The St. Giles Catholic Church is a Grade I listed building, 1 of only 11 Grade 1 listed buildings within the Staffordshire Moorlands area and the only one in Cheadle. It was designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and commissioned by John Talbot (16th Earl of Shrewsbury) and opened on 31 August 1846.
The church is known as "Pugin's Gem" and took 5 years to complete from start to finish. During the build money was no object to the Earl of Shewsbury who resided at Alton Towers, which was then known as Alton Abbey. The original estimate of £5,000 had increased dramatically to a figure of some £40,000 by the time of its completion in 1846. .
Pugin believed that, after stained glass, encaustic tiles were amongst the most important forms of decorative art. By the winter of 1843 Pugin was able to tell Earl Shrewsbury that the tiles for Cheadle were proceeding well and that they would have "the finest floor in Europe".
The tiles for the chancel and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament were both rich and expensive. Earl Shrewsbury was concerned that they would be damaged by being constantly walked upon, so he suggested putting down carpets, which in Pugin's view defeated the object of having patterned tiles in the first place. The clerk-of-works, John Denny proposed a solution: the priest and his assistants would be required to wear special overshoes made of cloth. Earl Shrewsbury warmed to the idea, and told Pugin: "You may have your tiles and we shall want no carpet"
The date for the consecration of St. Giles was fixed originally for September 1845 but with the various alterations this proved to be optimistic. Pugin noted that the spire was topped on 27th June 1845, but the bells did not arrive until January 1846. The inscriptions on them, in Gothic lettering, include invocations of Our Lady, St. Giles', St. Chad and St. Francis.
The consecration of the church was postponed for twelve months, but by March 1846 Pugin could not guarantee even that, unless Earl Shrewsbury would allow him to keep a full work-force including joiners and painters. Of particular concern were the great crucifix and carved figures for the Rood, which were being made by George Myers at Lambeth.
The loss of the sculptor Thomas Roddis, who died in October 1845, was another sad blow, for although Roddis had completed his works at St. Giles' by this time, his contribution to the building was substantial and of superb quality.
To this day the 200 foot steeple of this magnificent church dominates the town and is visible from miles around, St Giles is of unique importance in the history of the Gothic and Catholic Revival. St Giles was a seventh-century French abbot and is often pictured with a doe, an allusion to the story that he once rescued a doe which was being persued by hunters.
The Church itself was opened and consecrated on the 31st August 1846. The very next day the First Solemn Mass was celebrated amid great pomp and splendour. Historical records tell us that eight carriages bearing the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury and their guests left Alton Towers(when it was a stately home) for the drive to Cheadle. Among the guests were eight Deacons, 53 Priests, 13 Bishops and two Archbishops.
Unfortunately, the 16th Earl died before the Church could be endowed and his heir, the 17th Earl died only four years later. The 18th Earl was not a Roman Catholic and so the upkeep and maintenance of the Church has since fallen upon the parishioners and townspeople of Cheadle.
As with the exterior of the Church the interior is absolutely magnificent and highly worth a visit, even if you only have a short stay in Cheadle ensure that the St. Giles Catholic Church is top priority on your to do list.
The Church is open every day from 8.00 till around 3pm. On Saturdays, we do not close till after Evening Mass, which finishes at 6.15pm. You are welcome at any time, though please do not wander around during the liturgy and other times of public prayer.