Basildon - St Basil the Great

Luncies Road, Basildon, Essex SS14

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The  principal  Roman  Catholic  church  in  Basildon  New  Town. A dignified  and  articulate  early  work  by  John  Newton  of  Burles  & Newton, who went on to design many churches in the Diocese of Brentwood.    The  1950s exterior  survives intact  and  despite  some  re- ordering much of the internal character also remains.

There was a Mass centre at Vange as early as 1925, a chapel of ease served from Stanford-le-Hope/Corringham. A priest was appointed to Basildon in 1953 and the parish erected in 1955.  St Basil’s was sited to serve the eastern part of the new town. Designs  were  prepared  by  John  Newton of  Burles  &  Newton of  Southend,  work commenced in 1955 and the church was opened in October 1956. The church was consecrated on 6 October 1981. Since 2003 it has been the centre of the Basildon Team Ministry.

St Basil’s is designed in the modern style of the mid-1950s (Bettley/Pevsner describes the church as ‘quiet, dignified and sensible’), with a framework of reinforced concrete and wall panels of buff-coloured brick.  The frames and mullions of the windows are also of concrete and the shallow-pitched main roof is covered in copper.  The plan is conventional, i.e. longitudinal, with a tall nave and long chancel under the same roof, a northwest tower and a northeast porch and chapel.  The east end of the church has a single-storey link to the contemporary presbytery.  The west end wall is canted and the whole of the upper part is a wide window of 11 lights in three main sections. Below the window is the main entrance, flanked by pierced panels of cast concrete. The tower is set in from the west front and has a base with cast concrete decoration, brick sides and a tall open belfry with a pitched copper-covered roof.  The side walls of both nave and chancel are divided into bays by the concrete uprights of the main frame, with plain brick below and a continuous clerestory of tall mullioned windows. The uprights in the chancel are more closely spaced than those in the nave.  Attached to the eastern side of the chancel is a single-storey structure with a triple pitched roof containing the north porch and the side chapel.  The east wall is blind and rises above a flat roofed single-storey sacristy.

The interior is tall and light, thanks to the virtually continuous clerestory windows in the nave and sanctuary.   At the west end is a gallery, glazed in beneath to form a vestibule. Eastwards of the gallery the nave is of five bays defined by piloti set in from the wall on either side forming passage aisles. The ceiling over the aisles is flat; in the shallow-pitched central section over the nave, the concrete beams and purlins are frankly expressed. On the north side of the first bay of the nave is a former baptistery in the base of the tower.   The easternmost bay contains the north entrance and an open organ gallery on the south side. The organ itself was brought from Brentwood Cathedral and installed in 1990. The long chancel is narrower than the nave but the main ceiling is continuous.  On the south side is an open passageway to the sacristies. On the north side a glazed partition divides the main space from the side chapel.

The sanctuary has clearly been re-ordered with a nave altar although the steps of the former high altar survive. The east end wall is now simply a large recess with a hanging crucifix. The mahogany benches in the nave are original and were designed by the architect.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: John Newton of Burles & Newton

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed