Coventry - St Thomas Moore

Watercall Avenue, Styvedale, Coventry CV3

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A large modern church built after the Second Vatican Council on a square plan. It has an impressive interior with good furnishings, including fine stained glass by Patrick Pollen. 

The parish was erected in 1943 and a first church built in 1946 (architects W. H. Saunders & Son). By 1961, plans were made for a new permanent church on a cruciform plan. The latter changed as the new liturgical requirements of the Second Vatican Council emerged between 1962 and 1965. By 1965 when the working drawings were prepared, a square plan had been decided on, partly due to the parish’s requirements and partly due to the constrictions of the site. The foundation stone was laid on 27 October 1966 by Bishop Cleary and the building was blessed and opened by Archbishop Dwyer on 6 May 1968. The architects were again W. H. Saunders & Son (project architect: G. Norman), the contractor Garlicks Ltd of Coventry. The overall cost was £81,000. A planned campanile appears not to have been built.

The church was built in 1966-8 from designs by W. H. Saunders & Son. The loadbearing brick walls and a concrete perimeter beam support steel lattice girders covered with preformed slabs and sheet aluminium, forming a shallow pitched roof. The plan of the nave is square (90ft by 90ft); beyond that are sacristies to the east, a weekday chapel to the northeast and a parish room of 1993 to the northwest.

The external walls of dark brown brick are relieved by a white horizontal band (at eaves level of the single-storey spaces), vertical slit windows and windows of small staggered vertical openings with white panels between. The main entrance is to the west, with a subsidiary entrance through a loggia added with a parish room (Margaret Roper Room) in 1993. A Florentine ceramic panel of the Virgin and Child from Cotton College was installed in the loggia in 2002.

The west narthex is partially below the gallery, which is accessed by two stairs in the outer west corners. Inside the square nave is the oblong granite font (designed by Malcolm W. Pollard, made by John Cullen & Sons, Dublin) on a circular recessed terrazzo floor and surrounded by hexagonal rails. The square nave has seating on three sides of the sanctuary. The ceiling has inverted pyramids of plywood, partly an aesthetic conceit and partly to improve the acoustics. The balustrade of the west gallery is decorated with the arms of Popes and Archbishops of Birmingham. The sanctuary has a slight concave curve to the east wall with a full-height reredos of Galway shell black marble with a crucifix and a tall brass tabernacle on a shelf. On either side are stained glass windows (1967) by Patrick Pollen (1928-2010) on the theme of St Thomas More’s martyrdom. The sanctuary floor is of woodblock while the steps to the reredos and altar are of Dark Connemara marble (risers) and Sicilian Bianco marble (treads). The altar was also built of two marbles: Sicilian Bianco for the top and Sepia Connemara marble for the supports. To the north of the sanctuary is the organ by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd above a statue of the Virgin Mary; to the south is a large plaque commemorating the Papal visit of 1982. All windows have patterned coloured glass and the woodwork throughout the church was made from Makore wood. The benches were made by Frank Kenny & Co, Dublin. The weekday chapel is relatively plain with a low ceiling, a ceramic panel of the Virgin Mary, and a white marble altar. The Margaret Roper Room has a bronze bust of St Thomas More.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: W. H. Saunders & Son

Original Date: 1968

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed