Downsfield Road/Hawthorn Road, Lache, Chester CH4
A distinctive modern Gothic design by Reynolds & Scott, built in the post-war years to serve an expanding suburb of Chester. The little-altered interior is distinguished by a light, concrete vaulted nave. The church retains some good internal fittings, including oak woodwork and marble altars and font.
The church was built to meet the growing post-war Catholic population of suburban Lache. The foundation stone was laid in 1958. The church was designed by Reynolds & Scott and built by a Mr Roddy, with voluntary help from the parishioners. It eventually cost £40,000, much of which was raised through local fundraising and individual donations. The first Mass was on 7 December 1960 and the church was officially opened the following day. St Clare’s served as a chapel-of-ease until 1969, when the parish was erected. The church was served by the Franciscans (from St Francis, Chester) until 1980, when the Columban Missionaries took over.
St Clare’s is designed in a distinctive modern Gothic style, typical of Reynolds & Scott, with an offset corner tower, but with a conventional plan form. The church is orientated with the sanctuary to the southeast, but for this description this will be referred to as the liturgical east end. The building is faced in buff brick laid in stretcher bond on a red brick and sandstone plinth, with concrete and sandstone dressings to the windows. The church has a pitched tiled roof with swept eaves on tiled kneelers in an Arts and Crafts style. The west entrance is set within a large sandstone three-centred arch, flanked by lancets. The west elevation has six small polygonal windows surrounding a larger polygonal window. The north elevation has three three-light triangular-headed windows, with a chapel extending in the fourth bay with similar windows to the side elevations and the polygonal-window arrangement to the north elevation. At the west end is a three-sided baptistery with a tiled roof and lancet windows. The confessionals and sacristy have flat roofs and lancet windows. The south elevation is almost identical but has full-height windows, and the tower replaces the baptistery. The slender southwest tower has a louvred belfry within a simple traceried opening and a hipped copper roof, surmounted by a simple cross. Ramped access is provided at the base of the tower. The sanctuary has a simple pitched roof, blind east elevation and five-light triangular headed windows on the north and south elevations.
Inside, the church has a five bay nave and is aisleless. The interior is defined by the concrete groined nave vault springing from dado height between the windows. Two chapels punctuate the arcade-like walls, which have three-light windows with simple geometric glazing. There is a timber-fronted choir balcony and organ at the west end, above a small narthex with two three light windows and three doors into the nave. The floor is covered with linoleum and the walls are painted white; the vaulting is painted alternate light blue and white. The sanctuary is up steps with a marble floor and plain marble altar in forward position. The polished stone octagonal font is at the north side of the nave. The pierced timber screens used as lecterns either side of the sanctuary arch appear to be re-used. A red and gold canopy is fixed to the ceiling over the altar. Contemporary fittings include oak bench pews, marble communion rails with geometric steel panels, simple marble altars to the side chapels, and light fittings.
Architect: Reynolds & Scott
Original Date: 1960
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed