History of the Parish - Architect

Architect and Building

"The stone capped portals bear the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, a reminder of Easter, baptism and the time to bid farewell"AUSTIN WINKLEY was born near Blackburn in Lancashire. He trained at the Architectural Association School in London, later gaining experience in Britain and America. The first building he designed was a clinic for a Mexican slum. Involved in church architecture for many years, he was a member of the Laity Commission and later the Liturgy Commission of the Bishops' Conference. He has worked on more than 50 churches and written numerous articles about church architecture. New churches he has designed include St Margaret's, Twickenham; Sacred Heart, Coventry, and St Elphege's, Wallington. He is married with two daughters, and the whole family is involved in liturgy. His wife, he says, 'is the best liturgist I know'. He is also Chairman of the Catholic Housing Aid Society.

 

In the mid-1960s some architects in the New Churches Research Group debated the concept of the house church, a meeting place inspired by the early Christians. During construction of this new church, the contractor's foreman was approached several times by people wishing to purchase the building as a house. This symbolism which we aimed to express was evidently communicated to some of the passers-by, so we hope that other signs and symbols used will be recognised and understood by parishioners, visitors and local people. It was a mixed blessing that the initial budget for the building, excluding landscaping, furnishing and fees, was £80,000 - because that was about the price of a single house. This immediately put the project in accord with paragraph 124 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which urged our bishops to favour 'noble simplicity rather than sumptuous display'. In recent times the Church has made clear her preferential option for the poor, so the design and development of this church reflect this, while not preventing it from being a worthy place for the celebration of the liturgy.

 

"It is not necessary to stoop on passing the low eaves, their economy strengthens the sense of intimacy within"The new church lies behind the priests' house, and is approached by pedestrians and vehicles across the site of the old 1927 building, which just survived to see the new one opened. A paved courtyard between the house and church provides a space for gathering, and the entrances are designed with the handicapped, the about-to-be-wed and the bereaved in mind. The stone capped portals bear the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, a reminder of Easter, baptism and the time to bid farewell. The church is like a tent, reflecting the biblical images so richly stated in Exodus and Hebrews. While it is not necessary to stoop on passing the low eaves, their economy strengthens the sense of intimacy within. Externally, the roof climbs to a shining steel cross designed by Paul Kreszinski, a young sculptor who has expressed the suffering of Christ with remarkable skill.

Passing by either door into the porch, the large coir mat offers welcome underfoot and protection for a green carpet beyond which covers the site concrete to hush shuffling feet and offer a friendly texture to the children who spend time close to it. In contrast to the solid doors, there is a lot of small framed glass around the entrance, offering openness and a view into the main room. There are only a few wall windows within, but they each have a different message.

 

The interior rises through a trellis of blue stained roof timbers and white stained ceiling to high windows filtering daylight from the shadowy perimeter to the brighter sanctuary. We may recall the observation of St Thomas More that 'too much light deadens the spirit', and recognise that this is a place of private prayer as well as a place of liturgical celebration.

 

Passing through the corner narthex, the visitor will encounter an unfamiliar interior arrangement. The centre aisle crosses the rectangular room diagonally towards the altar, which is set on the cross. This aspect of the geoemetry also shows in the orchard pattern of the hanging lights and the placing of the lectern, font and crucifix. It is done partly to moderate the formality, but also to provide for grouping worshippers around the Sanctuary, where they can see one another and are reminded of Christ's assurance that when two or more gather in his name, there he is in their midst. The celebrant sits on a dais back to the wall, unobstructed by furnishing and clearly fulfilling the ministerial role as president of the assembly, another mode of Christ's presence. Lightly concealed axes in the planning run along and across the church, leading and resting the eye at significant foci. A floor fixed crucifix, by sculptor David John, stands before a structural column in line with the lectern and altar, while on the other axis the seated celebrant looks across the altar towards a stained glass window of Christ revealed to the disciples at Emmaus, one of four superb pieces of stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens. To the left of the sanctuary is the Place of Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, located in accordance with post-Conciliar rules aside from the liturgical area. Narrow vertical stained glass lights flank the tabernacle.

 

Shining steel cross designed by Paul KreszinskiBeyond the sanctuary a small Reconciliation Room provides for penitents the option for traditional screened or more open confession. Here the stained glass window movingly depicts Peter's denial of Christ and provides subdued daylight in a calmly lit and furnished place. The font stands close to the sanctuary in its own ground, and Stations of the Cross are mounted above the overflow wall bench seating. In the north east comer is a shrine devoted to the Holy Family, again from the hand of David John. Linked chairs are the general seating, and these can be arranged in straight lines or curved groups, as needed. The organ and choir are at present located close to the sacristy in the south west corner of the church. Several other positions for those leading the congregational singing can be adopted as the occasion requires. Visual aids and ephemeral art can be suspended from the roof or on walls, and a special light can illuminate any particular work mounted on the tall wall of the Reconciliation Room. A joint priests' and servers' sacristy has access both to the main church room and the narthex, ensuring the priest and people have ready access to one another. A simple gas fired boiler provides heat to perimeter radiators. Artificial lighting is by a combination of roof mounted spot lights and hanging crown silvered lamps which prevent glare and also pick up the glitter of silver foil exposed in gaps between the ceiling boards which strengthen the acoustics. Landscape architects - Martin and Helen Vohard.

 

 

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