Corby - Our Lady of Walsingham

Corby, Northants

title= title=

The exterior of this interwar church is unremarkable but the interior is striking spatially and the design of the nave roof and arcade columns is unusual.

Catholic practice was extinguished in the Corby area in Penal times but sometime after 1924 Canon Tonks of Kettering came to Corby village to say Mass in a cottage. In 1931 Corby was a small village with a population of about 1,500, but it grew rapidly after 1934 when Stewart & Lloyds built a large integrated ironstone and steel works on the site of their ironstone works. This drew workers from all over the country including many from the depressed west of Scotland and Irish labourers, many of them Catholics. By 1939 the population had grown to around 12,000. In 1934 a temporary wooden church was erected in Occupation Road and the present church, built to meet the pastoral and spiritual needs of the steel workers, was opened in 1938, from designs by E. Bower Norris FRIBA of Stafford.

The church faces southeast but for the purposes of this description all compass points will assume the conventional orientation facing due east. The church is built of brown brick with tall nave and aisles, a sanctuary higher than the nave and a southwest tower.  Parapets conceal the roofs. Window openings  are all of  simple form with square heads, the only reference to conventional ecclesiastical form being the tall and thin proportions. The windows are generally arranged in pairs. The west window is wider and sits above a carved stone relief panel of Our Lady and Child. Below again, a slightly projecting canopy shelters a recessed porch. The tower steps in at its upper level and has groups of three louvred bell openings to each face with stone bands linking  the heads  and cills.  A  foundation stone  is  set  into  the  north  wall  of  the sanctuary.

The interior is of impressive scale and openness, the aisles and nave being almost of the  same  height  and  with  soaring  fluted  columns  offering  minimal  separation between nave and aisles. The columns are not circular but taper towards the aisles. The column bases are faced in mosaic tiles. The nave roof is of unusual saw tooth form. A beam with minimal arch-like embellishment separates the nave from the higher sanctuary, which is additionally lit by a triplet of high-level west windows. The high altar recess has stepped arches of slightly canted form. The greater height of the sanctuary creates the impression of a tower and is echoed at the west end where the gallery ceiling is higher than that of the nave. A narthex is formed beneath the gallery. At the east end of the aisles are small chapels lit by decorative skylights with original coloured glass and with borrowed light from the sanctuary, the openings filled by iron screens. The marble altar, ambo and stand for the tabernacle may date from the re- ordering or were possibly adapted from the original furnishings. Plain open-backed pews. Stained glass in the main west window, Virgin and Child (similar in design to the stone relief outside) set within a mandorla. A vignette below (perhaps a later addition) depicts the Corby steel industry.

Diocese: Northampton

Architect: E. Bower Norris

Original Date: 1938

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not listed