Aspley - St Teresa of Lisieux

Kingsbury Drive, Aspley, Nottingham NG8

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An unusual design, with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof and internal lighting influenced by major contemporary buildings such as the Commonwealth Institute and Coventry Cathedral. The church was built at the time of the Second Vatican Council, and reflects the influence of ideas about liturgy and design engendered by the Council.

In penal times and into the 18th  century Mass was said at Aspley Hall, home of the Willoughby family.

The Aspley housing estate was developed between the wars and from 1937 Mass was said in a local school by priests from Bulwell and then Hyson Green.  In 1947 a site just  off  Aspley  Lane  was  acquired,  in  which  was  relocated  a  timber  building previously used by the British Legion. This served both as church and church hall and was capable of seating 350. The church was fitted up over time, with altar rails from the Cathedral and a reredos painted by a Bavarian ex-prisoner of war. Later in 1947 St Teresa’s was made into a parish in its own right, and a school and presbytery followed (the presbytery in 1951). In due course a chapel of ease was attached to the parish, St Hugh’s at Bilborough.

By the end of the 1950s it was apparent that the wooden churches at Aspley and Bilborough were no longer fit for purpose, and it was decided to replace them. The architect for both was John Rochford of Sheffield, and the unusual hyperbolic paraboloid form of construction used was, according to the parish history, inspired by a  visit by  the church  choirmaster  to  the Commonwealth  Hall  at  the Scott-Bader Chemicals Factory in Wellingborough. St Hugh’s was built first and work on St Teresa’s started in June 1964. The church was completed in October 1965 and was formally opened by Bishop Ellis on May 4th  1966. It was therefore one of the first churches in the Diocese to have been designed and built after the Second Vatican Council,  and  which  clearly  absorbed  the  new  thinking  on  design  and  liturgy engendered by the Council. The church was capable of seating 450, and the cost (including seating and furnishings) was £33,000. J.E.B. Wheatley were the contractors.

The  church  is basically  square  on plan  and  has  a  70ft  square  timber  hyperbolic paraboloid roof covered in felt and supported at the two low corners by cruciform reinforced concrete buttresses clad in black brick and stainless steel. The external walls consist of brick piers faced with hand made bricks, separated by tall narrow staggered lights providing rear light to the interior. The chief architectural influences seem to be the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington and Spence’s Coventry Cathedral, both opened in 1962.

Internally, the altar is placed to allow for westward celebration, with the tabernacle placed at the rear of the sanctuary. The canopy over the altar is a miniature version of the main roof form. The seating is grouped around the altar on three sides. The swooping roof is internally clad with varnished timber boarding and the walls are faced with bare fair-faced sand lime brickwork. At the liturgical west end there is an organ gallery over the narthex, and a centrally-placed baptistery with an open metal enclosure at the back.

The Communion rails have been removed in part, but otherwise the church has been little  changed  since  1965.    Furnishings  include  a  Crucifix  behind  the  altar  and Stations of the Cross by Alan Rochford, brother of the architect. The figures are fibreglass with a bronze filler. The baptistery survives in situ.

Diocese: Nottingham

Architect: John Rochford

Original Date: 1964

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed