Handsworth - St Augustine of England

Avenue Road, Handsworth, Birmingham B21

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A neo-Romanesque design by G. B. Cox, completed just before the outbreak of the Second World War.  The interior is particularly attractive and there are several good original fittings, including a fine Renaissance-style baldacchino.

The parish was created in 1913 out of part of the parish of St Francis of Assisi Handsworth, but Mass had been said since 1908 in the parish school. The present church was built next to the school, and was opened on 26 July 1939 by Mgr Canon Cronin, Vicar General, in the presence of the Archbishop. Designed to seat 400, the church is a simple Romanesque design by G. B. Cox of Harrison & Cox. The builders were Messrs J. and W. Malley, Birmingham. The church was built at the outset of war, and the basement of the connecting presbytery was constructed as an air raid shelter.

The church is in a plain Romanesque style and is built of red brick laid in English bond, with roof coverings of brown Roman tiles. The plan comprises a nave and straight-ended chancel under a continuous pitched roof, a northwest tower, southwest baptistery, and low aisles with taller eastern chapels with apsidal ends.  The west end of the church is linked to the contemporary presbytery by a cloister, its originally open arches now closed in.

 

The west end wall has a central square-headed doorway with a carved stone relief of
St Augustine above (by Peter Bohn, 1958) and a simple rose window. Doorway and relief and window are set in a round-headed recess which is flanked at low level by pairs of small windows.  The tower is set back slightly from the west front and is square on plan and has corner pilaster strips, a single round-headed opening on each side at belfry level and a pyramidal metal-clad roof. On the west side below the belfry is a large carved Clipsham stone figure of St Augustine. The north and south sides of the church have a continuous clerestory of seven bays with a pair of round-headed windows to each bay. Below the clerestory are the low lean-to aisles, with flat-roofed eastern chapels with apsidal ends. The east gable wall is blind.

The interior is handsome, with plain plastered walls and a boarded timber waggon roof brought down onto heavy corbels between the clerestory bays. At the west end is a solid organ gallery with pairs of small windows flanking the entrance door from the vestibule to the nave. East of the gallery are seven-bay arcades with round arches to the narrow aisles. There is no division between nave and sanctuary, which is raised on steps. The sanctuary is flanked by side chapels with segmental timber ceilings and eastern altar niches. The east end has been reordered and the altar brought forward, but the original timber Renaissance-style baldacchino survives in its original position and the white marble altar itself is probably also original. The windows are mostly clear-glazed but the eastern chapels both have some good stained glass windows, probably of the 1930s.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Harrison & Cox

Original Date: 1939

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed