Victoria Grove, Bridport, Dorset
A bold and interesting 1970s design, let down by poor detailing and materials and largely undistinguished internal furnishings.
The first church on the site in Victoria Grove was erected in 1846, a flint and stone Gothic building designed by one William Fry. Of this period the Tudor-style stone presbytery remains, appearing rather awkward adjacent to the 1970s redevelopment of the church site. The old church was demolished to make way for the present church, opened in 1978. This is placed towards the back of the site, adjacent to North Street, so that the old church could remain in use until the new one had been completed. The site of the old church is the forecourt of the present building, with a large circular raised planting bed, encircled by a path with a brick boundary wall and pair of central gates on Victoria Grove. The architect of the 1978 church has not been established but it is said that the priest at the time chose the design as a copy of a church he admired in Ireland.
The church is of striking form, let down by the materials. The splayed plan is of T form with a projection at the head of the T for the entrance, splayed arms and the base of the T forming the sanctuary. Hipped roofs, a V-shape taken up high in the centre for form a clerestory throwing light onto the altar. The clerestory windows were replaced in uPVC about five years ago. The point of the V forms a concrete cross rising dramatically from the highest point. The walls are partly in brick and partly rendered. Concrete tiled roofs. Apart from the high-level windows, fenestration at the lower level is confined to the outer splayed walls of the wings, where they are set in vertical panels, and to the screen wall of the entrance. This has a stone quatrefoil window set between the paired entrances and presumably salvaged from the old church. The sacristy etc runs along the east side and has plain rectangular windows with obscured glazing.
The interior, though broad and high, is unevenly lit and of awkward plan, being neither a conventional axial plan nor a fully centralised plan. The seating is arranged in the two ‘wings’ and there is insufficient space for seating in the centre, in front of the altar. The ‘wings’ are poorly lit, with only the low windows on the outer wall, and do not benefit from the light which floods in from the clerestory. The walls are in exposed stretcher bond brick and the roofs finished in varnished cedar boarding. A substantial brick pier awkwardly stands at the centre point opposite the altar and dividing the entrance into two parts. The large porch or narthex is of hexagonal plan with two long sides and four short sides. The sanctuary is raised on two steps but is not identified architecturally. The tabernacle is supported on a shelf on the east wall. Open-backed benches, contemporary with the new church. The fittings and furnishings are not generally of artistic note. Some stained glass windows, presumably re-used from the old church.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1978
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed