Our Lady Help of Christians and St Denis

In 1864 the Bishop of Plymouth invited the Dominican Nuns to open an orphanage in the Torquay area, Southampton Villa in St Marychurch was purchased to serve as a temporary convent called St Mary’s Priory.

Mr Potts Chatto, whose residence was The Daison, proposed that if his son Denis survived the grave illness that he was suffering, he would help build a church in the grounds.  The church was completed in 1869 much of the cost being paid for by Mr Potts Chatto.

The designer of the church was Joseph Hansom who also designed the chapel at Arundel for the Duke of Norfolk.  The church has a beautiful interior, with a long white nave of some 133 feet, the roof is lofty and all the pillars are different.  The chancel, Lady Chapel, crypt and baptistery, early English style triforium on south side only, nun’s choir and open timber screen are all rather special.  The font is Petitor marble.  The organ and Lady Chapel was paid for by Mrs Potts Chatto and it is said that the large crucifix was carved by Potts Chatto himself, the timber from Notre Dame.

A convent was built on adjoining land and opened in 1871 containing a day school and elementary school for nearly 200 children, later this became an orphanage for girls and then Margaret Clitheroe House, a residential home.  Unfortunately now closed and awaiting development.

William Potts Chatto is buried in the crypt by the Lady Chapel.