Chichester - St Richard of Chichester

The Presbytery, Cawley Road, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1XB

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St Richards is an unremarkable building but contains an extensive scheme of stained glass, an early use in the UK of the dalles de verre technique.  It also contains paintings of some quality by David O’Connell.  The significance of the glass makes St Richards a candidate for statutory listing.

From 1855 to 1958 a Victorian Gothic Roman Catholic church stood at the junction of Market Avenue and Southgate.  The present church was built in 1958, with the first mass being celebrated on 19th March that year.  The architects were Tomei & Maxwell, who went on to design All Saints Church, Hersham in Surrey.  Tomei & Maxwell were a London practice.  Lawrence Tomei (1910-1989) went into partnership with John Maxwell after World War II and developed a practice which specialised in building for the Roman Catholic Church.

St Richards is a simple, and probably inexpensive, building with an exposed concrete portal frame (cf Our Lady of Fatima Harlow, the first use of a portal frame) and brick infill.  There is a campanile at the south west corner.  It is an early use of the T-plan.  What is remarkable about St Richards is not the building itself but the fittings and furnishing, notably the stained glass.  This is by the French artist Gabriel Loire, from Chichester’s twin city of Chartres.  It uses the technique known as dalle de verre, pieces of glass up to one inch thick, set in resin.  The dale de verre technique was pioneered by the French stained glass designed Pierre Fourmaintraux who joined Powells of Whitefriars in 1956; though it was first used in 1927 by Jean Gaudin.  The best known example of its use in England is at the RC cathedral in Liverpool. There is a continuous clerestory around the nave and transepts filled with glass, together with a west window, a north transept window and a baptistery window.  The glass is figurative, with Mary, Mother of Christ, in heaven with angels, in the west window.  The south nave clerestory depicts Old Testament scenes whilst the north depicts scenes from the New Testament.  The north transept depicts scenes representing the present-day church whilst the south transept depicts the laity.  The main north transept window depicts the life of St Richard.

The stations of the cross are oil paintings by David O’Connell (1895-1976), as is the altarpiece and the six angels in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

The altar is of Tinos green marble whilst Belgian black fossil marble is used for the curbs and steps.  The sanctuary floor is in Sepele mahogany (as are the benches) and the wall of the sanctuary is panelled in golden sycamore.  The Baptistery was designed by David O’Connell.

Diocese: Arundel and Brighton

Architect: Tomei & Maxwell

Original Date: 1958

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed