Beech Hill, Luton, Bedfordshire
A large church of the mid-1960s by Desmond Williams & Associates. The design is functional, with the internal character of a secular hall. The church lacks the special interest of the contemporary church at Dunstable, by the same architects.
The church was built in 1963-4, from designs by Desmond Williams and Associates of Manchester, who were also responsible for the church of St Mary at Dunstable, built about the same time. The contractors were Willis & Dawson of Leighton Buzzard, with initial costs set at £51,377. The final cost came to more than £80,000. The church was built on a bowling green which was bought by the parish in 1961 for £3,925. Two houses on Westbourne Road were also purchased. One of these was knocked down to provide access to the new church and the other became the presbytery. A car park was a requirement of the local authority, and was formed to the south of the church using parcels of back garden purchased from neighbours. The church has a floor area of 8,472 sq. ft. and was built to accommodate 650 worshippers. It was formally blessed and opened by Bishop Parker on 7 June 1965. A parish centre was built to the southwest of the church in 1974.
To suit the small site the church was designed in the form of a square, with shallow transepts. The building has a reinforced concrete frame, clad in brick. A projecting west entrance has three large, arched windows containing stained glass. This leads to a wider, full height narthex with a copper spirelet. Beyond is the large nave, at the east end of which are shallow transepts and the sanctuary. Beyond this a lower building houses the sacristy, kitchen, WC and stairs to a storage room above the Blessed Sacrament chapel (in the south transept).
The porch and the main body of the church have brown brick walls under a shallow pitched roof. The walls are relieved by a series of windows set into the brickwork in linear patterns. The emphasis is principally vertical, apart from a horizontal strip of windows which form clerestory windows high in the nave. Inside, narthex holds a small seating area, a repository and access to the west gallery. The gallery front is of slim, vertical timber batons, with a circular painting of a dove in the centre. The nave roof, shaped in a zig-zag, is supported on each side by a series of brown brick piers pierced with arches at the base, to allow for perimeter circulation (as at Dunstable). The nave floor is carpeted, with plain, varnished benches. Part way along the south wall of the nave is a flat-roofed, single-storey space with two confessionals and a central shrine to Our Lady. This space is included in the original design, as illustrated in the Catholic Building Review (1962).
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel was created in 1990 by enclosing the south transept with part-glazed walls. In the north transept is an organ bought in 2005 from a chapel in Wales, at a cost of £35,000. Behind the sanctuary is a wide curtain, obscuring a painting of the Holy Spirit, Our Lord and the Disciples, and also the original clerestory roof. The current sanctuary arrangement dates from 1984. All the windows in the church contain coloured glass in narrow bands.
Architect: Desmond Williams & Associates
Original Date: 1964
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed