Queens Drive, Childwall, Liverpool 15
A fine modern church, designed by L. A. G. Prichard & Son, who were one of the most interesting designers of religious buildings in the northwest of England during the post-war period. The church benefits from a strong architectural concept based on a centralised plan and a bold structural system, which give it a distinctive character. A number of changes have taken place, mostly sensitive to the character of the building, though because of these, the church no longer retains its original form.
The church of Christ the King was built in 1966-7 to replace a modest Gothic church of 1928 designed by William Ellis. The earlier building, which is used as an annexe still stands on the opposite side of Queen’s Drive. In 2006 there was a fire which seriously damaged the interior of Christ the King, and led to extensive restoration and reordering. In 2007 a new meeting room and ancillary facilities were added on the west side.
The church, which dates from 1966-7, is one of a number of interesting religious buildings erected for the archdiocese by L. A. G. Pritchard and Son. In the opinion of Richard Pollard, author of the recent Buildings of England volume for Lancashire: Liverpool and the South West, it is ‘possibly their best work, more forceful than most others’. The plan is a Celtic cross, with rectangular projections at the cardinal points, connected by curved walls of dark brown brick. At the centre is a tall pyramid roof, clad in copper, but originally glazed.
The roof is supported on eight immense laminated timber beams that cantilever forward in the manner of crucks to pick up a ring beam at the base of the pyramid. The plan was intended to have a central altar, illuminated by the glazed pyramid, but the glazing failed to keep out the rain, and the sanctuary appears always to have been placed at the south (cardinal) side. The lighting is otherwise all indirect, and without the central lantern, the internal effect is rather too dim. On the north side there is a gallery, built originally to accommodate the organ and choir, but now disused, and the east and west projections contain chapels. In the eastern chapel is an altar and reredos designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1936 for the Good Shepherd sisters at Wavertree, and moved to Christ the King in 1993. It is a typically refined composition in polished black marble with a statue of the Virgin in a canopied niche, but strangely out of place in this modernist church.
After the fire in 2006, the sanctuary was sensitively reordered by extending the dais and introducing a new stone altar. The original oval-shaped font was placed at the centre of the worship space. A good internal lighting scheme has been introduced that greatly enhances the space and helps to focus attention on the sanctuary and sacred symbols. The seating arrangement has also been changed, reusing the original benches. The original Lady Chapel and Sacred Heart Chapel have been converted for other purposes, and the narthex is well equipped with a disabled toilet and a repository.
The sacristy, parish office and presbytery are attached to the southeast side of the church, and form part of the original design. A meeting room and ancillary facilities have recently been added to the west side.
Architect: L. A. G. Prichard & Son
Original Date: 1966
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed