Laindon Road, Billericay, Essex CM12
A church in Lombard Romanesque style by Edward Goldie, built in two phases and extended by a west porch in 1981. Early benefactors were William Dunn of Lilystone Hall, and Edmund and Agnes Cole. Most of the historic furnishings have been removed, leaving only some stained glass, a memorial and the altar painting. The church is a local landmark.
In 1884, Mass was said at 108 High Street Billericay, a house owned by Edmund Cole. In 1887-88 priests from Stock and Romford said Mass in the hut housing the Irish workers employed on the railway line between Shenfield and Southend. From 1888, various buildings in Billericay served temporarily as Mass centres. In 1910, the Ursulines opened a convent at 129 High Street. A resident priest lived in a cottage in the High Street from 1910 until 1932. When the Ursulines moved away in 1913, plans were made for a permanent parish church.
The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Butt on 21 November 1913. The first part of the church, comprising only the easternmost three bays, was opened in March 1914 and the official opening took place on 8 September 1914. The architect was Edward Goldie (1856-1921), son of the better-known Catholic architect George Goldie. The style of the church was apparently modelled on Lombardic churches but is also similar to other churches by Edward Goldie, e.g. St Lawrence, Sidcup, and St Joseph, Bromley which share features such as the chequerboard pattern in the gable and the circular windows. The site in Billericay had been donated by Edmund Cole, in whose parents’ house Mass had been celebrated in the 1880s. His sister Agnes gave the original high altar and the font. William Dunn of Lilystone Hall gave £700 towards building costs and provided the remainder as an interest-free loan. This first part of the church cost only £1,500. The original Lady altar (later Blessed Sacrament altar, now removed) came from Lilystone Hall. The parish was canonically erected in 1918. In 1919 Cardinal Bourne dedicated a crucifix in front of the church as a war memorial (replaced in 1981).
In 1925-26, the church was extended westwards and the sacristy added, presumably to Goldie’s plans and possibly by his son, Joseph, who continued the practice. The total cost of the church building was in 1926 just below £3,000 (excluding furnishings). The sacristy cost £300 and the furnishings another £600. In the late 1920s or early 1930s, a small hall was built behind the church. In 1967 the current presbytery was completed.
In 1968 the church was reordered; the high altar was replaced by a new forward altar and the former Lady Chapel became the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In 1971, the small hall was replaced by the Canon Roche Social Centre which was extended in 1973, 1976-77 and 1996. In 1981, a new porch was added, the statues on the west front removed, a new narthex screen and gallery stair installed and the pipe organ replaced by an electronic organ. The new organ was placed where the confessional had been, and a new confessional was created at the northwest where the font had stood. In 1985 the sanctuary floor was raised and new sanctuary furnishings installed. A new Lady Chapel was created at the southeast. The church was consecrated on 29 November 1985 by Bishop McMahon.
The easternmost three bays were built in 1913-14, the remainder of the church in 1925-26. The large west porch was added in 1981. The church is faced in red and brown brick laid in English bond (stretcher bond in the porch) with tile details and a tiled roof. (The change in brickwork between the 1913-14 and 1925-26 work is clearly visible.) The plan is longitudinal and consists of an apsed nave with side aisles (of which the northern one also terminates in an apse) and a large west porch. The sacristy links the house and the church at the southeast.
The west porch has a recessed doorway under a gable which is modelled on the original west doorway and which holds the original doors with large decorative hinges. The portions on either side are flat-roofed with metal ‘cornices’ and round- headed windows to match those of the church. The west front has circular windows in the end walls of the aisles. The central part, framed by buttresses, has two round- headed windows at clerestory level alternating with three niches which until 1981 held statues of St John the Baptist, St Mary Magdalene and St Mary. Above these is a central circular window under a relieving arch and a bellcote with two bells. (For many years, one of the bells was only a concrete replica.) The recessed fields of the gable on either side of the circular window are filled with red and brown bricks in chequerboard pattern.
The west porch with its timber-panelled ceiling has doors at the south and west. The six-bay nave has an open kingpost roof. The round-headed clerestory windows are directly above an arcade on square pillars. Window and arch voussoirs are of exposed brick, the remainder is plastered. Below the gallery is a brass plaque to the Fallen of the First World War. The timber gallery front has open arches and two niches. Between the two west windows are the pipes for the organ.
The northwest corner, formerly the baptistery area, is partitioned off as a reconciliation room. It contains a circular stained glass window depicting the Ecce Homo and a statue of Our Lady. The north aisle has a statue of St Joseph. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the northeast has a silver tabernacle on a stone pedestal side lit by two windows in the apse.
There is a small window in the apex of the east gable, above the chancel arch. The sanctuary is lit by four windows in the apse, all filled with clear glass. The altar painting is a copy of the central panel of a triptych by Perugino in the Pazzi chapel in Florence. The stone ambo, altar, chair and font all date from the reordering of 1985. At the east end of the south aisle is a small circular niche created in 1985 as a Lady Chapel.
The south aisle has a square niche (formerly the confessional, now filled with chairs) and near the west a large marble memorial erected by John Henry Saville, 6th Earl of Mexborough (1868-1945) for his aunt Miss Anne Raphael (died 1890) of Stockwell Hall, Little Burstead. The west end of the aisle has a circular stained glass window of Our Lady of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa). The floors of the church are partly tiled, partly woodblock with some modern carpeting. The Stations of the Cross are plaster quatrefoils. The nave has modern timber benches and modern chandeliers.
Original Date: 1913
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed