Clwyd Avenue, Abergele, LL22 7NF
One of three unusual and distinctive Catholic churches by the Italian engineer and architect Giuseppe Rinvolucri built in North Wales in the 1930s. St Therese of Lisieux is neo-Byzantine in style and is built of reinforced concrete clad in rubble stonework. Cruciform in plan, with a simple geometry based on a central dome, vaults and apsidal semi-domes, the interior is tall and spacious. The furnishings are mostly later, including the eccentric altar, tabernacle and font designed by Victor Neep. The church makes a prominent and positive contribution to the Abergele Conservation Area.
A temporary mission was established in Abergele in 1847 for the benefit of Irish labourers, 300 of whom were engaged in building the railway at that time. However, it was not until 1934 that a church was built, when Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian engineer and architect who resided in Glan Conwy, was commissioned by Canon J. E. Quinn. It was one of three remarkable reinforced concrete churches that he built in North Wales in the 1930s, and the first church in the Diocese of Menevia to be dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux. The contractor was G. P. Gregory and Son of Caernarvon and the cost was below £4,000. The building was opened in September 1934. In 1971 the sanctuary was reordered by Bowen Dann Davies.
The church has a cruciform plan recalling the Celtic cross with semi-circular apses at the ends of the four arms. At the centre is a dome with semi-domes over the apses and a barrel vault over the nave. It is constructed of reinforced concrete and faced externally in rock-faced limestone rubble, reputedly to fit in with neighbouring buildings. The roofs appear to be covered in mineral felt, although the list description says copper. The style is Byzantine, with round headed windows set high in the walls and an arcaded porch at the west end supported on marble columns.
The interior is tall and simple in character with plain plaster walls painted in cream and pale blue. Niches in the splayed walls of the domed space contain wooden statues of Our Lady, St Joseph, St Winefride and St Anthony. At the west end is a gallery formerly used by the choir, but later extended to create a narthex with steel trusses supporting a timber floor and a timber and glass screen at ground floor level. It is reached by a spiral staircase, but is no longer used. The sanctuary floor is paved in grey marble, and the floors of the baptistery and the chapel of St Therese are of grey slate. The main floor is timber, but has been carpeted. In 1971 the sanctuary was reordered by Bowen Dann Davies, which involved the installation of a new timber-faced altar and tabernacle designed by Victor Neep (1921-79), Welsh painter and sculptor. These are described by Edward Hubbard in The Buildings of Wales as ‘ferocious’, and the font, also by Neep, he called ‘peculiar’.
Reference Number: 18664
Date of Designation: 05/08/1997
Date of Amendment: 05/08/1997
Name of Property: Church of St Teresa of Lisieux
Unitary Authority: Conwy
Street Side: E
Location: Located N of the town centre, on the corner of Clwyd Avenue.
History: Built in 1934 to the design of G Rinvolucri, an Italian immigrant architect living in Conwy, who later built a church in similar style in Ludlow. Altered in 1971 by Bowen, Dann, Davies, when the tabernacle and font by Victor Neep were installed.
Exterior: Built of limestone, with copper sheet roof cladding. Cruciform plan, all arms terminating in semi-circular apses. The entrance arm is extended, and has a triple semi-circular arched arcade on a raised podium with marble columns and Byzantine style capitals. Apses and the entrance arm have triplets of round-headed small windows set high in the walls, and above, the parapet is outset on a corbel table. Central dome with apex cross, and barrel vaults to the arms, semi-domes over the apses.
Interior: The interior is simple; plastered walls and high unmoulded arched openings to the wings, and smaller arches to the apses. The splays of the main piers supporting the dome have simple niches. The eastern apse is raised, with a priest’s door to the left, and marble pavings. The baptistery in the E apse has radially set grey slate pavings and a boldly designed font of 1971 by Victor Neep. The Chapel of St Teresa in the W apse has an octagonal slate floor. The entrance arm is ceiled, above which is the choir gallery.
Reason for designation: Included for its special interest as a prominently sited and distinctively Byzantine style inter-war church.
Architect: Giuseppe Rinvolucri
Original Date: 1934
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II