Coventry - Holy Family

Parkgate Road, Holbrooks, Coventry CV6

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A large church built on a tapering cruciform plan shortly after the Second Vatican Council by the Dublin architects Peppard & Duffy. The side elevations appear to have been influenced by Coventry Cathedral. The church is a local landmark due to its size, bold inverted ‘V’ entrance and steel openwork spire.

The parish was established in 1951 and the site acquired with the help of Coventry Corporation. A temporary church was opened in 1953, designed by Roland J. Sidwell & Partners of Coventry. The same firm also designed the school (1955), the parish hall (1957-8) and the presbytery (1958).

In 1964 plans for a new church were drawn up by the Dublin architects Peppard & Duffy. Planning permission was obtained in 1965 and work started on site using direct labour. Peppard & Duffy’s local representative was Ken Newton of Coventry (possibly K. Newton of W. H. Saunders & Son). The foundation stone was laid on 9 June 1966 by Archbishop Dwyer. The church was opened on 1 July 1967 by the Papal Delegate to Great Britain. 

Since the opening, the tall openwork spire has been shortened. In 1989-90, the church was reordered. This included the installation of a smaller altar, a stained glass window at the east end, and the commissioning of new Stations of the Cross. The choir was moved from the sanctuary to the west gallery. The church was consecrated on 9 June 2007 by Archbishop Nichols.

The church was built in 1966-7 to designs by Peppard & Duffy. The materials are brick and concrete with a steel frame. The plan is cruciform, with a tapering nave and transepts. The nave’s side elevations are staggered with windows on the west-facing returns, a motif possibly inspired by Coventry Cathedral. The west elevation is dominated by a triangular steel arch framing the doors. The remainder of the west elevation is glazed with concrete mullions. Above a small glass dome over the crossing is the open-work steel spire, originally about three times taller.

The internal arrangements reflect the liturgical requirements of the Second Vatican Council. The sanctuary is brought forward into the crossing (with seating on three sides) and had from the start a free-standing forward altar. The current sanctuary furnishings date from the 1989-90 reordering, with the addition of the presidential chair used by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Coventry in 2010. The circular window at the east has stained glass depicting the Holy Family (signed ‘GFNS Arch Fecit 1990’). The glass in the other windows in the church (including in the crossing dome) have geometric patterns.

The ceiling has timber panelling, with an intricate pattern over the crossing, transepts and sanctuary. At the northeast is the former weekday chapel. The Lady Chapel at the southeast is now used as the weekday chapel. It has a black stone altar, an enamelled tabernacle (depicting the Supper at Emmaus) and a brass plaque to Canon Diamond (1914-74), the founder and first parish priest. The foundation stone is in the north transept. The Stations of the Cross were designed and carved by Angela Walsh and Anne-Marie Scott in 1990. The church has fine hexagonal brass lanterns.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Peppard & Duffy of Dublin

Original Date: 1967

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed