Wool - St Joseph

The Square, Wool, Dorset

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An impressive 1960s church design, responding thoughtfully to the needs of the post-Vatican II liturgy. The function clearly dictates the form, resulting in a building that is visually memorable as well as fit for purpose. Little has been changed since 1971. The Triodetic spaceframe roof structure is not generally associated with churches but enables a large uninterrupted space for the celebration of the Mass. The interior furnishings and fittings are essential to the totality of the design.

Bindon Abbey, just east of Wool, was founded as a Cistercian house in 1172. In 1641 the abbey ruins came into the possession of the Welds of Lulworth Castle. At Lulworth the Welds built the first free-standing post-Reformation church for Roman Catholic worship in 1786-7. A little later they built a house of retreat adjacent to the ruins, with a first floor chapel over a schoolroom, though the chapel was not registered as a place of worship until 1885. The army camp at Bovington, set up during the First World War, and the nearby nuclear power station, contributed to the growth of Wool, now larger than the neighbouring historic town of Wareham. In 1969 a new school was opened in the village and work began on a new church and house keeper’s accommodation. In 1968 Sir Joseph Weld commissioned Anthony Jaggard (who was connected to the family through marriage) to design a ‘modern’ church for Wool. The starting point for the design was ‘Guiding Principles for the Design of Churches According to the Spirit of the Roman Liturgy’, published by the German Liturgical Commission in 1947. The completed church was solemnly blessed on 1stDecember 1972.

Brick (laid in English bond) and render. Blue brick plinth and plum brick above. The plan of the main body of the church is a double square, with an unequal pitched roof with a lantern at the highest point (above the altar). The roof is of shallow pitch and clad in lead, whilst the lead-clad square lantern has steeply pitched sides and a cross rising from the top. At the west end a flat-roofed narthex, the full width of the church and a similar smaller projection at the east end for the sacristies. On the south side, corresponding with the highest point of the main roof is the partly engaged circular tower form of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, with a smaller circular tower, enclosing a staircase, immediately to its west. In the corresponding position on the north side an oval projection houses the family pew over the baptistery. Bold concrete spouts or chutes, reminiscent of Ronchamp, to discharge water from the roofs of the chapel, stair and family pew towers.

 

The main body of the church has a white mineral render finish, whilst the various projecting elements are finished in brick, apart from the aluminium screen wall across the narthex, with the brick walls like book ends. The nave walls have vertical strips with glazing between ‘pilasters’ with chamfered copings. The upper parts of the glazing are contiguous with a clerestory band of glazing, which, interrupted only by the towers, gives the effect that the box fascia of the roof appears to float unsupported. The roof overhangs and has two down pipes at either end which are close in colour to the building fabric and appear like supporting piloti.

 

The interior of the narthex is a rectangular room with exposed plum brick walls and painted matchboard ceiling. The floor is of rectangular concrete slabs. There is a clutter of later furniture, including an altar table. The main church can be entered by one of three entrances, double doors to the centre and single doors to the ‘aisles’. The doors are highly glazed in narrow vertical strips. Concrete lintel over the main doorway with segmental-arched soffit. The narthex is used as a gathering and social space.

 

The main church is light and spacious and the effect on entering is appropriately breathtaking and humbling. The large volume is remarkably uncluttered; the Blessed Sacrament chapel and family pew do not detract from the all-important emphasis on the altar, which lies at the heart of the plan, raised up, centrally placed and lit from above by the lantern, though the lantern itself is not revealed until the sanctuary is reached. The most striking feature of the interior is the aluminium Triodetic spaceframe roof, the depth of the clerestory. Being of aluminium the roof could be assembled without heavy lifting gear. The aluminium components were hand polished and finished with a clear lacquer. The plain matchboard roof can be seen through the latticework of the structure. The matchboarding in the lantern is painted white.

 

At the west end the three doors have shuttered concrete lintels, broader lintels with segmental-arched soffits span recesses either side of the central doorway; that to the north has a shelf for missals etc whilst that to the south has a free-standing T-plan brick structure forming the confessional. This is detailed with a blue glazed slot and concrete slabs forming elements of the internal confessional which are expressed externally, adding detail and interest to the structure.

 

The main interior walls are of painted brick, apart from the east wall, which is of rock-faced stone in small square blocks laid in stack bond. Two double doors (with the same detailing as the western doors) give access to the two sacristies. The circular and oval shapes of the Blessed Sacrament chapel and family pew are expressed internally, protruding subtly into the double square; their sides are cut away beneath arched concrete lintels which fort part of a complete ring or band. The plum brick is exposed for the walls of these elements. The Blessed Sacrament chapel has a high circular table, on which stands the tabernacle, and around this a tree of life sculpture (in welded steel and GRP resin) entwines and rises the height of the chapel, supporting a Dalmatian pelican in its upper branches. This is by the sculptor, Geoffrey Teychenne. It was originally intended that the tabernacle itself would be held in the branches and not placed on a table. The chapel is top-lit by a circular lantern. To the right of the chapel, in a recess, is the organ gallery, with a small 18th century chamber organ in a mahogany case. Plain metal balustrade with wooden handrail. The Weld family pew is treated similarly, with the concrete ring and lintel and metal balustrades with wooden handrails. The staircase is of tapering concrete slabs cantilevered from the wall and with the metal balustrade taken up to form the upper balustrade. Contemporary pew and lighting to the first floor family pew. The space is lit by an oval lantern.

 

The sanctuary is defined by a raised square, with the altar on a smaller raised square. The pavement is of brown square tiles with a border of larger square concrete slabs. The altar comprises a heavy stone slab supported on a black metal skeleton frame. (The communion vessels, not seen, were designed by Atholl Hill). Six elegantly tapering candlesticks, originally arranged in lines of three flanking the altar but four of them now placed against the east wall. Sanctuary furnishings, seats, tables, balustrade are all of simple and open design in metal and wood. The ambo is a substitute for the original, which was of much simpler design matching the candlesticks. Altar and ambo both have fabric frontals but this is a modification from the original Spartan effect. Cross with exquisite silver crucifix by Teychenne. This was originally placed centrally but is now placed to one side. In the east wall are two shallow recesses, with smooth finished square stones painted white and of unequal size, providing the setting for statues of Our Lady andSt Joseph, of painted and gilded wood, standing on concrete shelves. They were made inItalyand were intended as aids to private devotion. In their traditional and rather lush form they seem curiously out of place in the austere contemporary setting, despite being part of the original concept. In front of each are pairs of kneelers, metal framed with upholstered knee and arm supports. .

 

The nave has concrete pews set at three-foot centres, with felt panels to seat and back supports and wooden tops. The floor of the nave has the same brown square tiles as used in the sanctuary. The lighting is by four box gantries running the length of the pewed area. Around the walls are small built-in wall sconces of concrete with panels of coloured glass. Stations of the Cross, small crosses set above the lower windows. It was originally intended that the lower windows might be filled with stained glass. Circular drum font in the baptistery below the family pew. The original under floor heating has been replaced with storage heaters along the walls.

Diocese: Plymouth

Architect: Anthony Jaggard of John Stark & Partners, with structural engineers L. G. Mouchel & Partners

Original Date: 1971

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed