Church Farm Lane, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8SY
One of several similar Wearing & Hastings churches in the diocese, this one completed in 1958. Laminated timber frames support a steep roof over brick walls with rectangular windows. The interior space is bright, and recent (2016) extensions have increased the social space at the west end. The building makes a modest contribution to the Halesworth Conservation Area.
The church is reversed orientated, but for the purposes of this report liturgical compass points will be used i.e. the altar at the east.
Halesworth is in Southwold parish and remains a Mass Centre (chapel-of-ease) served by the priest at Southwold. The influx of military personnel, particularly of the USAF, in World War II encouraged the celebration of Mass in the town, starting in a post office on Christmas Eve, 1942. Various locations were used until 1950 when, prompted by Canon John Mossey, the Diocese of Northampton purchased the 1864 former police station at 37 The Thoroughfare (now a Thai restaurant). A Catholic family occupied the ground floor and the upper floor was opened up to create a worship space seating 70-80 people. The first Mass was held on Easter Sunday 1950 and on the following Sunday, Bishop Leo Parker dedicated the chapel to St Augustine of Canterbury.
The Revd Edward McBride began to raise funds for a larger church, and in 1956 £300 was paid for the present site, then a paddock. Wearing & Hastings of Norwich produced a design dated September 1956 and Bishop Parker laid the foundation stone on 13 July 1957. The church was opened in 1958 and Bishop Parker agreed to change the dedication to the more local figure of St Edmund (the dedication of the Anglican parish church in Southwold).
In July 2007 Bishop Alan Clark celebrated Mass to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary. In 2016 a sacristy was built off the southeast corner and the narthex enlarged and reordered to create a parish room with accessible WC and kitchen.
St Edmund’s church is a four-bay, laminated timber frame building, faced externally with red brick and steeply roofed in red clay pantiles. There is a small sanctuary with cedar boarded side walls and timber windows, a blank brick east wall and tiled roof. The 1956 plan annotates this end ‘site for future expansion’, but today a footpath runs diagonally across the plot close to the church. The east wall of the nave is mainly timber faced above the tiled sanctuary roof. The side walls have equally spaced rectangular timber windows on brick cills but the plan shows the windows in pairs between brick buttresses.
The rendered and painted west wall is canted towards the tall timber west window that extends almost to the apex of the roof, which carries a large cross. A single-storey narthex and entrance stretches across the whole façade, recently extended further to the south (a pre-extension view can be seen on the Suffolk Churches website). The west wall has some cobble flint panels which are also used inside under the west window. The 1956 plan has a large priest’s sacristy to the south end of the narthex with a south door annotated ‘future covered way’: a presbytery was planned for the southwest corner of the plot, no doubt anticipating a future separate parish. This sacristy is where the parish room has been created, with a small kitchen and disabled WC. The original confessional was located next to the church door and has been reconfigured for storage.
The internal walls are plastered and painted above a brick plinth and both the end walls are also of red brick. The frames are stained timber and there are yellow painted acoustic panels to the ridge – all very similar to Wearing & Hastings churches elsewhere, e.g. Hoveton (1959). The area over the triangular timber sanctuary arch is plastered and is presumably timber framed behind in readiness for extension. The floor-to-ceiling side windows just behind the arch have yellow glazing and the altar stands on three steps on the sanctuary platform. It remains close to the east wall with the tabernacle on a separate shelf and a simple timber canopy above. A tall Gothic brass candlestick on a polygonal base over three lions in medieval fashion stands on the right of the sanctuary.
A simple timber pulpit (now an enclosure for the sound system) stands to the left of the sanctuary arch, the Walsingham Virgin image sits on a shelf to the right. The sacristy door is at the east end of the south wall. The light stained benches with round ends are of 1957.
Architect: Wearing & Hastings
Original Date: 1958
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed