Debden - St Thomas More

Willingale Road, Debden, Loughton, Essex IG10

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A plain church, originally a multi-purpose church hall. Debden used to be a separate parish but, due to dwindling congregations, has been re- united  with  Loughton.  The  church  has stained  glass  by  Goddard  & Gibbs.

The church was built as a multi-purpose building in 1953, serving the post-war estate at Debden. It was opened on 19 July 1953. The architect was Ernest Bower Norris of Sandy & Norris, Stafford. The Mass centre was served from Loughton until 1963 when the parish was erected with a resident priest. Originally, the sanctuary in the north end could be screened off, while a stage was set against the south end. In 1970 the attached hall and club were added, allowing the building to be exclusively used for worship. Probably shortly afterwards, the church was internally re-orientated, moving the altar from the north (former liturgical east) to the west wall, removing the stage and partitioning the original sanctuary off as additional sacristy space. In 1986, the parishes of Loughton and Debden were re-united, while initially retaining a resident priest at Debden. Since 1992 it has been served again from Loughton and the presbytery is being rented out. The club is now closed although the hall continues to be rented out.

The original position of the altar was at the north end before it was moved to the west wall in c.1970. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation, that is as if the altar was set against the east wall.

The church is built in pale brick laid in stretcher bond, with a pantiled roof and metal windows. The plan is rectangular with the former chancel which narrows twice at the south; the north end is also narrower and has a chimney at the gable end. At the northwest and southwest are flat-roofed entrance porches. On the east side are the attached hall and club of 1970. The blind south (former east) elevation has a cross in a shallow arched recess. At the southeast is a small bellcote without bell. Beside the northwest entrance is a relief of St Thomas More.

The interior is a single space with a flat ceiling, lit by four square windows at the east and six long rectangular windows at the west. The lower part of the north wall is timber panelled, as is part of the south wall. In the northeast corner are the tapering timber font, the timber paschal candle stand, and statues of Our Lady of the Rosary and St Thomas More. The raised sanctuary has a large crucifix in front of a timber- panelled background. The altar and lectern are also of timber, as is the tabernacle shelf to the right of the altar. The four stained glass windows depict ecclesiastical symbols (by Goddard & Gibbs, 1981). In the southeast corner is a statue of St John Fisher. The south wall has a recess with seats – a former confessional – beside a confessional and the door to the sacristy. At the southwest is a large statue of the Sacred Heart. The Stations are white plaster cast by Billy Elliott, a local artist.

The former sanctuary has a higher ceiling and retains the three-step altar platform, beneath which are said to be bricks inscribed with the names of their donors.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Ernest Bower Norris

Original Date: 1953

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed