Loughton - St Edmund of Canterbury

Traps Hill, Loughton, Essex IG10

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A   modern   church   with   some   features   inspired   by   Basil   Spence’s Coventry   Cathedral.   It   has   several   furnishings   of   high   quality, including glass by John Hutton and sculpture by Philip and Michael Lindsey Clark and John Skelton.

A Mass centre at Loughton was established in 1926, served by the Claretian Fathers, and in 1927 was erected as parish. In January 1927 a temporary church was opened, the gift of Charles Diamond, publisher and editor of the Catholic Herald. This church was destroyed by fire in 1934 and a second temporary church was opened in February 1935. Work on the present church began in July 1957 and the foundation stone was laid on 26 October that year. It was opened by Bishop Wall on 15 June 1958. The architect was R.C. Foster of Tooley & Foster. The builders were Messrs W. & C. French.

In 1966 the new hall behind the church was blessed. In a post-Vatican II reordering the altar was moved forward and a new Lady Chapel altar installed. In 1974 a small Lourdes grotto by local artist Billy Elliott was set up beside the main entrance of the church. For the Golden Jubilee in 1976 and the consecration on 24 October the same year, the church was re-roofed and redecorated and the tabernacle was moved to the side chapel. In 1978 the Claretians left and the Society of Jesus took over the care of the parish. In 1986 the parishes of Loughton and Debden were re-united.

In 1992, on the departure of the Jesuits, the parish was handed over to the diocese. Four years later the roof was repaired and the sanctuary reordered. This included the removal of the altar rails and the pulpit, and the addition of a new font, chair, ambo, tabernacle pedestal, a 15th Station and a sanctuary lamp. In 1997 a painting in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was unveiled, depicting the ‘Communion of the Apostles’. In 1999 new bells made by Gunning & Kavanagh of Newcastle, Northern Ireland, were installed. In 2001, the Snowdrop Corner was laid out in front of the Lourdes Grotto, as a small memorial garden to stillborn babies. In 2005 the hall was redecorated, followed by a campaign of repair and redecoration of the church in 2006. The same year, a new tabernacle made in Spain was installed.

The church faces southwest. This description uses the conventional, liturgical orientation.

The church is a concrete frame-structure, which is exposed internally. The external walls are of brick laid in stretcher bond. The side windows are interspersed with aggregate panels of green granite. The plan is rectangular with a nave and narrower chancel  under  one  pitched  roof,  with  flat-roofed  ancillary  spaces  on  the  south, housing the sacristy and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The north elevation follows a zigzag line, with full-height windows to the west - similar to the windows at Coventry Cathedral. On the south side, only the two westernmost bays have equivalent full- height zigzag windows.

The west front has a large window over the entrance doors, composed of many near- square lights. Set into the wall to the south of the window is a Doulting stone panel of the Annunciation by Philip Lindsey Clark. On the other side of the entrance is the foundation stone. In front of it stands a large cross with the figure of Christ in Glory in artificial stone by Michael Lindsey Clark. (Originally, this stood in a shallow pool of water.)

The  narthex  has  the  repository  and  gallery  stair  at  the  south  and  the  former baptistery at the north. The latter has etched glass doors by John Hutton (who also worked on the west screen at Coventry Cathedral) with a stained glass panel of the pierced  heart  above.  The  gallery  has  a  pipe  organ  by  George  Osmond  &  Co  of Taunton, located above the former baptistery.

The nave is five bays long. At the northwest is a statue of the Sacred Heart; beside the chancel arch is a statue of the Madonna and Child. The two-bay sanctuary has the original altar of Ancaster stone (made by J. Bysouth Ltd) under a mahogany canopy carved with the pelican in her piety, the Agnus Dei and crosses (Dart & Francis Ltd). A small jewel window in the east gable has a stained glass panel with a Eucharistic motif (John Hutton and London Sand Blast & Decorative Glassworks Ltd). The stone font, chair, ambo and tabernacle pedestal all match the original altar and date from the  1996  re-ordering. The  crucifix (blessed  1948)  came  from  the  first  temporary church and is a copy of the miracle-working Crucifix of Limpias, northern Spain.

The font is near the Blessed Sacrament chapel, which until 1976 was the Lady Chapel. The enamelled tabernacle takes the form of a medieval box reliquary (made in Spain, 2006). Above it hangs a triptych panel which is a copy by Gary Bevans of a Byzantine painting of the ‘Communion of the Apostles’ at the Benedictine Abbey of Chevetogne in Belgium (installed 1997). Set against the south wall of the chapel are statues of St Joseph and St Edward, the latter from the first temporary church.

The side windows have handmade antique glass. The Stations of the Cross (photo top right) are incised panels of Ancaster stone, carved by John Skelton, the nephew and last pupil of Eric Gill. In 1996, a 15th Station by the same sculptor was added.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: R.C. Foster of Tooley & Foster

Original Date: 1957

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed