Building » Hoddesdon – St Augustine

Hoddesdon – St Augustine

Charlton Way, Hoddesdon, Herts EN11

A large, well-mannered post-war building of civic character and presence, in a prominent corner position in the Hoddesdon Conservation Area. The campanile is a local landmark, and west front, with its stone sculptures by Philip Lindsey Clark, makes a notable contribution to the local scene. This carved group is one of a number of furnishings of note by Clark, Adrian Stokes (now lost), Bernard Davis and others. The interior has been altered at the east end.

In 1898 the Augustinian Canonesses acquired Rawdon House, Hoddesdon, and had as their chaplain (from 1906) one of the Canons Regular from Stroud Green. In 1932 the Canons Regular moved into Hoddesdon, acquiring Esdaile House, and a parish was erected.  Schools were built in 1933 and 1935. In 1958 the canons handed the parish over to the Archdiocese, and in 1962 the church of St Augustine was opened. This was built on the site of Esdaile House, set well back from the High Street. It was originally capable of seating 450 and was built at a cost of £62,000. The architect was Justin Alleyn FRIBA and the main contractors Marshall-Andrew & Co. Ltd. The campanile was built with a legacy from F.C. Hanbury, of the local firm of Allen and Hanbury. It housed one bell, named Cora in memory of a parishioner, and was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

After the Second Vatican Council the high altar was brought forward and the nave pulpit removed. The forward altar and two side altars were consecrated by Bishop Victor Guazzelli on 23 September 1971. In 1989 a more radical reordering took place under Richard Hurley of Dublin (information from Chris Fanning), with the former chancel area enclosed by an arcaded wall to create a separate space and the side altars removed. The baptistery at the west end was put to new use, and furnishings by Adrian Stokes here (and in the Sacred Heart chapel) removed. In a further reordering of 1996, the tabernacle was brought forward to its present position.


The church has reverse orientation, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was at the east end.

A large modern basilican church, built on a traditional longitudinal plan shortly before the start of the Second Vatican Council.  The plan consists of a wide nave with side aisles and a long sanctuary with flanking chapels. The original sanctuary has been separated from the nave by a screen wall, creating a separate space for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. Confessionals give off the north aisle. There is a western narthex with organ gallery over, and beneath the church a spacious crypt. At the southwest corner is an almost-detached seventy five foot campanile, housing one bell, cast by the Whitechapel bell foundry. The facing materials are red brick laid in English bond, with stone dressings to the fascias, parapets and windows. The shallow pitch of the nave is clad with lead, while the lower roofs have felt.

Shallow segmental arches are a leitmotif of the design. They appear in the concrete colonnade of the entrance porch, in the window openings at the side, and in the internal arcades and vaulting.  Above the wide, flat-roofed entrance porch, the west front is plain, with slightly-projecting corner piers and a gabled parapet in the centre. The plain brickwork of the west front is the setting for large Portland stone figures of the Madonna and Child with a kneeling St Augustine, by Philip Lindsey Clark. To the right, the flat roof of the low porch extends to the tall brick campanile, square on plan, and with an open belfry stage and copper spirelet. At the sides, shallow arches mark the bay divisions of the aisle, each with a floor to ceiling window with vertical panes in a modern vertical grid. Above, the clerestory windows of the nave are square. At the east end, this pattern is reversed.

The entrance porch leads into a western narthex under a gallery. The main space of the nave has a shallow segmental plaster ceiling bordered by a flat plastered soffit, with Sussex brick-faced walls at clerestory level. Below this, square concrete piers carry segmental arches which separate the nave from the aisles. The aisle bays have shall vaulted arches running counter to the main axis. The windows of the aisles contain prismatic coloured glass from Germany.

The sanctuary is now separated from the nave by a screen wall with segmental-arched openings, and the modern sanctuary is placed in front of this. The large space of the former sanctuary has a segmental vault and blind openings on either side, formerly giving onto the side chapels. This space now houses the tabernacle; the space is too large for this purpose, and an attempt has been made to fill the void with pot plants. 

The present sanctuary furnishings belong post-Vatican II reorderings. The nave floor is of polished Burma teak panels, originally with an electric underfloor heating system, and the nave benches are of West African hardwood (utile).  

The church contains a number of furnishings of note. The crucifix now hanging on the screen wall in the chancel arch is in Italian primitive style and is by Henry Farmer. To the left of the chancel arch is a gilded fibreglass half-length figure of Christ, by Bernard Davis, originally in the Sacred Heart Chapel (north of the former sanctuary). Below this is the re-set foundation stone, in Welsh slate and also by Bernard Davis (this was originally set into the front of the large nave pulpit, removed from this position after the Second Vatican Council). To the right of the chancel arch (in its original position) is a gilded softwood carving of the Madonna and Child, by Theodore Kern. In the Lady Chapel (south of the sanctuary, originally the Blessed Sacrament chapel) is a good life-size group of the Madonna and Child on a pedestal (Carmel Cauchi). There are also some standard Italian workshop pieces, such as the Stations of the Cross, and the statue of St Joseph in the Lady Chapel. More interestingly, in the narthex is a roundel with a low relief carving of Our Lady of Walsingham and indicating the number of miles from Hoddesdon to Walsingham (ninety-seven) and London (twenty) – in medieval times Hoddesdon was the first stopping point on the pilgrimage on foot from London to Walsingham. The roundel is by Bernard Davis. Also in the narthex, a statue of St Augustine by Michael Clark, 1982.

Heritage Details

Architect: Justin Alleyn

Original Date: 1962

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed