Roe Farm Lane, Chaddesden, Derby DE21
A good example of the many large churches built to serve post-war suburban estates. It is in the round-arched, austere, massive style so popular with Catholic churches in the mid-twentieth century, and which were designed in great number by the church’s architects Reynolds & Scott. The reordering of the 1980s by Peter Langtry Langton was radical yet sympathetic, removing 1960s accretions and retaining the character of the interior whilst adding some features of high design quality.
The church was built to serve the northeast Derby suburb of Chaddesden, which was rapidly developed with large housing estates after the Second World War. Land for the church was acquired in 1946 and temporary buildings erected in 1948. These were replaced by the present church in 1953-5, from designs by Reynolds & Scott. In 1966 the building was considerably enlarged by the addition of transepts at the east end, and enlarged aisles, from designs by Desmond Williams. In 2003 the 1966 additions were demolished and the interior reordered by Peter Langtry-Langton, moving the sanctuary to the south aisle and providing loose seating in an arc. This reordering was similar to that carried out by Langtry-Langton at another Reynolds & Scott church, St Pius X at Grimsby (qv). The presbytery and parish hall were rebuilt in 2003. This ambitious scheme of renewal was led by Fr Gerald Murphy; funds for the project were raised by selling land to the north of the church for development. St Alban’s re-opened in 2005.
The 1953 church by Reynolds & Scott is in neo-Romanesque style*, faced in buff brick with Westmorland slate roofs. As built it was orientated with the sanctuary to the northwest; this will be referred to as the east end although the church was re-orientated in 2003. The short west tower faces the road with a full-height arched recessed panel containing the west doorway, a mosaic panel over and triple round- arched lancets. The aisles have gabled transeptal bays with narrow links, lit by arched lancets. The east end was altered in 2003 and re-faced with buff brick to mask the truncated east wall, with a small apsidal projection for the new Day Chapel by Langtry Langton. All windows are semi-circular arched with plain leaded glass. Against the south aisle wall there is a stone Lourdes grotto with mosaic-lined pools, built in memory of Mgr James Hargreaves.
The main entrance is now via a lobby that connects the east end of the church to the 2003 parish centre. Inside the church, the former sanctuary is now used as a Day Chapel, with part-glazed screen in the former chancel arch and with brick altar and suspended ceiling, all by Langtry Langton. The sanctuary is now centred on the south aisle within an arched recess, its new position marked by a honeycomb ciborium or canopy spanning the full width of the interior (by Langtry Langton). The bronze figure of the Risen Christ, relocated to the new sanctuary in 2003, is by Sean Crampton and dates from 1977. Some of the liturgical fittings are re-used from the 1950s sanctuary, including the oak altar rails and the brass tabernacle. The baptistery on the north side contains a moveable 1950s oak font and a quality mosaic of Christ’s baptism, probably 1960s. The remodelling by Langtry Langton improved sight lines to the new sanctuary by inserting pairs of slender Romanesque columns in place of some arcade piers. The sacristies contain particularly good sets of oak cupboards, made by a firm in Brailsford, probably 1950s. The space beneath the 1950s west gallery is separated from the nave by a plain glazed screen. Seating is on upholstered chairs, currently arranged in an arc facing the sanctuary; the nave floor is covered by fitted carpet. Interior walls are plain plastered.
* However, in his account of the church in the 1956 Yearbook Fr Purdy wrote acidly: “One sometimes hears the term ‘Neo-Romanesque’ used to lump together all the churches built since the neo-Gothic fervour mercifully cooled. It is hard to see what purpose such a label serves except to show that the labeller can recognise a round arch when he sees one”.
Architect: Reynolds & Scott
Original Date: 1953
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed