Oxhey Drive, South Oxhey, Watford, Hertfordshire WD19
A large brick church of 1960 with an impressive wide nave and narrow aisles, typical of conventional church planning before the reforms emanating from the Second Vatican Council. A landmark building in an area of post-war housing.
The London County Council estate at South Oxhey was began before the Second World War, becoming virtually, it was said, a new town. After the war much further building took place and the Diocese acquired a site for a small chapel but at the same time developed a master plan for the site. A separate parish was erected in 1952. A presbytery soon followed and a primary school was built about 1955. By 1959 plans were being worked up for the church which was built the following year from designs by Archard & Partners (figures 1 and 2). Consecration took place in 1981.
St Joseph’s church is a large building, constructed of buff brick. Its architecture is typical of many churches of its time with a broad nave flanked by narrow aisles and with a tall clerestory to flood the interior with light. However, it is built on a somewhat grander, more imposing scale than usual. The nave consists of five bays with a very large narthex occupying another two (a repository occupies the former baptistery). The show elevation is that towards the road where the nave is flanked by a severe campanile (disfigured, it has to be said, by mobile phone transmitters) and a tall transept. At ground level a loggia under a flat roof runs the length of the nave. Similar loggias also run across the west end on the south side. Most of the fenestration is tall and is enlivened with cusp-like features which form a transition between the chamfered reveals and the plain window heads.
The interior is light and airy, has plastered and whitened walls and a flat ceiling over the nave. The focus is on a rounded, stilted arch which stands in front of the far end of the sanctuary. At the west end is a large choir loft/organ gallery over the narthex. The transeptal spaces either side of the sanctuary are occupied by a Lady Chapel (north) and Sacred Heart Chapel (south) and rise to the full height of the building: the chapels are separated from the sanctuary by filigree concrete block screens. The sanctuary, which has much marble work, is raised above a set of storage rooms.
No fittings or furnishings require special mention. The open seating, of mahogany, was provided by Hearne’s of Watford.
Original Date: 1960
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed