Barking - St Thomas More

Longbridge Road, Barking, Essex IG11

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A modern (1991) church by Gerald Murphy, attached to the modest former (1935) church/hall erected for the Pallottine Fathers. The new building echoes the external form of the earlier structure but internally is a strong modern space arranged on the diagonal with top lighting over the main axis from entrance to altar.

The enormous Becontree housing estate was developed by the London County Council from the mid-1920s. Three new Catholic parishes were created in Barking and Dagenham to serve the increased population and in the early 1930s the Pallottine Order agreed to service a fourth parish, known as New Barking. Thomas Henry Birchall Scott, architect and surveyor to both the Westminster Archdiocese and the Diocese of Brentwood, was appointed in 1933 to design a hall/church on a site in Longbridge Road obtained from the LCC. The new building was opened in October 1935 and a wooden hall was built alongside in 1936. This hall burnt down in 1942.

In 1949-50 a new presbytery with accommodation for four priests was erected on the site. Discussions about rebuilding the church and providing a new hall began in the 1970s and eventually in 1990-91 a new church was built alongside the original church, which became a parish hall, together with some sheltered accommodation on part of the church land. The new building was built with only a small number of openings in the outside walls because of the considerable local traffic noise.

The original 1935 church/hall is a long rectangular building of brown brick with a low-pitched slate roof and a tall, more steeply-gabled, two-storey forebuilding at the west end. The 1990 church has a concrete frame and is faced with red and blue brick with red brick dressings and slate roofs. The west front to the street has two gabled elements like the 1930s forebuilding and behind them a lower curtain wall encloses the church and is pierced by irregular rectangular openings, with a secondary entrance at the rear facing the presbytery.

The entrance lobby leads to the principal worship space which is arranged on the diagonal with a spine lantern over the central aisle. The shallow-pitched timbered roof slopes down to a large north chapel and smaller south corner chapel and there is a perimeter passage behind piloti. Most of the furnishings are contemporary with the church and include some striking stained glass in the south chapel by John Lawson of Goddard & Gibbs.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Thomas Henry Birchall Scott; Gerald Murphy of Burles, Newton & Partners

Original Date: 1935

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1991

Listed Grade: Not listed