Acton East - St Aidan of Lindisfarne

Old Oak Common Lane, London W3

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A large suburban church of 1960-61 in what was then a thoroughly up-to-date style. It is by a respected firm who designed many Catholic churches at the time, conventional enough in its general lines and planning, but having an interior of better quality than most. The church has some significant fixtures and fittings by Graham Sutherland, Pierre Fourmaintraux and others.

The parish was founded in 1922, using what the VCH describes as a ‘breeze-block hall in Old Oak Common Lane’. The present church, seating 500, was built in 1960-61 (foundation stone May 1960), from designs by John Newton of Burles, Newton & Partners. Like its ‘sister church’ of St Aidan, Coulsdon, Surrey, which was completed in 1964-66 from designs by Newton, the church contains furnishings by Graham Sutherland and Pierre Fourmaintraux, as well as other furnishings of note.

The church was consecrated in 1972.  The bell tower was reduced in height in 1987 due to concrete failure (architect Derek Arend Associates) and the nine Whitechapel bells sold to a church in Australia.

The façade is flush with a row of shops and the presbytery, and faces the west side of Old Oak Common Lane. The church has a five-bay nave with a further westerly bay containing a narthex (with a repository and baptistery and gallery), aisles, side chapels, sanctuary and sacristies. All that can normally be seen of the exterior is the entrance front. To the left is a red brick tower formerly carrying nine bells by the Whitechapel foundry and which bears a clock in its upper parts and near the base a statue of St Aidan. The body of the building has two registers: the lower is by far the shallower and has a central entrance behind a canopied porch, and on either side are displays of dalle de verre glass. The upper register has a large, nine-light window beneath a low-pitched gable. All this is very much what might be expected of church built in about 1960.

The inside, however, is more impressive. The general layout is conventional enough but the details are handled more successfully than is often the case. The nave is wide and is flanked by aisles each of which open out into chapels in the two easterly bays. The openings into the aisles are almost square and the slender, also almost square piers are of reinforced concrete, rising to the top of the building. Lighting is provided by the large west window and also a deep clerestory with narrow strips of glazing framing large blind panels: this glazing is abstract and is graded from off-white/yellow to dark tones (mainly blue) higher up; this is the work of Arthur Buss of Goddard & Gibbs, 1961. At the far end of the sanctuary the wall is blind although the side windows are tall and are richly glazed. The roof covering consists of a series of triangular spaces with boarded infilling.

 

 

Fittings and furnishings. An unusual amount of attention and expense was lavished on these:

  • Stained glass. Extensive use is made of brightly coloured dalle de verre glass      by James Powell & Sons and designed by Pierre Fourmaintraux: it is    original to the building of the church. The side windows of the sanctuary      depict English saints and martyrs, abstractly treated. More bright glass   of the same type, but purely abstract, appears in the windows with either    side of the church entrance. The Goddard & Gibbs glass in the   clerestory has already been noted;
  • Painted  Crucifixion against the blind wall of the sanctuary by Graham Sutherland,      1963 (photo bottom left), reminiscent of his work at Coventry Cathedral.  This was completed in situ by  Sutherland. It has recently been conserved by IFACS;
  • Head  of Christ in the left-hand chapel, a work of some nobility by George E.  Campbell, 1971;
  • The  solid wall of the baptistery is decorated with small blue tiles and   features two pairs of stylised angels with the Dove between, by Adam  Kossowski (photo bottom right);
  • Stations  of the Cross: arranged along the walls of the chapels, with concrete representations standing on ledges, backed by mosaic work, by Arthur Fleischmann;
  • Saints carved in limewood by  Arthur J. J. Ayres, George Campbell, P. Lindsey Clark and Kathleen  Parbury.

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: John Newton of Burles, Newton & Partners

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed