Bushey - The Sacred Heart and St John the Evangelist

London Road, Bushey, Watford, Hertfordshire WD23

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A large, late 1950s brick church, conventionally planned as it predates the changes emanating from Vatican II. The wide, bright interior is of some distinction, and the church has a commanding presence on a busy main road, adding much to the character of the Bushey High Street Conservation Area.

 

Before the Second World War there was a temporary church in Upper Paddock Road but it was wholly inadequate for the needs of the local Catholic population. The site for a permanent church at the junction of Merry Hill Road and London Road had been purchased as far back as the ministry of Fr Richard Ryder (1912-24). The debt on the temporary church was paid off under Fr James O’Rafferty (1924-41) and it was no doubt wartime and subsequent austerity that meant that it was not until the later 1950s under Fr Stephen Rigby (1941-65) that real moves were made to build the permanent church. Plans were drawn up by Archard & Partners of London in 1957 (figure 1), work began in July 1958 and the foundation stone was laid on 2 May of the following year. The church was finished late in 1959 and the first service was Midnight Mass at Christmas. It was blessed in May 1960 and could accommodate some 500 people. The total cost was £38,500. The tower became a more impressive affair than that shown in the architects’ perspective in 1957 (figure 1). Initially a house adjoining the site served as the presbytery; the present one, costing £10,750, was completed in 1964, also from designs by Archard & Partners, and has links to the sacristies. Reordering took place in 1972 and consecration finally took place on 20 September 1977. The parish centre was opened in 1986, adjacent to the church.

A large brown brick (by Bovingdon Brickworks) church in modern Romanesque style, with a tiled roof over the main space and flat roofs to the aisles. It consists of a wide nave and sanctuary in a single space, narrow aisles, a prominent west tower, and a Blessed Sacrament chapel (north) and Lady Chapel (south); the chapels are formed by a widening of the aisles adjacent to the sanctuary. Sacristies form a link between the church and presbytery. The tower has a severe design with large buttresses facing the road, and three openings near the top on the same face; the side faces are pierced by a series of horizontal rectangular lights. Over the entrance is a fifteen-foot suspended figure of Christ, carved by John A. Green of Ipswich. On the side elevations the dominant feature is the tall range of windows forming a clerestory. The walls of the aisles are enlivened by the use of projecting bricks. The back wall is plain, and was clad with tiling in the 1990s to provide waterproof protection to the sanctuary.

The nave (figure 2) is of considerable width, and is divided from the aisles by circular columns. These are faced with tile tesserae which have now been painted over. The ceiling is flat. At the west end is a large gallery. There is a fine rood at the east end. The figures of Our Lady and St John were carved in limewood by the local artist Siegfried Pietzsch and were installed in 1984 (Pietzsch also worked at St Helen’s, North Watford(qv) and the Most Sacred Heart, Ruislip (qv)). The 1960s Goddard & Gibbs stained glass in the sanctuary and chapels was introduced in the late 1980s, and came from the convent of Jesus and Mary at Harlesden (information from Chris Fanning).

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: Archard & Partners

Original Date: 1958

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not listed