Chadwell Heath - St Bede

Bishop’s Avenue, Chadwell Heath, London RM6

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A centrally-planned church, begun just before the start of the Second Vatican Council.  The predecessor building is now the parish hall.

The first church, a multi-purpose building also accommodating the school and hall, opened on 14 November 1935 (photo top right). The architect was Thomas Henry Birchall Scott (1872-1945), surveyor to the dioceses of Westminster and Brentwood. The cost of the building was £11,600. Photos of 1935 show the building still surrounded by fields.

In 1948 Canon Palmer of Ilford, the parish which initially served the Mass centre at Chadwell Heath, left £2,000 in his will for a new church and school at Chadwell Heath. The parish was erected in 1949. The second church cost £44,000 and was built beside the old church, which became the parish hall. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Wall on 10 July 1962; the church was opened in June a year later. The architect was Donovan Purcell of Purcell & Johnson, Norwich, who also built the presbytery. (The practice was later renamed Purcell Miller Tritton under which name it continues today.) The church was designed before the start of the Second Vatican Council, but anticipated the liturgical reforms of the Council, the central plan an attempt ‘to foster a close sense of unity between priest and congregation’ (Catholic Building Review, Southern edition, 1963).

During the 1970s or 1980s, the church was reordered, removing the canopy, the altar rails and introducing new sanctuary furnishings.

The altar is actually placed at the west. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was at the east.

The church is built using a reinforced concrete frame. It is hexagonal on plan, each of the six sides with a glazed gable with ‘staggered bond’ glazing bar pattern above a brick-faced wall in Sussex bond with vertical lines of black headers. The centre of the roof has a metal gable cross. Ancillary spaces are housed in low, flat-roof structures projecting from the hexagon. At the east are the sacristies, at the southeast the Lady Chapel, and confessionals and the link to the house at the southwest.

At the west are a colonnade and a narthex which contains the entrance steps with the foundation stone, and the former baptistery. The latter is only accessible from the inside and the door is now nearly blocked by the organ (Cedric Arnold of Thaxted, 1951; rebuilt by Peter Wood, Thaxted, 1986). Now used as a repository, the former baptistery has a large stained glass window depicting the Baptism of Christ. The interior walls are lined below the windows with Parana pine boarding. The sanctuary has white stone furnishings dating from the reordering. A large timber crucifix hangs on the east wall; the tabernacle is at the northeast and the circular font at the west, near the entrance. The Lady Chapel has a timber altar and a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. At the southwest is a panelled niche with a statue of the Sacred Heart. The carved linden wood Stations are by Ferdinand Stufflesser of Ortisei, Bolzano.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Donovan Purcell of Purcell & Johnson of Norwich

Original Date: 1962

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed