Wellington Street, Slough, Berkshire
A fine landmark church, its design inspired by the medieval churches of Norfolk. The building has a tall, spacious interior and a number of furnishings of note. The presbytery is almost contemporary and is built of similar materials. However, the setting of the church is marred by the location at the edge of a busy roundabout.
In the early 1880s an Italian priest named Fr Joseph Clemente arrived in Slough as chaplain to Baylis House School. As well as serving its pupils, the chapel was attended by local Catholics. Fr Clemente and his supporters subsequently raised enough money to buy the freehold of a disused warehouse and stable on Herschel Street, less than half a kilometre south of the present church. These buildings were converted to become the first St Ethelbert’s church in November 1885. In 1888 Fr Clemente gave up his chaplaincy at Baylis House in order to devote himself to St Ethelbert’s.
In 1889 land for the present church on Curzon Street was bought at a cost of £1,050. Fundraising efforts progressed slowly; work on the building did not begin until May 1908, following a donation by the Superior of St Bernard’s Convent in Slough in memory of her parents.
The church was designed by the architect-priest Fr Benedict Williamson, assisted by Fr J. Francis Drake, chaplain of St Bernard’s Convent, who apparently influenced the building’s East Anglian character. Another influence may have been Bentley’s Holy Rood, Watford, also a flint church in the Perpendicular Gothic style, completed ten years earlier. The foundation stone at Slough was laid and blessed on 1 July 1908.
The builders were Messrs. Godson and Sons. The consecration and opening of the church took place on 19 and 20 April 1910.
A major scheme of repair and reordering by Anthony New of Seely and Paget included the moving of the oak screen to a new position behind the altar (which had already been moved forward to allow for westward celebration), the moving of the font to the sanctuary area where it was balanced by a new ambo, replacing the pulpit.
Today, Our Lady Immaculate and St Ethelbert’s is the main Catholic church in Slough, serving a large multicultural community. Daily Mass is well attended and around 600 people attend Masses at the weekend.
The design is modelled on that of the old parish churches of north Norfolk, and particularly St Nicholas at Wells-next-the-Sea. The church is in the English Perpendicular Gothic style, and is constructed in local stock brick faced with Chiltern flint and Kentish ragstone. Limitations of the site meant that the church was built with a north-south orientation, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation (i.e. chancel at east end and so on). The plan consists of sanctuary, nave, aisles, Lady Chapel (north of the sanctuary), Passion Chapel (south of the sanctuary), northwest porch and west tower. Adjoining the Passion Chapel is a sacristy which leads to a covered passageway to the presbytery. The total length of the church is 130 ft; the width of the nave and aisles is almost 55 ft. The tower, crowned by a leaded octagonal spirelet, is 24 ft square and 74 ft high. The internal walls of the church are plastered, apart from the Bath stone columns and arches. The window tracery is Portland stone.
The list description (below) makes no mention of the architect and does not describe the furnishings in any detail.
There is a three-bay, 26 ft high carved and part-gilded oak rood screen, originally at the chancel arch and moved further east in 1980. Above, the rood figures of Christ flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John. Beyond this at the back of the sanctuary, below the east window, is a carved timber reredos with canopied niches containing (from left to right) richly polychromatic figures of St Augustine, St Ethelbert, Our Lady, St Laurence and St George.
There are two stone side altars. The side chapels have smaller oak screens, and there are parclose screens between the side chapels and the sanctuary (also in oak).
In front of the rood screen is a stone forward altar, ambo and stone octagonal font with wooden cover. The font was the gift of Mr James Elliman in 1912, and was moved to its current position in 1980, after which the original baptistery was converted into a reconciliation room and occasional shop. The baptistery is described in the list description as located to the northeast (ritual southwest) of the nave, but a plan of 1960 shows that it was at the west end of the north aisle.
The simple wooden pews of the nave are original. The carved timber Stations of the Cross date from 1912. Stained glass in the nave windows depict (working clockwise from the west end) the Annunciation; St Ethelbert; the Millennium of Christianity in Poland; the Baptism of Our Lord; St Henrietta of Compiegne; St Cecilia; Our Lady and St Elizabeth; St Alban, St Thomas of Canterbury and St John Fisher, and Saints Joachim and Anne. The maker/designer of the windows has not been established. The remaining windows, including the clerestory lights, have clear glass. A statue of Christ the Redeemer, blessed by the Pope and originally intended for Westminster Cathedral, stands by the side entrance facing the street. It was acquired in 1912.
The organ gallery under the tower is not original; the organ was originally in a gallery above the Passion Chapel. The belfry is reached by a circular turret stair in the south east corner of the tower.
SU 97 NE SLOUGH
Church Of Our Lady Immaculate and St. Ethelbert
Church (R.C.).1909-10, in a Perpendicular style. Flint with stone dressings, string courses, and tile roofs separately over aisles. North-south orientation with north tower, 5 bay nave, aisles, north-west porch, north-east baptistery, 3 bay chancel, west transeptal chapel at north end of chancel, and west vestry.
Tower: 3 stages with angle buttresses, coped battlemented parapet and short lead- sheathed timber spire with weathervane. 2-light louvred bell stage openings on each face, quatrefoiled second stage square windows to north, east and west, and 2-light first stage windows to east and west. Large first stage 5-light north window with panelled tracery and doorway beneath with moulded arch, hoodmould with square stops, and 2-boarded doors.
Nave: five 2-light clerestory window to east and west. Aisles: 2-light west windows; 4 east aisle windows, that to south shorter, of 2-lights except that second from north of
3-lights; 5 west aisle windows all of 2-lights except first and third from west of 3-
lights. North-west doorway with moulded arch, 2 boarded doors, and stoup to right.
Porch: angle buttresses, moulded 4-centered archway, and virgin and child in canopied niche in gable end. 2-light windows to north and south. Baptistery: angle buttresses and 2-light west window.
Chancel: angle buttresses; 2 tall 2-light east windows, one tall and 2 short 2-light west windows, and large 5-light south window with panelled tracery. Transeptal chapel: gabled with bellcote to south-east and 3-light east window with panelled tracery.
Vestry: one storey 4-centered door to north.
Interior: 5 bay nave arcades with moulded arches dying away into octagonal piers with central shafts running up to king post roof. Tower and chancel arches with mouldings dying into jambs. Foiled piscina by east door. Chancel with 3 bay king post roof, low arches into east and west aisle chapels, and organ gallery to east. Fittings include 3 bay rood screen with panelled tracery, and carved octagonal stone font in baptistery.
V.C.H. (Bucks), Vol.3, p.302; Kelly’s Directory, 1911, p.178; The History of Slough, Maxwell Fraser, Slough Corporation, 1973, pp.84-5.
Listing NGR: SU9766579953
SU 97 NE SLOUGH WELLINGTON STREET (south side)
4/3 St. Ethelbert’s Presbytery
Presbytery. Circa 1910, in a simplified Arts and Crafts Tudor style. Flint with stone dressings and hipped tile roof. 2 storeys. Ridge stacks off-centre to left and right with louvred side openings, and 2 stacks to left at rear. Leaded casements throughout. 4 first floor leaded casements, first and third from left of 2 lights, second from left of one light, and fourth from left of 3 lights. 4 ground floor windows, first from left mullioned and transomed of 6 lights, second floor from left of one light with cinquefoiled head, third from left transomed of 2 lights, and fourth from left mullioned and transomed of 8 lights. Moulded arched 4-centered doorway between first and second windows from left with 4-arched light overlight and door with 3 cinquefoiled arched panels. Ground floor 4-light window in right-hand end. Included for group value. The History of Slough, Maxwell Fraser, Slough Corporation, 1973, pp.84-5.
Listing NGR: SU9768879945
Architect: Rev. Benedict Williamson
Original Date: 1910
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II