From the outside the church initially presents itself as a confident 19th century rebuild of a medieval foundation. This is the outcome of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s restoration of the 1860’s.
The Grade II building on Barrack Road is the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Northampton. When the first small chapel was built on this site in 1825, it was out in the fields and orchards well north of the town, and was partly intended to serve the Catholics among the soldiery based here and at Weedon.
The site was part of lands formerly owned by St Andrew’s Priory, a short distance south, from where St Thomas Becket famously escaped during his trial by Henry II in 1164. Thus, the first small Catholic chapel, using stones from the long demolished priory, was also called St Andrew’s. It is still partially visible, having been attached to the later building as the Sacristy, between the Cathedral and the 1825 presbytery.
The present Cathedral is the result of several further stages of building. In 1844-45 a proper Cathedral nave, named for the East Anglian Saint Felix, was built by AW Pugin, principal architect of the Gothic Revival in Victorian churches. In 1864 Pugin’s son Edward designed the larger western extension, with an apsidal end where the sanctuary was unusually placed for many years.
In 1959 the older Pugin nave was demolished and the present eastern end, transepts, squat tower and elevated sanctuary were built in Stamford brick to the design of A Herbert. Further interior modifications were made in the mid 1970s and in 1998, including the impressive triptych by Stephen Foster.
It is not the largest of cathedrals, even among the Catholic ones, but has a solid dignity and a clean, light interior.
Other highlights of the interior are 19th century stained glass depicting several local saints, including Crispin, patron of shoemakers; a modern stained glass window by J Nuttgens in the Blessed Sacrament chapel; a brass memorial plaque to the late Victorian Bishop Amherst; original pews, and an original altar in the sacristy. The frontage onto Barrack Road features an attractive stone grotto. The presbytery has a lovely secluded garden behind it, with many mature trees, much used for hospitality.