Chlemsford - Our Lady Immaculate

New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM2

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A stone-built Early English Gothic design by J. J. Scoles, one of the leading Catholic architects of the mid-nineteenth century. The stained glass by Wailes adds to its architectural interest. The building has been altered and its interior twice re-ordered. The church makes a positive contribution to the New London Road Conservation Area.

The site in London Road was acquired in 1840 from Charles King, father of the first mission priest, who owned substantial property in Chelmsford. The mission was established in 1845 and the present church (originally dedicated to ‘The Immaculate Conception’, changed to ‘Our Lady Immaculate’ in 1982) was opened by Bishop Wiseman in October 1847. The architect J. J. Scoles was chosen at the suggestion of the twelfth Lord Petre who, with Charles King, was one of the original benefactors (the original Lady Altar was that consecrated at Thorndon Hall in 1780 and the east window given by Thomas Dunn, glass manufacturer of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and brother-in-law of Fr King). The builders were Messrs Curtis of Stratford.

The church was extended and re-ordered in 1973, when a new altar was consecrated by Bishop Casey, and again in 1988-90 when a new reconciliation room was formed at the northeast corner of the church.

The church is built in the Early English Gothic style. The external walls are faced in unknapped chalk flints with dressings of Bath stone and roof coverings of Welsh slate. The plan comprises a nave with north and south aisles, a south porch and a chancel with north and south chapels. There is a double bellcote on the east gable of the nave. The north aisle was enlarged in the 1970s and again in the 1980s; the new work has walls faced with grey industrial brick and render with roof coverings of artificial and natural slate. The west gable wall has a three-light window with three trefoils in the tracery and a roundel above. The aisle west windows are two-light, with a single quatrefoil over. The substantial gabled south porch has triple windows on each side, a pointed main doorway with a single order of shafts and a niche over. The south aisle has stepped buttresses with trefoiled lancets in the three bays between. There is no clerestory. The north aisle is now absorbed in the later additions which have three cross-gables with glazed heads and three re-set lancets in the walls beneath. The chancel and its flanking chapels are lower than the nave and aisles. The main east window is of three lights with three trefoils, like the west window. The chapel east windows are of two lights.

The interior has a woodblock floor (replacing the original encaustic tiles), plain plastered walls and a tall roof, originally with exposed timbers which have now been hidden by timber boarding. The timbers of the lean-to aisle roofs are still exposed. The original west organ gallery has been removed. North and south arcades are of four bays of pointed chamfered arches on cylindrical columns with moulded capitals and bases. The north aisle wall has been pushed out to provide more seating space and a number of enclosed rooms .The tall chancel arch is pointed and chamfered with respond columns. The chancel roof is panelled and painted. The east wall beneath the window has a trefoiled arcade. Paired arches on the south side and a single arch on the north side open into the side chapels. The church was re-ordered in 1973.

The fittings include much stained original glass by William Wailes of Newcastle (Fr King’s brother-in-law was a Newcastle glass manufacturer). That in the east window was inspired by A. W. Pugin’s glass in the chapel at Ware, of which Fr King was an alumnus. 1  The hanging crucifix over the nave altar is by William Gordon (1988); the stone font and ambo are by Stephen Scully (1990); the exterior stone statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is by Michael Lindsey Clarke. The present organ was brought from the United Reformed church in Felsted in 1985. The benches for the congregation date from the 1970s.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: J. J. Scoles

Original Date: 1847

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not listed