Thirleby Road, Burnt Oak, Edgware, Middlesex HA8
The church is part of a complex built in the 1920s to serve the new Watling Estate. The picturesque exterior with its neo-Byzantine octagonal crossing tower makes a notable contribution to the Watling Estate Conservation Area. The interior has a bold simplicity. The site lies close to an Area of Special Archaeological Significance.
The church of the Annunciation was built to serve the Watling Estate, a large area of housing which was laid out in 1926 by the London County Council on open land between Hendon Aerodrome and Edgware. This was close to the line of the pre-Roman Watling Street. The council’s architects successfully applied the principles of the Garden City movement to low-cost public housing, preserving many old trees in the undulating and winding new roads. 4,000 houses had been completed by 1931.
The nearest Catholic churches were at Mill Hill or Edgware until money to build a new church came from an anonymous benefactor. The design by T.H.B. Scott provided for a church, presbytery and small hall attached to the liturgical southeastern corner of the church. On 10 May 1928 the foundation stone of the church was laid, and the first Mass was celebrated in June 1928 in a temporary chapel. In September 1928 Fr Armitage was appointed parish priest and in October work was started on the presbytery. The church was completed in December 1928, the presbytery in 1929 and the hall in the early 1930s. In 1937, new sacristies were built joining the church to the hall as it is today. The structure of the church was destabilised by bomb damage in the Second World War and had to be reinforced. The hall was much enlarged in 1966 by the addition of a Catholic Centre designed by Scott & Jaques. At the same time a narthex was added at the west end on the south side, confessionals were built onto the south aisle and the altar was moved from the eastern apse to the crossing space.
The church is in what might be described as a neo-Byzantine style. The building is not orientated; the liturgical east end lies to the south. The plan comprises a nave with north and south aisles and an outer north aisle, short transepts and sanctuary with an octagonal tower above the crossing. The external walls are of red brick laid in Flemish bond, the roofs are covered with pantiles. The modest gabled west front has a central round-arched doorway in a stepped brick surround with a plain round window above. To either side of the front are single-storey transeptal projections with pitched roofs; that to the left links with the presbytery, that to the right was extended in the mid-1960s to provide a narthex with an alternative entrance. The body of the church is enclosed by the presbytery and hall. The south aisle has a pent roof with single round-headed windows in the nave clerestory above. The short transepts are the same height as the nave, and the valleys between the roofs are squared off at ridge height to form the base of the octagonal brick crossing tower with its tiled roof. The short sanctuary is finished by a canted apse.
The interior walls are plastered and painted, the floor is parquet. The narthex leads to the space under the western gallery. The nave is of three bays with round unmoulded arches on stone columns with cushion capitals and an open timber roof. The clerestory window openings are also unmoulded. On the north side of the nave is a narrow passage aisle with arched openings to a wider outer aisle designed to have the baptistery at the west end. The crossing has wide round arches on all sides and now contains the main altar. On the wall of the eastern apse is a reproduction of Fra Angelico’s painting of The Annunciation, installed as part of the post-war refurbishment of the church and originally forming the centrepiece of an elaborate scheme of painted decoration covering the walls of the apse.
Architect: T. H. B. Scott
Original Date: 1928
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed