Southampton - Immaculate Conception

Portswood Road, Portswood, Southampton, Hampshire

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A 1950s brick church of conventional form and in the stripped down Gothic that remained commonplace for church building. W.H. Saunders & Son were a big commercial practice in the 1950s and 60s, Gosport Town Hall of 1964 being one of their more important commissions.

A ‘tin church’ was opened in 1909 but the permanent church was not built until 1955 to designs by the Southampton architects W.H. Saunders & Sons. The iron church stood on the corner next to the present church and was demolished on completion of the latter. Substantial renovation 2002-5. Re-ordering of the sanctuary 1970-71 by Austin Winkley.

Concrete portal frame with brick infill laid in Flemish bond, red brick externally, yellow on the inside. Clay pantile roof and Crittall type steel windows. Nave without aisles, sanctuary with chapel on the south side and sacristies on the north side. West tower broader than it is deep, almost wholly embraced by the nave. Only the narrow horizontal bell-stage projects above the ridge of the church roof. The bell-stage is distinctive and runs continuously around the top of the tower, with square stepped openings. The full tower is only evident from the west where it has three tall and narrow square-headed windows over the shallow recessed entrance with tiling either side of the double doors and a rectangular surround modestly stepped forward. Statue of Our Lady above the door, life size, with stylised drapery. The windows on the north and south sides of the church are tall and rectangular and either single or grouped in pairs with textured concrete surrounds. Pantile roof running uninterrupted over nave and sanctuary, with concrete gutters.

The interior of the nave is a single uninterrupted space open to the roof and dominated by the boomerang-shaped concrete trusses, a shape repeated in the unadorned arch to the sanctuary and repeated in the tower arch which encompasses a gallery over an internal porch and has the organ set high up. A similar blind arch is set in the east wall of the sanctuary. Exposed brickwork, the roof painted cream in the nave and red in the sanctuary. Lady Chapel with green marble east wall. The sanctuary furnishings, altar, tabernacle stand, and ambo are all in Portland stone and form part of Austin Winkley’s reordering of 1970-71. The font was moved to its present position at the same time and placed on a new plinth. On the east wall and abstract tapestry, ‘Dawn of Redemption’ by Sister Regina and the Benedictine nuns of Cockfosters, and, above, a Christus Rex. On the west wall a mosaic panel of ‘Abraham’s Visitors’, 2000 by Andrew Butterworth, a ceramicist working in Southampton. Butterworth also designed the coloured Perspex in the west windows.

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: W.H. Saunders & Son of Southampton

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed