Harlow - St Thomas More

Hodings Road, Harlow, Essex CM20

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A large modern church with a high peak roof, such as enjoyed a vogue in the mid-1960s. It was planned as part of an ensemble of buildings of contrasting  forms, including the  hall and the  much altered detached tower. The church is now served from Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow.

A Mass centre was established in 1957, initially served from Holy Cross, Harlow, then by a resident priest when the parish was erected in July 1957. A temporary church opened in 1958. By 1964 a new hall had replaced the temporary building and served as a temporary church while the new church was under construction. The foundation stone for the church was laid by Bishop Wall on 3 September 1964 and it was opened on 9 July 1965. The architects of the hall, church and adjacent tower were Burles, Newton & Partners who were also responsible for the extension of the adjoining presbytery. (Another  triangular-section  church  was  built  by  the  same  practice  at Rainham in 1966-1967.) The builders were Messrs Baker, Hammond & Laver of London and Rainham. The church cost £29,500, while the hall cost about £12,000 and the presbytery extension another £2,500. The hall, church and tower were conceived as an ensemble of contrasting forms, dominated by the church.

The church was consecrated by Bishop McMahon on 28 September 1984. In 1986 a weekday chapel was created on the north side. From 1984-98, the church was served from St Luke, Harlow (a building shared with the Church of England the Methodists). St Thomas More had a resident priest from 1998 to 2001 and has been served from Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow since then.

More recently, the canopy linking the free-standing tower, the church and the hall has been dismantled and a statue of St Thomas More which formerly stood inside the tower has been removed.

The church is an A-frame construction forming a steeply pitched roof, with brick walls in stretcher bond, interspersed with flint panels. The roof is covered in interlocking concrete tiles, and the east and west elevations are tile hung. The east elevation is blind while that on the west has a window band below the eaves. The plan is longitudinal, with flat-roofed ancillary spaces on the north and south sides, comprising shallow aisles, the sacristy and the weekday chapel. Only at the southeast does the roof come down to the ground . The west front has a canopy formerly linked to the hall and the tower.

Inside, the ceiling is timber panelled. The interior is subtly lit by window bands on the west, north and south sides, and by three horizontal dormer windows at the southeast. On the north and south sides, the lower parts of the A-frame are exposed and encased in concrete footings.

The west narthex has the repository to the north and the gallery stair to the south. The Lady Chapel in the northwest corner below the gallery has a stone altar, a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary and a modern grille to the repository. On the north wall is a statue of St Joseph, near a glass case with the trowel used for the laying of the foundation stone  and the  consecration of the church. The  weekday chapel  has  a glazed timber partition towards the nave. It has a stone altar and a tabernacle, as well as a timber forward altar and lectern, and a statue of St Thomas More. The sacristy is at the northeast.

The sanctuary furnishings are modern and not of particular note. The south nave wall has a timber statue of Christ. The Stations are carved timber reliefs mounted on panels. At the southwest corner is a statue of St Anthony, beside a confessional.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Burles, Newton & Partners

Original Date: 1964

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed