Alresford - St Gregory the Great

Grange Road, Alresford, Hampshire

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The church and its associated buildings lie on an attractive sloping site on the southern outskirts of Alresford. Built in 1967-8, the church reflects typical architectural and liturgical interests of the time – a desire to break away from historicism, use modern materials, and achieve modern liturgical planning with a brought-forward altar and a three-sided arrangement for the sittings. The focus on the altar is emphasised by the use of a glazed lantern over it, a device derived from Maguire and Murray’s influential church of St Paul, Bow Common (1958-60), with the use of a steep monopitch lit on one side perhaps owing something to Gillespie, Kidd and Coia’s St Paul, Glenrothes (1956-7). In the diocese of Portsmouth the design is paralleled in the exactly contemporary church of St John Bosco, Woodley, Berkshire.

Catholicism in the area, focused on Tichborne House, appears to have enjoyed a little-persecuted existence since the Reformation. Catholics were served by chapels at Tichborne House until the present church of St Gregory the Great was built in 1967-8 to designs by Melhuish Wright & Evans of Wimbledon: builder Jenkins & Co. of Southampton. The church was consecrated on 11 July 1975. A parish centre was added in 2004.

The church is faced with light brown bricks laid in stretcher bond. Plain brown tiled roofs. The planning allows a square worship area with a slightly projecting western porch flanked by a sacristy (south) and utility rooms (north). The roof of the main body of the building is raked forward with horizontal timber panelling over the brick walling. Behind this comes a towering central area formed of a tiled pyramid out of which bursts a tall, monopitch lantern whose glazed face, with eight mullioned lights, is aligned west. All this is subsidiary to creating the interior spaces and effects.

The church clearly shows a clear attempt to design the building from the inside out. This is based round a square worship area where the ruling principle is indirect lighting. Four concrete columns are placed within the corners of the square and between them are placed deep reinforced concrete columns which a) support the superstructure and b) conceal metal ‘clerestory’ lights on the outer perimeter walls of the worship area.

The central area rakes up to a square area with a horizontal grid of timbers in its lower parts then, above, a funnel of light formed by the triangular apex of the building (vertical glazed part; monopitch tiled roof). When built the all-over internal timber panelling was entirely stained: the rather overpowering effect has led the parish to apply white painting to the boarding in the lantern during a recent refurbishment.

There is a rather incongruous High Victorian organ signed ‘W. Sweetland, Bath, 1866’ in the northeast corner.

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: Melhuish Wright & Evans

Original Date: 1967

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed