Neath Road, Briton Ferry, Neath, SA11 2YR
A modern design by Thomas Price of the time of the Second Vatican Council, of block-like form with simple rectangular plan and ambulatory arrangement influenced by Maguire & Murray’s church of St Paul, Bow Common, London (1958-60). There has been some internal re-ordering but much of the detailing (including the cylindrical corona over the altar and the screen to St David’s chapel) is typical of the 1960s, and John Petts’ stained glass, original to the building, makes a powerful contribution to the quality of the internal space. The openwork concrete campanile is a local landmark.
A church hall was built on the site in 1951, and was initially a chapel-of-ease to St Joseph’s church at Neath. A separate parish was formed in 1958 and the third parish priest, the Rev. Edmund Mullins, oversaw the building of a new church and presbytery adjoining the existing hall. This was to an adventurous modern design by Thomas Price of F. R. Bates, Son & Price, expressing the spirit of renewal at the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-66), and with some notable furnishings by John Petts (1914-91). The contractors were Messrs Knox & Wells, and the church was blessed and officially opened by the Archbishop of Cardiff on 10 May 1966. The awkward elevated site was not large enough to accommodate the new church and presbytery as separate buildings, so the presbytery was designed at first floor level projecting into the roof of the existing hall and providing a link between the hall and the east end of the church.
The church is a simple flat-roofed box-like shape on a rectangular plan. The main building has a steel frame clad externally with ribbed self-finished metal cladding, with a large rectangular window at the west end, strip windows at the base of both side walls and rectangular windows on both sides at the east end. On the west, north and south sides of the main building is a single-storey flat-roofed ambulatory with walls of 11 inch cavity brickwork, with vertical slit windows on the south side. The brickwork is now painted red but early views appear to show it a light colour, like that of the upper cladding. At the northwest angle of the building is a modernist openwork campanile made of reinforced concrete, housing one bell. The same early view shows that the campanile was also originally painted a light colour. The east end of the church is combined with the two storey presbytery, which is set against rising ground at the rear of the site. The presbytery is clad in ship-lap weatherboarding.
The main entrance at the southwest corner leads to a narthex extending the full width of the west front, which originally had a baptistery at the western end. The narthex is divided from the main body of the church by a screen with stained glass panels representing The Passion, by John Petts. The body of the church has plain plastered walls and a flat ceiling whose panels outline the shape of a large cross. At the head of the cross, above the forward altar, is a hanging cylindrical corona, terminating with a 12ft diameter dome light. The sanctuary is also lit from either side by large windows high in the wall with stained glass in abstract patterns, original to the building. At the west end of the south side is a small side chapel dedicated to St David, which is divided from the main body of the church by an abstract openwork screen of the same character as the external campanile. The chapel contains a fine expressionist figure of St David by John Petts. The west end wall above the narthex has a large concrete and stained glass window with a striking figure of Our Lady, also by Petts.
The original wooden bench seating in the body of the church survives but there has been some reordering at the east end. The rails have been removed, a dais formed for a new altar in a forward position (with carved frontal of the Last Supper) and the tapering cylindrical stone font moved from the original western baptistery to the sanctuary.
Architect: Thomas Price of F. R. Bates, Son & Price
Original Date: 1966
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed