Ormesby Road, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, NR30 5NQ
A simple but functional building by Wearing & Hastings that has been little changed since it was built in the late 1960s. The font and some of the art works are by local artist Denis Ruskin.
Caister-on-Sea was the site of a c.200 AD Roman Saxon shore fort, becoming a small fishing village around the medieval parish church. A holiday camp was established as early as 1906 (possibly the first in England) and became very popular once a railway station was built in the 1920s. The camp held Italian prisoners-of-war in World War II but then hugely expanded after the war. The village also attracting housing, particularly for the retired. Today large caravan parks dominate the coastline and only the North Denes airfield and racecourse separate the built up areas of Great Yarmouth and Caister.
A cemetery chapel had been built on Caister Road by the Jesuits of St Mary, Great Yarmouth in 1866-7, but Catholics on holiday or in the many retirement homes in Caister had to travel to St Mary’s for regular Sunday Mass. Although barely two miles away, this was already very busy in the summer months. The problem became particularly acute after the Second World War, and a decision was taken to make the cemetery chapel a chapel-of-ease to St Mary’s. It was blessed and opened by Bishop Parker of Northampton on 31 October 1948.
In 1965 the Diocese of Northampton purchased a site north of the Caister old cemetery and almost opposite the largest holiday camp, and commissioned Wearing & Hastings of Norwich to design a new church. Their first design of 1966 was a square brick box with a laminated timber pyramidal roof with a flat-roofed block to one side containing the entrance, sacristy, baptistery and storage with WC. A revision in early 1967 re-arranged the entrance to give a larger sacristy and moved the font into the main church but consequently reduced the fixed seating from the original 149 to 120. This is the plan of the church today. The foundation stone was blessed by Bishop Leo Parker on 8 October 1967. The original site allowed for a presbytery and hall with further car parking to the east of the church, but this area was sold for housing c.1990. The 1967 site plan also suggests that the church could be expanded to the north. If the altar was replaced or moved forward after Vatican II, it has remained on the same platform. A curtain has served as a reredos from the start but was heightened c.2010 because of the glare from the wall top windows. The altar platform was also re-carpeted at the same time.
The church continues to be a chapel-of-ease, served from St Mary, Great Yarmouth (qv). Although the Jesuits left St Mary’s in 1962, the dedication of the chapel to St Ignatius is a recognition of their contribution to the development of the mission and parish. The old cemetery chapel on Caister Road has been demolished, but the cemetery is still in use, and contains the graves of several Jesuit priests as well as parishioners from St Mary’s.
The church is aligned north-south, but for the purposes of this report liturgical compass points will be used, i.e. the altar to the east.
The church is built of red-brown bricks in stretcher bond with a concrete pantile roof. There is a band of white painted wooden windows under the eaves of all four walls. To the south side is a flat-roofed block, with a double door entrance flanked by a large white cross rising above the roof line, a hallmark of Wearing & Hastings churches. There are square window to the south wall of the block lighting the sacristy and WC inside. The north wall of the church has a solid double door that is a fire escape.
The interior is open to the stained wood roof with exposed common rafters, the four laminated timber supports rising from each corner to a square ‘purlin’. The continuous high-level windows sit on a concrete ring beam. The pale brick walls below are relieved by the plaster Stations of the Cross and the green curtain reredos against which hangs a crucifix.
Below the south ring beam is a partly open and partly glazed plain timber ‘colonnade’, behind which is the north-south passage with the sacristy beyond. At the centre of the passageway is a small baptistery, the small octagonal stone font sculpted by local artist Denis Ruskin standing in a tiled well (now carpeted). Mr Ruskin also painted the Vision of St Ignatius that hangs behind the baptistery, made the mosaic plinth for the font, carved the wooden font cover topped by a dove and assembled the stone altar. The wooden benches are original to the church.
Architect: Wearing & Hastings
Original Date: 1968
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed