Crofton Road, Locksbottom, Orpington BR6
A large modern church of the early 1960s, dating from the time of the Second Vatican Council, but conventional in its design and construction. The church is notable for several stained glass windows by Murphy Devitt of Dublin. The tower is a local landmark.
Around 1961 Fr Michael Phelan, parish priest of Orpington, realised that the increased housing development in Locksbottom, Farnborough and Crofton would soon require a new church in the area. A site was acquired and on 3 November 1963 Canon Grady of Bromley laid the foundation stone, on behalf of Archbishop Cowderoy who was in Rome attending the Second Vatican Council. On 1 November 1964, Archbishop Cowderoy, who had returned from Rome especially for the occasion, opened the church. It was dedicated to St Michael in honour of Fr Phelan. It continued to be served from Orpington until September 1968, when Farnborough was canonically erected as an independent parish. The church was consecrated on 2 October 1998.
The church is facing northwest; however, this description uses the conventional liturgical orientation.
The church was built in 1961-4 by Henry Bingham Towner. It is built using loadbearing brickwork laid in English bond, around a steel frame. The brick is generally multicoloured, with darker brick used above and below the windows, and on corners. The two-storey block at the rear is partly tile-hung, reflecting a slightly different use. The plan is longitudinal, comprising a nave with a southwest chapel and southeast transept, and a hexagonal west tower beside a southwest porch. At the east end is a two-storey block, with the sacristies on the ground floor and a parish room with kitchen on the first floor.
The west facade has a centrally-placed thin vertical window band beside the four-storey open tower with a large cross. Internally, the west, north and east walls and the south wall of the transept are faced in reconstructed Cotswold Dale stone; the remaining walls are plastered. Part of the base of the west tower has a small Lady Chapel which used to be the baptistery. It has a statue of the Virgin and a stained glass window with the Lamb of God. Above the entrance to the chapel is another window depicting the Holy Spirit. The west window, like the north nave windows, is by Murphy Devitt of Dublin and dates from 1964. The window depicts St Michael defeating Satan. To the south of the west window is the foundation stone. The Stations of the Cross are relief carvings of individual figures.
The north side of the nave has four stained glass windows depicting: Annunciation, Nativity, Agony, and Resurrection (Murphy Devitt, 1964). A taller window is placed at the northeast in the sanctuary bay, depicting the Queen of Heaven (Murphy Devitt, 1964). The sanctuary has a large sculpture group on the east wall, of St Michael vanquishing Satan, clearly influenced by Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of the same theme at Coventry Cathedral (1956-58). Behind the central stone tabernacle shelf is a shallow niche with a mosaic of the Holy Spirit. A crucifix hangs above. Above the tabernacle and the stone altar hangs a simple gabled canopy. The altar rails, chairs and lectern are of timber. The stone font is circular, with a carving of the sword piercing a snake – another reference to St Michael. To the south of the sanctuary is the entrance to the sacristy.
The south transept has an organ gallery with a timber balustrade of the same pattern as the altar rails. Below is a statue of the Sacred Heart, stairs to the gallery and doors to confessionals and lavatories. Just west of the south transept is a small chapel, which, in contrast to the modern style of the church, has on three sides a simplified historicising screen of Cotswold stone. Towards the nave, the round-headed windows have plate glass, and, to the surrounding corridor on the south and west, German antique glass. The chapel has a stone altar, timber altar rails, a statue of St Theresa on the left and the tabernacle on stone shelf to the right. The windows on the south side of the nave and transept are filled with clear glass.
Architect: H. Bingham Towner
Original Date: 1961
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed