Oxford - Blessed Dominic Barberi

Cowley Road, Littlemore, Oxford OX4

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A large modern church built a few years after the Second Vatican Council. The folded roof and its unusual clerestory of glass pyramids give the building a striking silhouette and make it a local landmark. The dedication commemorates the Italian theologian who received Blessed John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church at the nearby College.

In 1935, a Mass centre was founded in Littlemore by the Salesians and in 1940, a Victorian house called The Shrubbery was acquired for use as a presbytery. A church-hall was built alongside it and opened and blessed by Bishop Bernard Griffin (later Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster) on 30 June 1940. It was named Newman Hall in memory of (Blessed) John Henry Newman, who on 9 October 1845 was received into the Catholic Church by Dominic Barberi at his house in Littlemore (now the Newman College). In 1954, plans were drawn up for a larger church on a new site; but this came to nothing. In 1960, the first secular parish priest arrived.

The present church was built to a design by Peter Reynolds & Partners of Oxford. The builders were Knowles & Son of Oxford. The church was opened on 3 May 1969 by the Right Reverend Anthony Emery, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham. In about 1990 the sanctuary was reordered, creating a small sacristy behind a semi-circular timber partition. In 2005, a new hall and presbytery were built behind the church and on the site of the former presbytery and Newman Hall (photo top right). At the same time, a west porch was added, and the roof repaired. The hall was formally opened by Archbishop Nichols on 12 November 2006.

The church is on a roughly square plan, with the sanctuary in the east corner. The walls are faced in brick laid in stretcher bond, while the west porch is of concrete blocks. The higher folded roof over the eastern diagonal half of the church is terminated by a clerestory of projecting glass pyramids, forming a gable over the centre in front of which hangs a cross. The folded roof and the pyramidal roof over the porch are covered in copper. The west porch has diagonal buttresses and timber door with sidelights.

The interior is well lit by the clerestory and by glazing to the west end and porch. The western flat roof and the eastern folded roof are both panelled in timber, as are the wall above the sanctuary and the eastern part of the side walls. In both roofs and the brick walls, the concrete skeleton projects slightly. The doors and openings to the tabernacle niche and the Barberi Room to the north and the sacristy (south) have brick surrounds. The sanctuary on semi-circular steps has matching furnishings in Hornton stone. Above hangs a crucifix. On the south wall is a relief by Faith Tolkien depicting the meeting of Newman and Barberi, while framed letters by Newman are displayed nearby. Other statues in the church are of St Faith (the patron saint of Oxford) and Our Lady. The Stations are unframed reliefs. 

Last updated: 11.12.17.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Peter Reynolds & Partners

Original Date: 1969

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed