Bournemouth - Sacred Heart

Albert Road, Bournemouth, Dorset

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The first Catholic church to be built in Bournemouth. The original church and presbytery were designed by Henry Clutton, a Catholic convert and distinguished Victorian architect, and were greatly enlarged at the end of the nineteenth century by A.J. Pilkington. The building has considerable townscape value, placed picturesquely on a sloping site. The interior preserves much of its original character, despite the enlargement.

The site on Richmond Hill was purchased in 1870 with the help of Lady Herbert of Lea and Mrs M. O’Connell, and a small wooden chapel was erected. This was soon replaced by a permanent church designed by Henry Clutton, the first part of which was opened in the summer of 1873. Clutton also designed a large presbytery attached to the church. As the Catholic community in Bournemouth continued to grow the accommodation in the church proved insufficient and it was decided to incorporate the existing building in a considerably enlarged church. Work started in April 1896 and the enlarged church, with accommodation for some 880 people, was opened on 31 December 1900.

Henry Clutton’s original church of 1872 was Gothic in style and comprised a short aisled nave with a southwest tower and presumably a sanctuary at the east end. Along the whole length of the ritual north side of the churchwas the presbytery in a vaguely sixteenth century style, with broad mullioned and transomed windows. Both church and presbytery were faced with buff-coloured brick. In the late 1890s the church was greatly enlarged to the designs of A. J. Pilkington, with a whole new east end with transepts, a large sanctuary above a basement hall and other accommodation all faced in Swanage stone; the lower parts of the aisles and the west end of Clutton’s church were also refaced in stone. In the 1920s a new wing was added to the presbytery fronting Post Office Road; the wing was built in a similar style to Clutton’s original building and faced in buff brick. The final effect on the sloping site is highly picturesque, although the exterior of Clutton’s church building is effectively swamped by the later additions.

The west elevation to Albert Road consists of Clutton’s west gable with its large traceried window of five main lights, and Clutton’s brick tower. The façade at street level was refaced in stone in the 1890s and given a new porch. The elevation to Richmond Hill comprises Clutton’s tower and the three bays of his nave, with the three brick cross-gables of the aisle rising above a later stone-faced passage, and the large gabled transept, side chapel and sanctuary of Pilkington’s later east end. The transept has two three-light traceried windows divided by a central buttress, with a rose window in the gable. This part of the church is built above a basement with mullioned windows to the street. The tall blind gable of the east end with its three massive buttresses rises above Post Office Road and to the right of the main gable is a wide arched entrance to the basement halls.

For the interior of his church, Clutton adopted a French thirteenth century style. His four-bay nave has double-chamfered stone arches on paired cylindrical columns with capitals either simplified of left uncarved; wall-shafts rise from the spandrels of the arches to the clerestorey. The aisles on the liturgical south side have stone half- arches and three-light traceried windows; the north aisle is windowless. The nave has a boarded timber kingpost roof and the west bay of the nave is filled by a timber organ gallery.

A tall chamfered chancel arch at the east end of the nave opens into a broad crossing space lit by the large traceried windows high up in the transept gables; the arches to the transepts are lower than those to nave and sanctuary. All the arches rest on paired columns like those of the nave, but with carved foliage capitals. The sanctuary has a blind east wall lined with marble as the background for an elaborate reredos with arches on either side opening into side chapels. The sanctuary roof is boarded and panelled.

Significant fittings include the sanctuary reredos by Peter Paul Pugin, the stained glass of the south aisle windows dating from the 1870s and the 1920s organ in the west gallery, by Hill & Son. The floors throughout are now covered in lino. The benches are modern.

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: Henry Clutton, A. J. Pilkington

Original Date: 1872

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1896, 1920

Listed Grade: Grade II