Gordon Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1NL
By Sirpecangum - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72791627
A fine, well-built Edwardian design of red brick and Costessey terracotta ware in c.1300 English Gothic style, by George and Reginald P. Baines; they were prolific church architects but this is their only purpose-built Catholic church. The building is of high townscape value and the richly-decorated interior retains many original and later furnishings of good quality.
The church is orientated northwest to southeast but for the purposes of this report liturgical compass points will be used i.e. the altar to the east
Once established at St Mary’s, Great Yarmouth in 1850, Jesuit priests travelled to Lowestoft to celebrate Mass at various venues, establishing a mission in 1867. The Revd Geoffrey Brennan was appointed the first mission priest in 1881 and secured a former carpenter’s shop above a net store in the Denes as the first permanent chapel. His successor in 1884, the Revd Alexander Scott, began to raise funds to build a new church, securing the present site for £1,600 in 1885. He asked the local surveyor, F.W. Richards MSA to design a church, but funds were insufficient until an anonymous donation of £10,000 in 1899 allowed the realisation of a more ambitious scheme. Sarah Wharton, who donated the thirteenth Station in 1927, may have been the benefactor.
The father and son architects, George and Reginald P. Baines of London were engaged, an unexpected choice as they principally designed Nonconformist churches and chapels; this is their only purpose-built Catholic church. However George Baines had trained in Great Yarmouth and was perhaps still known by someone in the congregation (or even the anonymous donor). The same practice built the South Cliff Congregational Church in 1902-3, which became the second church in the parish (St Nicholas Pakefield, qv) in 1996. Working with F. W. Richards, the Norwich builders G. Hawes and Son were contracted and on 23 August 1900, Bishop Riddell of Northampton laid the foundation stone on the north side of the sanctuary. The building was opened and dedicated to Our Lady Star of the Sea on 5 June 1902.
In 1904-6 F.W. Richards built a large, red brick double-fronted and detached presbytery to the northwest of the church.
Some redecoration was undertaken in the 1930s, especially to the apse ceiling. The church was finally consecrated on 22 October 1952, after World War II bomb damage had been made good.
After the Second Vatican Council a wooden altar was placed at the east end of the nave, but in 1984-5 Fr Anthony Sketch reordered the sanctuary, preserving most of the original furnishings,and created the glazed narthex under the west gallery. The present forward altar was consecrated by Bishop Alan Clark on 20 July 1985.
In 1985-6 the Stella Maris Hall was built to the designs of Boris Kaye, parallel to the south side and linked to the southwest porch (photo bottom right at top of report). This required the southwest door to be blocked internally; the font had been removed from here in 1984.
At the time of the visit, scaffold was being struck from the tower after completion of major repairs partly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
This is claimed to be the most easterly parish church in England.
The list description (below) is broadly adequate, but the following corrections and additions could be made:
Roman Catholic Church. 1900-02 by George Baines and F.W. Richards. Red brick with stone dressings and slate roofs. Continuous nave and apsed sanctuary, nave aisles and off-set north-east tower (compass points refer to liturgical use). Nave with angle buttresses terminating in pepper-pot pinnacles to south-west corner only. Central arched portal under straight gable reaching up to 5-light west window in Geometric Decorated style. Below the window are bands of arcading and occasional statuary niches. Gabled roof. South nave has a square narthex and an arched portal under a gable. 3-light Decorated aisle windows and six 2-light Decorated clerestory windows. 3-stage tower lit through a 2-light Decorated ground-floor window, blind arcading to ringing chamber, twin 2-light lancets to each face of belfry stage. Crenellated parapet with double merlons and pyramid pinnacles with crockets.
INTERIOR. 5-bay arcade comprising red granite columns on water-holding bases and moulded pointed arches. Colonnettes rise to support canted arched braces to roof. Roof boarded. Chancel arch with stiff-leaf capitals. Apsed east end lit through five 2-light windows. Painted roof.
Architect: George and Reginald P. Baines with F. W. Richards
Original Date: 1902
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II