Alton - St Mary

Normandy Street, Alton, Hants

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One of a large number of new churches built in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which broke away from the traditional longitudinal plan in favour of experimenting with central planning and polygonal forms. The most distinctive features of the church are the stepped form of the roof, the centrally planned internal space, and the stained glass panels.

The architect Justin Alleyn (1908-83) was educated at Ampleforth College and studied at the Liverpool School of Architecture. His practice was based in London and Reigate, and he designed a number of churches of adventurous plan form and design in the early-mid 1960s.

The first Catholic church in Alton opened in 1911 in Albert Road; it was in a plain gothic style, and seated only 100. In 1938 a larger temporary church was built on the site of the present building in Normandy Street. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 30 April 1966 by Bishop Worlock and the church was completed later in that year to the designs of Justin Alleyn. The presbytery was completed around 1968.

The church was consecrated on 25 June 1982.

The church is in an innovative design being centrally planned, with an altar at the centre. The building is hexagonal, with a central lantern over the altar and sanctuary area and a smaller lantern above the main entrance, which was initially the baptistery. The stepped roof is timber with a metallic sheet covering and natural light enters the church through the lantern and at each step level. The twenty-two lancet windows have vertical abstract stained glass panels set at the angles of the hexagon; according to the parish priest these were designed by Fr Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, Devon (made by Hugh Powell?). Fr Hart stated that limited reordering took place in the late twentieth century.

The statue of the Virgin is Italian in marble, dating from 1827, and was a gift from Lord Heathcote. The high altar is of Sicilian marble and Portland stone.

The two storey brick-built presbytery has been designed to form a group with the church.

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: Justin H Alleyn

Original Date: 1966

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed