Batterdale, Old Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9
A circular design of the late 1960s, reflecting the changes engendered by the Second Vatican Council and more specifically the influence of Francis Pollen’s abbey church at Worth, Sussex. The chief interest of the church lies in the glass by Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, which gives the interior its strongly devotional quality. The building forms the centrepiece of a newly-planned part of the old town.
Public Catholic worship in Hatfield was revived around the turn of the twentieth century, when Fr Kenelm Vaughan (brother of the Archbishop of Westminster) built a house and chapel in St Albans Road. Fr Vaughan founded the ‘Brotherhood of Expiation’, which worked for the conversion of England ‘in reparation for the sacrileges committed at the Reformation, especially the profanation of ancient churches’.
In 1925 a Carmelite convent was established on the site of the old Hatfield Brewery in Batterdale, served by Vincentians from Potter’s Bar. Then in 1929, Fr David Arbuthnott was appointed to Hatfield, with a view to establishing a Catholic parish. The church of St Teresa and adjoining presbytery were built in Batterdale in 1929, and the parish of Hatfield was officially erected in 1937.
After the war, Hatfield was designated a New Town, leading to considerable expansion. The parish was split in 1959, and the church of St Peter, Hatfield South (qv), was opened in 1961. In 1963, the church of St Thomas More, Welham Green (qv), was opened, also intended in due course to become a separate parish. At this time the parish priest at St Teresa’s, Fr Stanislaus Savage, advanced plans for the replacement of the 1930 church with a new circular church and associated facilities, from designs by George Mathers ARIBA of Ware. However, these were delayed by uncertainty brought about by the large-scale redevelopment then taking place in this part of the old town, and work did not start until 1969. The contractors were G. Davies & Son of Broxbourne. The new church, named Marychurch, was designed to seat 400, and was notable for a complete scheme of dalle de verre slab glass, designed and made by Dom Charles Norris and Dom Paulinus Angold of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. The first Mass was at midnight at Christmas 1970, and the building was formally opened by Cardinal Heenan on 5 June 1971. The 1930 church became the parish hall, with the adjoining presbytery also retained and enlarged.
The church is circular on plan, with a shallow projection to the east marking and lighting the sanctuary, a larger projection to the south (Lady/weekday Chapel), and a lower, flat-roofed projection to the west (housing the narthex, baptistery, sacristies etc) linked to hexagonal entrance porches. The church is 76 feet in diameter and rises to a height of 84 feet (including the openwork aluminium spirelet). The conical roof is clad with natural slates, and the elevations are defined by a series of tall brick-clad piers with reconstituted stone panels at their bases and caps, creating a castellated effect. The larger pier doubles as a campanile; its capping is tile hung and pierced with three openings for bells (none present at the time of the visit). Between the piers are narrow, vertical recessed windows.
Inside, the steel frame of the roof is covered by a textured plaster ceiling, with top lighting coming through a central oculus at the apex. Unlike the exterior, where they are recessed, the window bays project into the church, with exposed brick piers. Between the piers, the wall surfaces are plastered and painted in the sanctuary area and elsewhere faced with vertical elm boarding. The seating is raked, descending gently down to the sanctuary.
The glass defines the mood of the interior. It dates from 1970, and was made by Dom C. Norris and Dom P. Angold of Buckfast Abbey. A mixture of figurative and abstract, there is a gradation of colour from green towards blue, with reds used more at the west end. Over the entrance doors from the narthex there are four panels depicting the evangelists
As well as in all the church windows, there is slab glass in the baptistery (an abstract design around a stone cross), in the narthex (two windows on the theme of sunrise and sunset) and two abstract panels in the sacristy and kitchen/servery.
Other furnishings and artworks of note include the font, which has the appearance of a large hewn rock of granite but is actually of concrete, with a gritblasted finish of Cornish granite aggregate. This sits on a polygonal/circular stone base and was made by Angela Godfrey of Roydon, who made a similar font for St John Fisher, Redbourn (qv), and designed the glassfibre cross relief in the baptistery window. The statue of the Madonna and Christ Child over the entrance to the weekday chapel was presented by Fr Savage in memory of his parents and brother.
Architect: George Mathers
Original Date: 1970
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed