Valley Road, Lillington, Warwickshire CV32
A powerful and expressive centrally planned, concrete-framed building, designed by the local architect Henry Fedeski, and strongly influenced by Gerard Goalen’s church of Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow. Like that church, it incorporates an extensive scheme of brightly-coloured glass designed by Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey. The building is almost unaltered since its completion in 1963.
There was considerable new development on the north western edge of Leamington Spa after the Second World War. Mass was celebrated for some years at Cubbington before a new parish comprising Cubbington, Lillington and Offchurch was erected in 1958. Land for a church was acquired at Lillington and the Leamington architect Henry Fedeski was commissioned to design the building. His initial scheme also provided for a hall and presbytery, but these were omitted from the initial contract to save money. Fedeski’s church was centrally planned and built of concrete, with extensive use of dalle de verre glass, made from designs by Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey.
The church is fully described in the list entry, below. The chief architectural influence for the design is clearly Gerard Goalen’s Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow (Diocese of Brentwood, 1958-60). The glass for the windows was made in St. Just-sur-Loire in France.
Summary of Building: A Roman Catholic church, built in 1963, by Henry Fedeski, ARIBA; with extensive dalle-de-verre glass by Dom Charles Norris OSB of Buckfast Abbey, and mosaic by Steven Sykes. Constructed by Garlick and Sons of Coventry, with fittings primarily by R L Boulton and Sons of Cheltenham.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady, built to designs by Henry Fedeski in 1963, is designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons: *Architectural interest: the building is a powerful and expressive design, large in scale, making use of high-quality materials on a concrete frame, and has impressive spatial qualities; * Planning: the church’s central plan, with a raised sanctuary under the crossing, represents an early response to liturgical changes emerging from the Second Vatican Council; *Interior: it retains all of its fixtures, which were designed by the architect for this space; *Artistic embellishment: the glory of the church is the extensive scheme of brightly-coloured dalle-de-verre glass designed by Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, which fills the walls entirely at clerestory level, and is used for all the ground-floor glazing; it is complemented by mosaic work by Steven Sykes, who had also worked at Coventry Cathedral; *Intactness: the building is almost entirely unaltered since its completion in 1963 save for the movement of the font to the chancel.
History: Lillington, now a suburb of Leamington Spa, was one of three areas of the town which, along with Cubbington and Offchurch, were deemed large enough to be separated from the mother church of St Peter in Leamington Spa, and they formed an independent parish in 1958. When a large area of council housing was erected in Valley Road in Lillington, it formed the largest portion of the parish, and was thus chosen as the site for a new parish church. Henry Fedeski was chosen as its architect, and initial sketches were begun from 1960 as the brief was refined by the architect with the incumbent, Fr C J Thornton. The church was designed to seat 398 in the nave, but more seating was available in the transepts. The original tender allowed for the provision of a guild hall to the rear, and a detached presbytery, but both were omitted on grounds of cost; a presbytery was added later, towards the rear of the church plot. A sectional wooden building, erected for use for worship whilst the church was under construction, was retained as its hall once the building was complete; it is situated just to the rear of the church, and attached via a covered entrance. Construction began in January 1962, the main contractors being Garlick and Sons of Coventry; the church was completed in 1963, and formally opened by the Archbishop of Birmingham on 23 September of that year. The statue niches and locations for the Stations of the Cross were left empty for later additions. It has undergone little alteration since completion; the most evident change is the removal of the font from the baptistery to the choir, to allow use of the former baptistery as a children’s confessional. The organ has been removed from the choir. The building remains in use for regular worship.
MATERIALS: The construction is mainly of reinforced concrete with two shades of brick infill to the gables and side aisles; there is a variety of decorative finishes to the main (W) elevation. The main window mullions and entrances are of vibrated concrete. The roof is covered with Delta tiles and the flèche is covered in copper. The sanctuary is constructed from Nabresina Roman marble, Westmorland slate, sapele wood and stainless steel. The floors are covered in a mixture of terrazzo, Granwood, woodblock and pink marble set in terrazzo. PLAN: Orientated NW-SE, but liturgical compass points are used in this description. Cruciform, with roughly equal arms, and a central sanctuary at the crossing. The N, S and W ends have shallow narthex porches, and there are aisles to the N and S transepts and the nave. The winter, or Lady Chapel, is situated at the SE corner, with sacristies at the NE; a circular baptistery is at the NW corner, and small chapel, formerly the Mothers’ and Babies’ chapel, at the SW. The W entrance is flanked by confessionals to one side, and a bookstall to the other. EXTERIOR: The building is double-height, with a pitched roof forming gables to each end, flat-roofed aisles and chapels, and a tall, slender central flèche. Its concrete frame is expressed externally by exposed corner and eaves beams. The infill consists of a red brick plinth and pale pinkish-buff brick above. The main (W) elevation faces the road and, due to the rising ground, is reached by wide flight of steps which clasps the footprint of the building, returning towards the side entrances. The W entrance has a triple doorway with dark timber doors, set under a repeating gull-wing canopy carried on very slender metal columns. The doors are flanked by obscure-glazed windows with small panes between concrete mullions and transoms; beyond these are panels of pale grey waffle infill. The gable houses a high rose window with dalle-de-verre [slab glass] glazing, over which sits a cross. The baptistery is expressed externally as an attached semi-circular structure, with vertical concrete fins, between which is dalle-de-verre glazing; this is balanced to the opposite side by the projecting rectangular chapel with similar glazing, and an external entrance to allow mothers and babies to enter and leave without disturbing the rest of the congregation. The transepts are similar, each having dalle-de-verre glazing at full-height to the clerestory level, and in the gable ends, rectangular windows, their tops cranked to sit under the eaves. The entrances have double doors set within slightly-projecting concrete surrounds, flanked by plain-glazed windows with small panes between concrete mullions and transoms. The Lady Chapel is expressed as a rectangular projection with a horizontal window of dalle-de-verre glass. The sacristy is constructed from red brick, and has a replacement uPVC window. The E gable end is blind. Attached to the rear is a sectional wooden building which serves as the church hall. INTERIOR: The interior is reached through glazed narthices to each of three sides. The concrete frame is expressed in the vaulted ceiling, which has additional painted decoration. All the interior woodwork is in warm teak. Walls are of plaster, painted white. The single-storey aisles are separated from the full-height spaces by arcades of slender, astylar elliptical columns. The space is centrally planned, with the nave, transepts and choir all focussed on the sanctuary at the crossing, which rises through three steps and forms the setting for the high altar. The mensa [altar top] is of 4-inch thick Nabresina Roman stone marble, and the communion rail and pulpit plinths are of similar stone. Dark green Westmorland slate columns support the mensa and communion rail. The floor and steps are of terrazzo, and the pulpit and ambo [platform from which the liturgy is read] are designed as part of the structure of the sanctuary. The high altar is crowned with a tester supported on cables over pulleys to enable it to be pulled down for changing the covering at the appropriate liturgical seasons. The baptistery is circular, one step down from the nave, and formerly contained a circular font in Ancaster stone with a bronze base, with an Alpha and Omega motif; the font is now situated within the otherwise-empty choir. A Mothers’ and Babies’ Chapel with a separate external entrance has a louvred screen to give privacy as well as to allow a view from the chapel towards the altar. The Boys’ Sacristy is connected to the choir with double doors, from this leads the Priests’ Sacristy and the adjacent room, which is in turn connected to the temporary building used for Mass prior to the building of the Church. The simple teak pews remain in situ. The interior of the church is dominated by the extensive scheme of dalle-de-verre coloured glass which forms the entire walling at clerestorey level, apart from the east end wall. The glass in the nave and transepts is fixed between tall mullions set at a double angle to give the effect of shining towards the high altar. The glass is mainly abstract, its designs representing the Incarnation, with forms becoming more ordered towards the east end; the palette is wide, and consists mainly of golds, blues and reds. The N and S transepts have the only figurative panels at their ends, depicting the Virgin with the legend ECCE ANCILLA DOMINI, and the Angel Gabriel, and thus the Annunciation. There is no E window: in its place is a glass mosaic designed and executed by Steven Sykes, who had created mosaic work at Basil Spence’s Coventry Cathedral; it consists of the Chi-Rho symbol above an Alpha and Omega motif. The dalle-de-verre glass continues in the ancillary spaces at ground floor level. The Lady Chapel, separated from the S transept by glazed timber work, is top-lit by a central roof-light. It has reeded concrete walling below its window, which depicts in vibrant colours attributes of the Virgin. The Mothers’ and Babies’ Chapel has a floor-to-ceiling window showing the instruments of the Passion. The glass in the Baptistery, predominantly blue and green in colour, has suitable imagery. SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The forecourt is defined by deep, low, red-brick gate piers with metal gates, flanked by plain metal railings across the front of the plot.
Selected Sources: The Church of Our Lady, Lillington, Leamington Spa: A Magazine to mark the Opening of the New Church (1963); Fedeski, Henry: preparatory and working drawings for the Church of Our Lady (private collection)
National Grid Reference: SP3303067193
Architect: Rayner & Fedeski
Original Date: 1963
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II