Whitton - St Edmund of Canterbury

St Edmund’s Lane, Nelson Road, Whitton, Middlesex TW2

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A post-war suburban church by the F. X. Velarde Partnership.  Architecturally, it draws upon the planning and massing of traditional church-building, using minimal detailing, typical of c.1960. It does not have fixtures and fittings of high significance.

As Whitton developed in the interwar period, the first provision for Catholic worship was at a house, no. 213 Nelson Road, called The Retreat. An outbuilding was pressed into service and it was here that the first public Mass was celebrated on 23 September 1934. The parish had been founded by an American Missionary Order, the Society of St Edmund, which had been founded at Pontigny, France (where St Edmund had died) but had moved the America; they would serve it for over fifty years. A humble brick church was built in 1935, followed by a school. The church was destroyed by a bomb in 1940 but promptly rebuilt, opening on 6 July 1941; it is now the hall. Designs were prepared in 1960-61 for the present church by the F. X. Velarde Partnership (F. X. Velarde had been responsible for a number of particularly notable Catholic churches between the wars and in the 1950s; after his death in December 1960 the project was carried forward for the F.X. Velarde Partnership by Richard O’Mahony). The foundation stone was laid on 19 May 1962 and the building opened in 15 June the following year. The cost was £71,145 and the church seated about 475 people. It was consecrated on 19 September 1972. The present presbytery was built in 1962. The parish continued to be served by the Edmundites until 1988 when they returned to the USA.

The church is oriented south so directions given in this section are liturgical.

The church is constructed with a reinforced concrete frame beneath an exterior of light golden rustic bricks. It has a fairly long nave and a raised sanctuary with a square east end, aisles, Lady Chapel (north and raised to the level of the sanctuary at that point) with a sacristy behind. In the northwest and southwest corners of the nave there are small projecting recesses which house respectively statues of St Edmund and Our Lady. There is a western narthex with a repository at the south end. The projecting narthex and the western part of the nave are covered by a choir gallery with organ: above this gallery area, externally, rises a squat saddleback tower and upon this is an aluminium flèche crowned by a gold-leafed aluminium cross. Three segmental-headed doorways lead into the narthex. The overall lines of the building are suggestive of traditional Western church-building with a west tower and a long nave flanked by aisles. The style, however, is no longer Romanesque or Gothic and everything is stripped to simple, clear lines. The treatment of the fenestration is emphatically of c.1960: in the aisles the walls are almost entirely filled with four tiers of round alternating with nearly square lights. The same arrangement appears in the windows in the chancel; there is no clerestory to the nave. At the west end is a large circular window containing a large cross in Florentine Red glass from Belgium.

The interior is chiefly lit by the screen-like fenestration in the aisles. The nave has three very wide arches with extremely shallow segmental arches (plus a shorter bay for the gallery area): this arcade is faced with light beige Botticino marble. The porch, nave and Lady Chapel are floored with grey Vinylex tiles while the sanctuary floor and steps are covered with golden, pre-cast Giallo Oro slabs. The walls are covered in plaster with a Tyrolean textured finish, mostly painted white (much of the sanctuary is painted green, in place of the original white, although the curious rusticated reredos is still painted white). The sanctuary and nave ceilings have rafter-like horizontal members with boarding in between running down the centre.

Fixtures and fittings

  • Altar: with a mensa of grey, polished Cornish granite with side panels of Crag      Leith stone.
  • Tabernacle plinth: recent, by James Keegan.
  • Font: a plain, tapering wooden piece by David John, who also designed the      aumbry.
  • Stained glass: Mostly not original to the church; that in the aisles, sanctuary      and Lady Chapel is somewhat garish and has semi-abstract representations      of the Sacraments, the Corporeal Works of Mercy and other emblems. The      maker has not been established.

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: F. X. Velarde Partnership of Liverpool

Original Date: 1962

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed