Lawrence Weston, Bristol - Our Lady of the Rosary

Kings Weston Lane, Lawrence Weston, Bristol BS11

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An economical design of the early 1950s, its Italianate bell tower a local landmark. The church complex is located close to Kingsweston House and serves a large post-war housing estate.

The church was built to serve a large post-war council housing estate. The site was purchased for £1,000 in 1951 and designs for a church seating 300 were prepared by Kenneth Nealon & Partner of Bristol. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Rudderham on 16 July 1952 and the church was opened in 1953. Building restrictions meant that the bell tower, baptistery, sanctuary and side chapels were added later, in 1957-8, along with the presbytery and sacristies. The builders were C. H. Pearce & Sons of Westbury. Provision was also made for later enlargement of the sanctuary, never implemented.

The main body of the church was built in 1952-3, and completed in 1957-8, from designs by Kenneth Nealon & Partner. Its design is an economical modern version of the Italian basilican, built of loadbearing rustic bricks laid in Flemish bond, with cast stone or concrete dressings and ‘bambino’ clay pantiles. On plan it consists of an entrance narthex with tower to north and baptistery to south, a broad nave with narrow circulation aisles and a narrower sanctuary with flanking chapels. Sacristies on the south side connect with the adjoining presbytery.

The church is approached from steps from the street and a forecourt of hexagonal concrete paviours. A wavy flat concrete entrance canopy is supported on concrete columns, on similarly wavy steps. Above this is a large west window, rectangular and with glass bricks. To one side, a simple foundation stone, inscribed with a cross and the date MCMLII, is set into the wall. At the northwest corner, the four-stage bell tower is capped by a pyramidal roof. At the southeast, the projecting baptistery has a hipped roof. The side elevations are plainly treated, with rectangular window openings set within projecting concrete frames. At the east end, the flanking chapels project in similar manner to the baptistery. The east end of the sanctuary has an unfinished appearance, with toothed brickwork, a different brick and temporary making good of the gable; it was originally built in this way, with a view to later enlargement.

The interior is plain, with a wide nave separated from the aisles by slender concrete pillars. The walls are plastered and painted while the ceiling is clad with fibreboard panels. A gallery is placed at the west end over the narthex. The baptistery  retains its original iron gates and font, a curious decorative item possibly reused from elsewhere. There are also original metal gates in the openings separating the sanctuary from the flanking chapels (Lady Chapel to north, Sacred Heart Chapel to south). Early photographs show a large baldacchino over the high altar, along with a timber pulpit and communion rails. The pulpit remains, but the present sanctuary furnishings otherwise belong to a post-Vatican II reordering. The original oak benches remain in the nave. There is no stained glass.  

By 1958 a small convent housing about twelve sisters was built alongside and a primary school nearby; in 1961-3 a secondary school was also built on the other side of Long Cross. 

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Kenneth Nealon & Partner

Original Date: 1953

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1957-8

Listed Grade: Not listed