rugby. All local Catholics were invited to attend Mass there.
Captain Hibbert's generosity provided an answer. He bought land in Dunchurch Road, including the site of the Royal Oak Inn which stood where the church now stands. (The Inn was rebuilt on the opposite side of Dunchurch Road.) He commissioned August Welby Pugin, a brilliant but eccentric architect of the Gothic Revival, famous for his designs for the interior of the Houses of Parliament, to design a church.

The first tower, nave and chancel now form part of the modern church and the original glass can be seen in the east window of what is now the Hibbert chapel. Another surviving feature of the original church is the reredos beneath this east window together with the two angels.

The continued growth of the congregation led the building of the desired extension to St.Maries. Funds came from the friends of the Institute but mainly from Captain Hibbert. The plans were drawn by Pugin's son, Edward Welby Pugin, who preserved and extended his father's original design. The new nave was joined to the existing church: the original cancel became the Hibbert chapel and the original nave became the south aisle. The new church was opened on the 21st June 1864.

In 1866, the Hibbert family left Rugby and sold Bilton Grange. Captain Hibbert was in poor health and needed specialist treatment only easily available in London. He planned one final gift to the congregation of St.Maries - a tower and spire, designed in the Gothic style by Bernard Whelan. Still the highest spite in the county at nearly 200 feet, it was completed in 1872. Eight bells, cast in the Whitechapel foundry and also the gift of Captain Hibbert, are still rung, not by ropes but as a carillon with levers operating hammers to strike the bells
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