Coventry - Sacred Heart

Harefield Road, Stoke, Coventry CV2

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A large post-Vatican II church by Williams & Winkley, illustrating the 1970s vogue for multi-purpose church buildings, the ambitions of its original design not realised. It is built adjacent to the old church of
1933-34, by G. B. Cox, now the parish hall. The internal volume of the new church is notable for the absence of any internal supports, due to a space frame roof resting on a pair of box beams. There are some furnishings of note.

The parish was founded in 1924 from St Mary’s church (qv). That year, a school was built on the current site and used for Mass. In 1933-4, a small brick church was built beside the school (architect: George Bernard Cox). In the 1960s, the school moved to a new site in Brays Lane. As the old church had become far too small for the parish, plans were made to build a new church on the site of the former school and a small club building. Work on site started in January 1978, the roof structure was constructed in autumn 1978 and the building completed in December 1979 (see figures 1 and 2). The architects were Williams & Winkley, and the engineers Campbell Reith & Partners. The church was originally planned as a multi-purpose building, with a folding division to create two smaller halls. However, shortly after completion the building was used exclusively as a church and the folding division removed. A first floor was inserted in the old church, to create a hall on the upper floor and a weekday chapel on the ground floor. The former Lady Chapel became the sacristy for the new church. During building works inflation and consequent lack of funds required a simplification of the original plans. The projected future extension with a parish office, meeting room and library never materialised.

The church was built in 1978-79 to designs by Williams & Winkley. The exterior design and materials were designed to blend in with the residential neighbourhood and the adjoining former church of 1933-34. The external walls are of red brick in stretcher bond with a tiled roof. The roof is a steel space frame, a lightweight rigid structure of interlocking struts, which is used to span large areas without internal supports. Here, it is cantilevered from two deep box beams, running west to east.

The plan is based on a rectangle, with the altar on the shorter axis. The two eastern corners are rounded while that to the northwest is canted. All three have circular skylights. The nave has a central pitched roof skylight over the two box beams, another pitched roof skylight lights the narthex. The elevation to the street has a round-arched entrance with an oculus window above. The link to the former church is glazed.

The interior is well lit by the skylights. The open space is dominated by the two box beams running the length of the room. (One of the two beams formerly supported the folding partition.) The walls are of concrete blocks, while the sanctuary recess and one semi-circular niche are lined with bricks. The walls have 14 small circular windows with stained glass (1979-80, Goddard & Gibbs) placed at irregular intervals. The concrete beam over the sanctuary has a triangular opening, a reference to the Trinity. In addition to the glass, notable furnishings include a large statue of the Sacred Heart, a circular stone font and brass tabernacle from the old church. There is also a fine modern timber statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus as a boy.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Williams & Winkley

Original Date: 1979

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed