Castle Street, Luton, Bedfordshire
An early twentieth century Gothic Revival church designed by its resident priest, with a lofty and now very richly finished interior.
A mission was started in Luton in 1845, but abandoned two years later. By the 1860s there were estimated to be 160 Catholics in the town, travelling to Bedford to attend Mass. The first resident priest was the Rev. Henry O’Connor, appointed in 1884, when Mass was said in his house. Soon afterwards an iron church was built in Castle Street. The present church was built alongside the iron church, the foundation stone being blessed by Bishop Keating on 16 May 1910. A contemporary newspaper report estimated the cost of the church at £2,500, much of which had already been raised by the time the foundation stone was laid. The plans were apparently drawn up by Fr O’Connor.
A photograph of 1910 shows shallower side aisles than now, and a porch projecting southwards at the west end of the south aisle. It is understood that the aisles were widened in 1959; these complement the original architecture and look like the work of J. S. Comper, but this has not been confirmed. A narthex of modern utilitarian design was added in the 1960s or later. The presbytery lies to the east and was built at the same time as the church; it is much altered. A link between the the two buildings was built in the 1960s.
The church was restored in 2006 by Greenhalgh & Williams. The present decorative scheme was undertaken by Howell & Bellion, in association with Anthony Delarue.
A neo-Gothic church consisting of an aisled nave, sanctuary, gabled south transept, Sacred Heart chapel, gabled southwest chapel/baptistery and a modern flat-roofed narthex at the west end. At the east end of the north aisle is a flat-roofed extension housing a confessional. The exterior is faced in brown brick with stone dressings, and the roofs are steeply pitched and tiled. In the west gable end are triple lancet windows with hood mouldings above a pointed entrance. At either side of the west gable are shallow, stepped buttresses topped with stone finials. The aisles are in a slightly different brick, their windows of two or three lights, with cusping and four-centred arches. Above, flat buttresses mark the clerestorey bay divisions; the clerestory windows are circular, inset with trefoils in plate tracery. At the east end, triple lancets echo those at the west end.
Inside, the walls are plastered and painted. The nave has a timber roof with painted plaster infill panels. The five-bay arcade has circular piers with moulded detail picked out in gold. The floor is tiled, with carpet in the central alley. The pews are of plain, varnished timber. The present sanctuary is placed in front of the chancel arch, with a modern stone altar with gilded detail. The font is now placed at the east end of the south aisle. In the chancel arch is a fine painted rood beam and figures, and on its north respond is a statue of the Virgin and Child, on a painted and gilded pedestal and under an ornate and gilded canopy. Beyond the sanctuary is an equally ornate and gilded reredos, with kneeling angels on either side of the recessed tabernacle. Gothic-arched doors are set into the screen, to left and right. The east windows contain stained glass, designer/maker not established. There is also stained glass in the Sacred Heart chapel (Visitation, signed by Earley of Dublin) and at the east end of both aisles.
Amended by AHP 25.01.2021
Architect: Attrib. Rev. Henry J. O’Connor
Original Date: 1910
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed