Plymouth - St Paul

Pemros Road, St Budeaux, Plymouth, Devon

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Interwar church in an eclectic basilican style, with a handsome west front of red brick and Portland stone. The result of the patronage of the Misses Robinson, who paid for a number of churches in the Diocese of Plymouth, and the architectural tastes of the parish priest, Fr Tymons. Post-Vatican II reordering resulted in the loss of a number of internal furnishings of interest, but the interior remains an impressive space. 

The church was built with great speed in six months during 1933; Bishop Barrett laid the foundation stone on 2 May and returned to bless the new church on 5 November. The purchase of the land was made possible through a gift from the two Misses Robinson, who paid for a number of churches in the diocese in the 1930s, including Holy Rosary, Heavitree, Exeter. The church was built under the direction of E.B. Wheatley although there can be little doubt that the parish priest, Fr James Tymons, who was something of an amateur architect and had overseen the building of his previous church at Heavitree (q.v.), heavily influenced the design, the interior of which is said to be influenced by that of S Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome. The builders were Plasm Co. Ltd (builders and contractors of East Molesey,Surrey, and manufacturers of reconstituted stone, fibrous plaster, brick, terrazzo and marble units). The contract cost was £7000. 

 

Post-Vatican II reordering involved the removal of the baldacchino and statues of saints that were notable features of the original interior (see photo bottom right).

 

With Holy Redeemer, Keyham and Holy Family,Beacon Park Road,St Paul’s is now part of Holy Trinity parish, served by a priest based in the presbytery here atSt Paul’s.  

The church is orientated north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

 

Red brick church with Portland stone trim in an eclectic basilican style. The chief external architectural display is reserved for the west front. Projecting central bay corresponding to the nave, framed by giant order of Corinthian pilasters and surmounted by a moulded pediment. Colonnade of four Corinthian columns frame the three paired entrance doors with diamond paned glass in semi circular fanlights, reached by a flight of concrete steps. A balustrade of three groups of five arches over the entablature, with a central statue ofSt Paul(previously in the church). Above this a large blind wheel window listing the ten divine attributes emanating from the central word GOD. On either side of the entrance, and set back, are the end walls of the side aisles, with corner pilasters, string course, raised and moulded window surround and cornice in Portland stone or reconstituted stone. The flank elevations are more simply treated; copper roofs to the nave, lean-to aisles and apsidal east end (see photo top right).   

 

Main entrance leads into a small lobby with stone floor and compartmented ceiling with bold but rather crude cornicing.   Similar details in the spaces on either side (including former baptistery). The main body of the church consists of a nave and aisles of five bays with a gallery at the west end, side altars in the aisles, and a round arch leading into the apsidal sanctuary.  Circular Doric piers support the nave arcade, slenderer Corinthian columns the chancel arch. Round arched clerestorey windows to the nave, and between these corbels originally carrying statues of Old Testament Prophets and Doctors of the Church (see photo bottom right). The statue ofSt Paul(now above the entrance) was originally placed in a niche within the church. The nave has a heavy coffered ceiling, with simpler compartmented ceilings to the aisles.  The reordered sanctuary has lost its original communion rails, baldacchino and marble altar. However, the domed brass tabernacle (also inscribed with the divine attributes) has been returned to this area after having been relocated for a while in the former confessional recess at the west end of the south aisle. This recess, over which is a coloured low-relief tympanum depicting Christ preaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is now a side entrance with ramped wheelchair access.

 

Another larger and fine Classical plaster relief, showing Christ and the money changers in the Temple, is located on the west wall of the church, on the verso side of the wheel window. This is currently obscured by the 1884 organ, which has an attractive Arts and Crafts-style painted case, and which has been recently acquired from the former Anglican church of St Aidan,Plymouth (information from parishioner).  

 

The nave has simple, sturdy oak benches. In the early years while the parish was paying off its debt, pew rentals were paid for the seating at the front of the church.

According to Woodhead, the Stations and statue of Our Lady over the Lady altar were carved by Stuflesser.

Diocese: Plymouth

Architect: Plasm Co., builders, under the direction of E. B. Wheatley and Fr James Tymons

Original Date: 1933

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed