Cheltenham - Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary

Moorend Road, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53

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A well-detailed but conventional design of the 1950s, combining traditional planning with modern construction techniques. The church is faced inside and out in a variety of stonework finishes, and has a light-filled interior. Apart from some sanctuary reordering, the building is little altered. It forms part of a large parish complex in a suburban area of Cheltenham.

In 1939 the teaching order of La Sainte Union des Sacrés Coeurs opened a boarding school at Charlton Park. The war brought many evacuees and the chapel proved too small and Mass was celebrated in the school hall. Until 1946 the mission was in the care of the Benedictine fathers at St Gregory’s, Cheltenham. In the same year it was announced that a parish would be constituted which was done in 1947, a plot in the park having been granted for a church and presbytery. Post-war building restrictions meant that a presbytery was not built until 1954 with the church, accommodating 250 people, following on after that. Several designs were put forward by the architects, and copies of drawings for some of these schemes are deposited in the Diocesan Archives. Work started on site in 1955, with Bishop Rudderham laying the foundation stone on 11 February 1956 and the church blessed and opened on 30 June 1957. The bell tower shown at figure 1 was never built.

The church was consecrated by Bishop Alexander on 15 October 1982.

The church is orientated north-south, but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

Sacred Hearts was built in 1955-7 from designs by Whitmarsh-Everiss & Smithiesof Clifton. The nave is of concrete portal-framed construction, while the western narthex/organ gallery and the sanctuary are of loadbearing construction. The building is clad with a variety of textured stones, including artificial stone and reused natural local rubble as well as polished concrete (in the window and door surrounds). The roof is of shallow pitch (ten degrees), an angle reflected in the window and door heads, sanctuary rear wall and (inside) the choir gallery front and suspended coffered ceilings. The church is of traditional longitudinal plan, consisting of a western narthex with gallery over, a wider aisleless nave and a narrower chancel with sacristy to north and Lady Chapel to south. The entrance front has a deeply projecting eaves and a recessed entrance bay incorporating a projecting doorway and window over with canted head. At the sides, the upper walls of the nave are set back and entirely glazed between vertical buttresses, with each window of three lights.

Inside, the almost continuous clerestory glazing of the nave with rectangular panes of pale coloured glass (mostly shades of blue and grey) creates the effect of a cage of glass, a distant echo of Perret’s Notre Dame de Raincy. Directional emphasis is accentuated by an angled coffered ceiling running from the cantilevered gallery at the west end to the sanctuary at the east, where the coffering is darker. A suspended timber canopy hangs over the former position of the high altar, with a plain wide reredos panel behind with attached crucifix. The stone suite of sanctuary furnishings belong to a post-Vatican II reordering, but may include elements of the original Ancaster stone high altar. On either side of the chancel arch, statues of Our Lord and Our Lady hang over the entrances to the sacristy and Lady Chapel respectively. Carved stone Stations of the Cross are set into the stone-faced walls of the nave below the clerestory, and the original timber benches survive in the nave.  

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Whitmarsh-Everiss & Smithies

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed