Rainham - Our Lady of La Salette

Rainham Road, Rainham, Essex RM13

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A large 1960s church with a high peak triangular section on a low rectangular base, built to serve the reformed liturgy. Served by the Missionaries of La Salette, it contains several furnishings, including stained glass, decorated with iconography related to Our Lady of La Salette. 

The first temporary church of corrugated iron was opened in Cowper Road in October 1901. After the parish was erected in 1938, a nineteenth-century barn was converted by Wilfrid Clarence Mangan as a new church which opened in April 1939 (now the parish hall). The builders were Messrs Saunders of Brentwood. The present church was built in 1966-67 to designs by John Newton of Burles, Newton & Partners. It is one of several churches with high-peaked triangular sections built on a rectangular base built by the practice in the mid-1960s (see for example, St Thomas More, Harlow). The builders were Messrs Haines & Warwick of Ilford. Mass was first said in the unfinished church on Christmas Day 1966. It was opened and dedicated by Bishop Wall on 11 October 1967. The cost of the church, exclusive of furnishings, was £60,000. The church was planned during the Second Vatican Council and the architects tried to anticipate the new liturgical requirements. The previous presbytery, a house already on the site, was demolishing when the new presbytery was built. The church was consecrated by Bishop McMahon on 19 September 1984. At some point, the small steeple was removed and the roof re-covered.

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

The church was built using steeply sloping steel portal A-frames arranged in a diagrid pattern. These are supported on reinforced concrete piers and eaves beams. The walls are of brick in stretcher bond. The steep roof is covered in pantiles. The blind east wall is externally covered in buff-coloured tiles. The plan is rectangular, with flat- roofed ancillary spaces on the north and south sides, and the weekday chapel and sacristies at the northeast.

The west facade has a large window filling the entire gable. Above the three doors with aggregate panels between them is the flat canopy with statues of Our Lady of La Salette appearing to the two children. At the west end of the north side, the mullions of the baptistery window extend above the eaves. At the east end of the north side are three dormer windows stacked above each other.

The narthex has two free-standing marble stoups and at the southwest the repository, stairs to the gallery and lavatories. At the northwest is a corner stone commemorating the opening of the church, beside the entrance to the former baptistery. This is now used as a chapel with a large abstract stained glass window (in memory of Louisa Chakko (died 1987)) and a timber statue of the weeping Our Lady of La Salette, and a sculpture group of Our Lady of La Salette with the children.

The interior is one large, undivided space, with brick walls and a timber-panelled ceiling. There are two confessionals at the northwest. The weekday chapel at the northeast has a large window to the north and a glazed screen to the sanctuary. There is another confessional, a stone altar with the cross of La Salette and a statue of Our Lady and the Christ Child. Beyond the chapel, in the sanctuary stands the tabernacle with doors of different metals on a stone pedestal (decorated with the IHS monogram) and surrounded by a black metal canopy. Nearby the sanctuary lamp is of a similar design in black metal, as is the paschal candle stand beside the font and the consecration crosses. The lectern is of stone with the symbols of the Four Evangelists incised in blue. The altar is also of stone. On the east wall hangs a large timber crucifix. To the south of the altar is the square stone font with an incised Celtic interlace cross and a silver lid, beside the paschal candle. Behind them, against the east wall is a statue of Our Lady on a pedestal with the symbols of La Salette and in front of a landscape painted on panel.

In a short outer south aisle hang the Stations, unpainted small timber reliefs. In a further niche on the south side is an unpainted timber statue of St Joseph as carpenter. At the southwest is a large stained glass window of the weeping Our Lady of La Salette with her attributes.

The small steeple of the church has been removed. The previous church, a nineteenth-century brick barn converted to church use in 1939, survives as parish hall.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: John Newton of Burles, Newton & Partners

Original Date: 1966

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed