Abbots Langley - St Saviour

The Crescent, Abbots Langley, Watford, Hertfordshire WD5

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A large church of the early 1960s, modern in architectural style and conventional in its liturgical planning (just pre-dating the Second Vatican Council). Although somewhat altered, the design impresses both inside and out, with a single internal space with vaulted timber roof lit by high-level clerestory lights.

The Salvatorians came to Wealdstone in 1901 and took charge of a mission there, later opening a school for boys. In 1928 they found it necessary to provide a house of studies for students for the priesthood and they were encouraged by Cardinal Bourne to establish a college and parish at Abbots Langley (Langley House). The first public Mass was celebrated in the chapel (the former billiards room) at the house on 29 September 1928. In 1930 Salvatorian sisters arrived and did important work establishing school facilities.

Various improvised or temporary arrangements served for a church until the present building (figures 1 and 2) was built in 1962-63 from designs by John Rochford of Sheffield and Manchester. It was erected on a flat site adjoining Breakspear College, and was officially opened and blessed on 28 June 1963. It had seats for 544 and cost £34,861. The sacristies connected with the college. The college closed in the 198os and has been converted into flats.

The church is built of concrete and has a facing of light red-brown bricks. It was originally roofed in copper but after many years of problems this has now been replaced by felt. The windows have also been replaced in UPVC. Nevertheless, the church has a good deal more architectural interest than many of its time. There is plenty of visual incident, such as the apsidal projection for the repository (presumably originally for the baptistery) beside the main entrance, the separately articulated sacristies, chapel and shrines. Most of the building has a thin fringe of a clerestory beneath an overhanging low-pitched roof. Over the main entrance is a large sculpted panel by David John of Reading, cast in aluminium and filled with fibreglass: the large figure of Christ is surrounded by the emblems of the Evangelists.

The internal planning just predates the changes for the Second Vatican Council, and consists of a three-bay nave with narrow aisles. In addition there is a half-bay narthex (with gallery over) and at the opposite end a 1¼-bay sanctuary. There are also transepts facing the sanctuary for additional seating; that on the left is glazed in and has its own altar. The supports for the roof are square concrete piers (shown tapering downwards on the architect’s drawing, figure 2) and the roof itself has a steel structure with African hardwood boarding on the underside designed to create a quasi-vaulted effect; it has triangular penetrations which correspond to the raised portions of the clerestory. The facing material of the walls comprises grey-brown Thermalite blocks laid side on with an exposed edge and a recessed joint.

Fittings and furnishings include fine metal Stations of the Cross by Alan and Sylvia Rochford of Nuneaton. Recently a stained glass window was added in the south transept, from designs of John Corley of Kent (information from Chris Fanning).

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: John Rochford

Original Date: 1962

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not listed