Kenilworth - St Francis of Assisi

Warwick Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8

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A large red brick town church of the 1990s, a curious hybrid design combining Neo-Romanesque, Scots Baronial and contemporary elements. The light and boldly-handled interior equally combines modern and traditional forms. 

By the mid-twentieth century the increase in the Catholic population of Kenilworth made it necessary to make provision for Mass to be celebrated in the south end of the town. After several experiments, the former Hotel Australia on the Warwick Road was acquired in 1966 and converted into a Mass centre for a new parish of St Francis of Assisi. In 1988 the parishes of St Augustine and St Francis were combined and in 1992 work began on a large new church on the Warwick Road site. The rather remarkable design by Marson Rathbone Taylor (MRT Architects) of Stratford-upon-Avon harks back in some respects to the earlier twentieth century tradition of Catholic building, and possibly further to the medieval abbey of Kenilworth, adopting a version of the Romanesque style. The building was completed in April 1993. The church was dedicated by Archbishop Couve de Murville on 18 May 1993. The old hotel buildings were demolished in 2000 and replaced by a purpose-built parish centre attached to the church, also designed by MRT Architects. The church was consecrated in 2008.

The church is a large building whose exterior has a vaguely Romanesque character, with circular towers and round arched windows throughout.  The walls are faced with bright red brick laid in stretcher bond, with strings and detailing of artificial stone and brick ornament at the wall-head. The pitched roofs are covered with tiles. The external form of the building is deceptive. What appears to be an aisleless nave is a tall narthex with a glazed canopy along one side above the main church entrance. The pitched roof of the narthex is continued over the church, which is cross-shaped on plan with two broad transepts. A semi-circular baptistery projects from the centre of the south transept. The north transept has a rectangular projection which mirrors the small sanctuary. 

The interior is a single broad and light space with plain plastered walls, clear glazed windows and some top lighting from the complex slopes of the ceiling. There is a western gallery above the main entrance. The southern baptistery projects into the main worship space and is defined by a circular pierced corona. East of the transepts, the side walls step in to the modest sanctuary.

The fittings are mainly purpose-designed for the church and include the stone altar, ambo and tabernacle with incised carved detail, circular pierced stone font in a lowered circular stone setting, and limed oak benches with pointed ends arranged in a crescent.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Marson Rathbone Taylor

Original Date: 1993

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed