Harwich and Dovercourt - Our Lady Queen of Heaven

Fronks Road, Dovercourt, Essex CO12

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A utilitarian design of the 1950s, replacing and incorporating some furnishings from an E. W. Pugin church of 1869, which was damaged in the floods of 1953 and subsequently demolished.

A mission was established in Harwich in 1864, with a temporary chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel opening on 16 July, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In 1869 a permanent church was built on a site adjacent to the railway station, from designs by E.W. Pugin. The builder was J.W.C. Butcher of Harwich. The church was built in part through the munificence of Countess Helen Tasker who, according to the Pugin Society website, chose E.W. Pugin’s design out of two others submitted. The church was opened on 3 November 1869. This being a poor mission, it was built at modest cost (initially £730). Originally it consisted only of nave and aisles; the western half, including a bell-cote on the western gable, was not built. The church was extended in 1915-18, when the internal layout was reversed (as at E.W. Pugin’s Northampton Cathedral) and a new entrance formed in the east wall.

The Pugin church was severely damaged in the floods of February 1953, when the interior was submerged up to a height of about 12 feet and most of the furnishings destroyed, along with parish registers and records. A decision was taken to build a new church on a site in Fronks Road, Dovercourt, which had been acquired by Fr Bernard Clay, parish priest, in the 1920s. The architect R. A. Boxall prepared plans for a church and presbytery, costing about £15,000, and the successful tenderers were Messrs Fisher & Woods of Dovercourt.

Items from the old church incorporated in the new included

•A stained glass window in the porch, in memory of Fr Thomas Parkinson, first priest to the mission

•A stained glass window in the west wall, which had been presented by Mr Tom Moran in memory of his parents, and had been placed behind the high altar in the Pugin church

•The organ

•The Calvary war memorial of 1923, placed outside the church

The new church was dedicated to the Queen of Heaven, a newly-instituted feast. The new church was opened on 8 June 1955, with Bishop Beck the main celebrant.

In 1959 the old Pugin church was sold for £2800 for redevelopment as a petrol filling station.

In 1977 the church was reordered, with the removal of the communion rails and pulpit.

In 1986 the parish centre alongside the church and in front of the presbytery was opened, with meeting room, kitchen, toilets and store.

The church is of concrete portal frame construction, with a shallow pitched roof clad in felt. The exterior is faced in purple-coloured bricks laid in English bond, with some areas (e.g. the projecting bay on the front elevation) in stretcher bond. The projecting bay has a segmental roof clad in felt, and incorporates a three-light Gothic window from the old church. Above this, below the eaves, is a stone trefoil. The entrance to the church is from the side, via a brick porch entered through a wide square-headed doorway with artificial stone surround. The porch incorporates a further stained glass window, in memory of Fr Thomas Parkinson, depicting the Incredulity of St Thomas.

The main space is divided into bays by the portal frame. It consists of a nave of six bays and a lower and narrower sanctuary, separated by a segmental sanctuary arch. The windows have stained hardwood mullion and transom frames and opaque glass. At the rear of the church is a raised area, incorporating the font (which appears to be contemporary with the 1955 rebuilding), organ (reused from the old church) and a three-light window depicting Our Lord, Our Lady and St Joseph (from the old church and presented by W. Moran). The nave has a parquet floor and seating, from c1955. The sanctuary retains its altar canopy of 1955, supported on slender posts and with a gridshell pattern in its curved soffit. Above this, the sanctuary has a segmental coffered ceiling. The high altar of 1955 has been replaced with a forward altar, possibly in the 1977 reordering (when the altar rails and a nave pulpit were removed).

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: R. A. Boxall

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed