Coggeshall - St Bernard

Stoneham Street, Coggeshall, Essex CO6

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A simple but characterful prefabricated structure of the 1920s, extended in similar vein in the 1960s. The chapel lies within the Coggeshall Conservation Area.

There was an attempt to establish a mission at Coggeshall in 1875, with a chapel dedicated to St Cecilia built at an unknown location. Later on (in the early twentieth century) Mass was said at White Barn, the home of the Sheldrake family on the Coggeshall Road just outside Kelvedon. After 1922 Mass was said at Starling Leeze, the Coggeshall home of Captain and Mrs Dixon, and subsequently at a number of other locations in the village. Finally, in 1927 a plot of land in Stoneham Street was acquired for a chapel-of-ease, at a cost of £200. The cost of the church was  £390, met by Mrs Dixon as a memorial to her husband, who had died in 1927. The church was a small village hall type prefabricated structure, measuring 34 by 20 feet, and capable of seating about 80. It was opened by Bishop Doubleday on 19 February 1928. Mrs Dixon also bought and presented to the church two adjacent houses, in the hope that they might one day serve as a presbytery for Coggeshall’s own resident priest. The church was dedicated to St Bernard, evoking a link with the medieval Cistercian abbey at Coggeshall, and also in memory of Bernard Ward, first Bishop of Brentwood,who had died in 1920. Stations of the Cross were installed at the time of the blessing of the church, which took place in September 1928.

Expansion of the Catholic population necessitated the extension of the church in1962-63, doubling its size, at a cost of £1900 (with much of the work being carried out by voluntary parish labour). A new sanctuary, altar and benches were installed at this time.

The chapel is a prefabricated, timber framed and weatherboarded structure built in two stages. The original 1920s chapel faces towards the road, the weatherboarding at the front painted white. There is a former porch, now disused. The flank walls are of stained weatherboard and there is a hipped roof covered with felt or asbestos tiles and with a small timber bell cote on the ridge, housing one bell. The 1960s extension lies to the rear, is also clad in stained weatherboarding, and has a corrugated asbestos roof with a lower ridge. The main entrance is via a porch with a shallow-lean to roof on the south side. The church has metal Crittall windows with opaque glass and some coloured panes.

The interior is plain, having the character of a village hall. The sanctuary is located at the west end, and is separated from the 1960s nave by a curved segmental ‘chancel arch’. The sanctuary is located in the former nave, and there is a step down into the sanctuary area. The timber altar and reredos are 1960s in date (the altar having been presumably brought forward at a later date). Doors at the back of the sanctuary lead into a confessional and sacristy. In the nave, the seating consists of benches. A large painting of Christ’s Deposition hangs on the south wall. Giving off the back of the nave is a meeting room and kitchen.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Not Applicable

Original Date: 1927

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1927-28; 1962-63

Listed Grade: Not listed