Wells Road, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 9EG
A small brick church of 1909, attached to a substantial presbytery of the same date. The church was extended shortly after World War II in a simple brick style. It is of modest architectural interest, but the presbytery is a good example of a late Victorian brick villa with structural polychromy, which in its spacious garden setting makes a good contribution to the local conservation area.
In the early years of the twentieth century Mass was celebrated in Fakenham in a succession of hired rooms, served by a priest from King’s Lynn. In 1905 the Bishop of Northampton sent the Revd Herbert Gray to serve the large district, which also included Walsingham, Wells and Dereham. Fr Gray came from a wealthy family, and his private income no doubt helped to establish the poor mission, but appeals to the charity of Catholics more widely were also made in the pages of The Tablet. In 1907 a large plot of land between Butchers Hill, Hayes Lane and Wells Road was purchased and in 1908-9 a substantial presbytery was built, with a small church alongside. Accounts of the opening make clear that the church was intended to become the sacristy of a much larger church which was never realised. The church was dedicated in May 1909. During the Second World War the congregation was swelled by foreign soldiers stationed in the area, and various plans were suggested for extending the church. Shortly after the war, around 1947, it was extended with a new sanctuary.
The original church was a small building of the same depth as the presbytery, built of red brick laid in English bond with dressings of red sandstone and with a pitched tiled roof with a bellcote on the western gable. The addition of 1947 extended the body of the church to the east under a continued roof pitch roof with shallow flat-roofed projections on either side. The addition was built of red brick laid in stretcher bond. The west end of the church has a central pointed doorway with a stepped triple lancet window above. The threshold of the doorway is well above ground level, so either there were steps which have been removed or the ground level has been lowered. The gable has a double brick-on-edge cornice and the simple bellcote contains a single bell. The south side of the church abuts the presbytery. The north side is of three bays divided by buttresses, with a door in the west bay and lancet windows in the two eastern bays. The 1947 addition has slit windows in the side elevation and a blind east gable wall with a cross in raised brickwork.
Inside, the two phases of construction are clearly marked by the roof trusses. The original church has two timber trusses with braced collars, the later addition two steel trusses. The walls throughout are plain plastered and the roof is ceiled above the trusses. The old nave has a woodblock floor, the extension is tiled. There is no structural division between nave and sanctuary, but the altar is raised on two brick steps. The three west windows have stained glass coats of arms of the Pope, the Bishop of Northampton and one other, and the two windows in the north wall of the old nave have figurative stained glass. The altar, with carved oak front with inset majolica panel of Our Lady, is probably contemporary with the church, as must be the rectangular sandstone font now at the northeast end of the nave.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1909
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed