Yardley Wood - Our Lady of Lourdes

Trittiford Road, Yardley Wood, Birmingham B13

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A traditional and finely-detailed design of 1964-6 by Harrison & Cox, its basilican interior notable for its unusual arched trusses and fine fittings and finishes, including the mosaic reredos and stained glass windows. 

From 1911, Yardley Catholics were served by the Capuchin Friars from Olton (qv), when Mass was celebrated in the council school on School Road. The suburb became part of Birmingham in 1911, after which the population rapidly grew. From 1925, Catholics were served by a Mission from English Martyrs, Sparkhill (qv), when Mass was said in a scout hut on Brigfield Road. The parish was founded in 1931, and a combined school/church building and a presbytery were built in 1935 by the Rev. Denis Murphy. He was parish priest from 1931 until 1970 and raised funds for the present church (figure 1), the foundation stone for which was laid in 1964 and which was formally opened on 11 October 1966 by Archbishop Dwyer. The church was designed to seat 450 and cost £60,000. Although traditional in design, it was among the first churches in the diocese to be designed from the outset with a forward altar. Rather pointedly, the report of the opening in The Catholic Building Review(1967) commented: ‘To move into a permanent church designed for the purpose after thirty years of shared use of the adjacent school hall … must have been a tremendous occasion for the parish and for the parish priest, Father Denis Murphy, in particular. There must be lessons to be learnt here and advocates of multi-purpose parish buildings might with advantage consult the reaction and experience of Yardley Wood now that comparison can be made’.    

The church is aligned with the sanctuary to the northwest, but in this account liturgical compass points will be used and the sanctuary will be referred to as the east end.

The large church has a conventional plan form with west narthex and nine-bay aisled nave under one roof, large sanctuary expressed by a low tower, flat-roofed sacristies to the south, gabled projecting side chapels to north and south, and gabled confessionals along the south side of the nave. The building is faced in a red drag-wire brick laid in Flemish bond, with artificial stone dressings by Minster Stone of Somerset. The shallow pitched roof with deep eaves is laid with copper sheet. The semi-circular headed windows are steel, rainwater goods are cast iron. The church was designed in a modern Basilican style with Italo-Byzantine influences. The west front has central double boarded doors within an arched opening framed by columns to the tympanum, which is filled with a mosaic. Above is a circular window with stained glass. To the southwest corner is a narrow apsidal stair tower with lancets and flat roof. The south elevation has a series of gabled projections for confessionals and the Lady Chapel, with side doors and flat-roofed sacristies further east. The north elevation is similar, but without the sacristies and stair tower. The clerestories have arched windows. The east end takes the form of a low tower, with three large arched windows to north and south lighting the sanctuary. The east wall is blind and carries a status of Our Lady in a niche. The pyramidal copper roof is behind a parapet decorated with a Lombardy frieze in artificial stone and brick.

The interior is entered from a narrow narthex at the west end; this has a ceramic tiled floor and has been widened to take in the west end of the nave, from which it is separated by a glazed hardwood screen, added in the late twentieth century (architects brp of Birmingham). The stairs to the gallery are contained in a brick and concrete tower, off the south end. The nave roof bays are defined by full-height arches with artificial stone mouldings; the arcades have similarly moulded arches. Walls are plain plastered above a ceramic tiled plinth, and the floor is laid with herringbone hardwood parquet below the seating, with wood blocks to aisles. The large west gallery over the narthex has a hardwood panelled front, and a pipe organ by George Osmond and Co of Taunton. Side chapels have segmental vaulted timber ceilings and are separated from the aisles by two-bay arcades; the central pier has a moulded capital in artificial stone.  The stone side altars each have a mosaic reredos, and the chapels have stained glass windows of various post-war dates, possibly by Hardman & Co. A round arch leads to the sanctuary, which has a shallow vaulted timber ceiling. The good quality fittings include altar, floor and steps in reconstructed Portland stone by Minster Stone, and arched reredos with a mosaic of Our Lady. The mosaics may be by Ludwig Oppenheimer of Manchester who worked with Cox at Sacred Heart and St Mary Margaret, Prestbury and at St Joseph and St Helen, Kings Norton, although the style and colouring is not typical of the work of the Oppenheimer firm. The only impact of post-Vatican II reordering has been the removal of the altar rails; the rest of the sanctuary is intact. The good quality carved Stations of the Cross are German, and the nave pews are hardwood. 

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Harrison & Cox of Edgbaston

Original Date: 1966

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed