Bristol - Holy Family

Southsea Road, Patchway, Bristol, BS34

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A church of the time of the Second Vatican Council, modern in construction but conventional in plan. It occupies a large site in a prominent position overlooking a roundabout. 

Holy Family was built as a daughter church of St Teresa, Filton, and was one of three churches built by Canon Denis Lacy. It was built to serve a large development area to the north of the city, where the chief employer was the Bristol Aeroplane Company (now part of BAE Systems). The site was bought for £900 in 1954 but the foundation stone for the present church was not laid (by Bishop Rudderham) until 7 August 1965, that is, at the time of the Second Vatican Council; in the design ‘the new presentation of the Mass was taken fully into consideration’ (Diocesan Yearbook, 1967). The architects for the church, which seated 300 and cost £34,000, were Ivor Day & O’Brien of Bristol. The design is very similar to their contemporary design at Cheddar (q.v.). It was built with a precast concrete frame, clad in traditional materials. The completed church was opened by Bishop Rudderham on 30 August 1966.

Holy Family became an independent parish in 1972. The former airport site is now being redeveloped with housing, and this is one of the fastest growing parishes in the diocese, with a weekend Mass attendance of 650-700.

The building is oriented roughly northeast-southwest, but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

The church was built in 1965-6 from designs by Ivor Day & O’Brien, Bristol. It is built with a precast concrete frame, clad externally with reconstructed stone and with a clay tile roof. On plan it consists of a wide aisleless nave, with a narrower and short sanctuary at the east end and another narrower narthex bay with gallery at the west end. A side entrance and sacristies give off to the north and a Lady Chapel and linked parish hall to the south. The parish hall is clad with the same stone, but has a flat roof behind a parapet.

To outward appearance the building appears to be aisled, on account of the widening of the nave in relation to the bays to the east and west. The sweeping nave roof continues down to eaves about eleven feet from the ground. The west end presents a canopied entrance with a large recessed four-light window above, which continues up into the projecting eaves. At the sides the windows are recessed, giving an appearance of modulation and strength, whereas in the sacristy and hall they are flush, with slightly projecting frames. The window heads are canted, and the windows themselves have rectangular lead cames, containing some coloured glass. The sanctuary is lit by high-level triple side openings at the sides.

A stepped approach with recent ceramic paving leads through panelled doors into a short vestibule/narthex. The main interior is wide and brightly lit, and was designed to accommodate the post-Vatican II liturgy. It was provided with a forward altar from the outset, and there was no separate baptistery (although this probably because it was built as a chapel-of-ease).  The only significant change has been the removal of the communion rails. The interior walls and ceiling are plastered and painted up to purlin level, above which there is stained hardwood diagonal boarding (the narrowing at the east end means that the sanctuary ceiling has an entirely boarded finish). A gallery at the west end has a projecting front. The east wall in the sanctuary is stone finished, with a Christus Rex crucifix placed against it. The tabernacle is placed on a plinth against the east wall, and in front of this is a stone forward altar. A timber canopy is suspended above this. Other sanctuary furnishings (ambo, font and chairs) are also of timber. Set into the wall on the north side is the foundation stone. The nave seating consists of two banks, with a central alley. 

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Ivor Day & O’Brien

Original Date: 1966

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed