Building » Cobham – The Sacred Heart

Cobham – The Sacred Heart

25 Between Streets, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1AA

A decidedly pretty design, unusual in Goodhart-Rendel’s oeuvre in combining Georgian vernacular and subtle Mannerist detailing. However, its external character has been harmed by the effect of accumulative additions and unsympathetic alterations. The attractive and idiosyncratically-detailed internal volume remains little altered, although a number of the original furnishings have been lost. 

A Catholic mission was established in Cobham in 1912. Mass was said at various locations until 1930, when a temporary church dedicated to Our Lady and St Bridget of Sweden was built in Cedar Road. The parish was placed under the patronage of the Sacred Heart in 1936. The site of the present church was acquired for £1,750 in 1938, and a presbytery built in the following year. In 1954, £5,000 was given by a Mrs Saunders for the building of a church. Plans were prepared by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel PPRIBA for a church seating 266. The account in the Catholic Building Review (1955) stated that ‘It has been thought wise that externally it should show sympathy with the rather special rural character of Cobham village without appearing in any way to ape or compete with the ancient Parish Church which is not far away’. The foundation stone was laid on 28 September 1957 and the church of the Sacred Heart was opened by the Bishop of Southwark on 27 October 1958. The church was consecrated on 13 September 1961. A photograph in the consecration souvenir of 1961 shows the original sanctuary arrangements, with curtained reredoses to the high altar and side altars, a timber panelled pulpit in front of the north sanctuary pier, and a balustraded timber communion rail running in front of the sanctuary and side chapels.

In 1976 a large single-storey parish hall was built on land to the east of the church. In 1993 the gap between this and the church was filled with a two-storey link building, with an identical ridge height to the chancel of the church. At about the same time a full-width narthex addition was built at the west end, replacing Goodhart-Rendel’s smaller porch. In 2009 a reconciliation room was added, giving off the south transept. At the time of writing (2015) a large new two-storey building and replacement single storey parish hall are under construction, roughly on the site of the previous hall (architect Deirdre Waddington).


The church is orientated north-south, but here conventional liturgical orientation will be assumed, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

A Georgian vernacular design of 1958-9 by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, with later additions to the east, west and south. The church is faced in pale brown stock bricks laid in Flemish bond. The roofs are a mixture of plain tiles (to the nave and transepts) and clay pantiles (chancel). The weatherboarded tower at the crossing is surmounted by a shingle-clad spire. The plan is a variation of the traditional Latin cross plan, consisting of a nave with narrow circulation aisles which widen at mid-way point, transepts, and a short sanctuary flanked by chapels (that to the south now an organ chamber). Later additions are the full-width narthex at the west end and a reconciliation room giving off the south transept. Sacristies and later parish buildings lead off to the east, while a passage off the south aisle connects to the presbytery.

The church has a Georgian vernacular character, with sweeping tile roofs embracing the nave and circulation aisles, pantiles in the chancel, and a central crossing with weatherboarded tower and conical shingle-clad spire. The transepts have half-hipped roofs with gablets. Contrasting with these vernacular elements are the ‘polite’ Venetian window at the west end, incorporating Gothic glazing bars, the swept parapets with urns on either side of the crossing tower, wall articulation (pilasters and keystones) and door and window surrounds to the transepts. Flat-roofed elements include the widened two eastern bays of the aisles, the north-western bay (incorporating the foundation stone, and originally the baptistery) and the later narthex and reconciliation room (in similar materials and design). At the east end are substantial new two-storey additions, also of complementary design and materials. The narthex has oak entrance doors, and above this a roundel of the Sacred Heart in the gabled parapet. Apart from the Venetian window at the west end, all the windows are uPVC replacements.

Oak entrance doors lead into the modern narthex, with a piety shop, quiet room and reconfigured stair to the west gallery. Glazed doors lead on into the main space, a classical design with barrel vaulted fibrous plaster ceilings over the nave and transepts which spring from shallow Doric entablatures and intersect with a pendentive dome at the crossing. A segmental vault is placed over the sanctuary. The crossing vault rises from square piers, while the nave ‘arcade’ consists of Tuscan Doric columns alternating with lateral arched divisions, the latter marking the separation between the narrow circulation bays of the aisles and the two wider bays, which have seating. The narrower bays have a curved quarter circle plaster ceiling, the wider seating areas a flat ceiling with Doric mutules and guttae. In the sanctuary, Venetian arches give off on either side to the side chapels (that to the south now an organ chamber), with short, deep-splayed clerestory windows above. In the east wall doors lead off to the sacristies. At the west end is a gallery with panelled front, and above this a Venetian west window, in the Ionic order. The floors are of herringbone woodblock, except for the sanctuary and side chapel, which are carpeted.

The sanctuary has been reordered, with a forward altar provided and the original pulpit and communion rails removed. The largest and most immediately striking of the sanctuary furnishings is a marble and opus sectile reredos against the east wall, depicting Christ Triumphant on the cross, replacing the original curtained reredos. The maker/artist and date have not been established. A curved canopy, also not original and probably contemporary with the present reredos, is suspended over the former position of the high altar. A small octagonal oak font is now placed in front of the north chapel. The nave pews are the original ones, plain and sturdy and of oak, while there are two more delicate oak benches in the sanctuary with Gothic panels at the back. There is one stained glass window, a Sacred Heart by Goddard & Gibbs in the west window (1994), and some painted glass with arabesque design in the main entrance doors.

Entry rewritten by AHP 14.02.2021, using material from a report prepared by them in 2015.

Heritage Details

Architect: H. S. Goodhart-Rendel

Original Date: 1958

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed