The History of St Giles
The history of St. Giles' begins with the establishment of a Catholic mission in Cheadle by Fr. William Wareing, a future bishop of Northampton. He was an assistant to Fr. Thomas Baddeley at Cresswell, and in the early 1820s he opened a small chapel in a private house in Charles Street, Cheadle. Among those who attended Mass there was Charles, Earl of Shrewsbury, on occasions when he was staying at Alton Abbey without his chaplain. As Fr. Wareings efforts bore fruit, the room became inadequate for the growing numbers, and Lord Shrewsbury asked him to look for larger premises. Eventually he obtained, on the Earls' behalf, a building about sixty feet in length which had been built as an armory for the local militia during the Napoleonic Wars, and the adjoining adjutant's house. This was converted into the new chapel, and the first resident priest was Fr. James Jeffries, appointed in 1827. In the same year the fifteenth Earl of Shrewsbury died and was succeeded by his nephew, John Talbot, as the sixteenth Earl.
Earl John made Alton Abbey into his principal residence and renamed it Alton Towers.
He was zealous in promoting the Catholic cause following the 1829 Emancipation Act, and it was he who first bought Pugin to North Staffordshire in the autumn of 1837, initially as an architect and interior designer at the Towers. Convinced that Pugin was the greatest acquisition the Church had made for a long time the Earl soon resolved that he would make financial contributions only to Churches designed by Pugin and built under his supervision. As the earl's architect, Pugin paid frequent, and sometimes lengthy visits, to Alton Towers - a convenient base from which to supervise progress on his various buildings in the Midlands.
St. Giles' was vastly different in concept and design from the mean-looking chapels - such as the converted armory in Cheadle - in which Catholics were accustomed to worship under the Toleration Act; different too from the fashionable city chapels such as the one in Warwick Street where the Talbot family worshipped when in London. Both kinds were, according to Pugin, unfit for their purpose.
At St. Giles Pugin was able to further develop ideas from the recently completed St. Mary's church in Uttoxeter through the assistance of generous funding promised by Lord Shrewsbury.
The site for St. Giles' was marked out, by Pugin, in 1841, and the church was aligned in such a way to obtain the best possible effect from the street. This meant modifying the traditional east-west alignment and placing the west end close to the frontage of Bank Street to allow the full height of the tower and spire to be seen from the junction of Cross Street and High Street where the remains of the medieval market cross stand.