Bishop’s Rise, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10
A large church built for the post-war New Town and for workers in the nearby aerospace industry. The building was drastically remodelled in the 1980s, and has lost such architectural interest as it had; however it does contain some good sculptural work by Michael Clark.
Public Catholic worship in Hatfield was revived around the turn of the twentieth century, when Fr Kenelm Vaughan (brother of the Archbishop of Westminster) built a house and chapel in St Albans Road. Fr Vaughan founded the ‘Brotherhood of Expiation’, which worked for the conversion of England ‘in reparation for the sacrileges committed at the Reformation, especially the profanation of ancient churches’.
Hatfield’s post-war designation as a New Town, and the opening of the De Havilland aircraft factory, led to rapid population growth, particularly in South Hatfield, which expanded to accommodate the workers in the aerospace industry. In 1959 Hatfield was divided into two parishes and plans prepared by T. J. Denny LRIBA of Watford for a complex of church, hall and presbytery in Bishop’s Rise. The church was built to seat 480, and the combined cost of church, hall and presbytery was £65,000. An intended tower had to be abandoned, since the proximity of the airfield limited the building height to 58 feet. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on 9 July 1961.
In 1987 the church was remodelled, with the roof and nave walls lowered, after cracks developed in the window surrounds, and in order to reduce heating costs. The parish hall was also reduced in size when the adjoining land was sold off. This work was carried out under the direction Antony Moyes Associates, architects of Carpenders Park.
The church is of longitudinal plan, consisting of a wide nave with narrow aisles and western narthex (incorporating cry room and piety stall in the former baptistery); at the east end is a narrower (than the nave) square-ended sanctuary. There is a Lady Chapel at the east end of the north aisle. Externally, the parish hall leads off from the west end to the north and the presbytery via a link from the east end to the south. The church is faced in brick both internally and externally, with artificial stone surrounds to the windows and doors. The windows are of UPVC. The building was considerably remodelled in the 1980s, when the roof and walls were lowered, at the expense of the internal volume; a lower suspended ceiling was inserted, with reduced clerestory windows providing indirect light via rooflights in the concrete tiled pitched roof which now covers both nave and aisles (the aisles originally had flat roofs). The aisles retain their original circular piers and the seating appears to be original. However, the most notable survivals from the 1961 building are the statues of Our Lady and St Peter by Michael Clark ARBS, originally placed in chapels at the east end of the aisles, but now wall-mounted on either side of the chancel arch. Clark was also responsible for the crucifix originally on the entrance gable, since removed. Recent furnishings have sought to instil an atmosphere of traditional piety, with elaborate polished brass communion rails installed at the front of the sanctuary and a fine Gothic statue of Our Lady over the Lady Chapel altar. The east wall of the sanctuary has been plastered, and a crucifix from the Tyrol added. The sanctuary has floor has been re-laid with marble and a stone altar added, from designs by James Keegan (information from Chris Fanning).
Architect: T. J. Denny
Original Date: 1961
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed