St Martin’s Lane, Murdishaw, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7
Built in 1978 as part of the growth of Runcorn New Town, and a fairly intact example of a dual-purpose church and hall, such as enjoyed a vogue in the 1960s and 70s.
Mass was first said in Murdishaw in 1975 in a Community Centre. A new school opened in temporary accommodation in Brookvale in 1976. The building of a new combined chapel and school followed, from designs by Weightman & Bullen, adapting their earlier design for Our Lady’s church in Palace Fields (qv). The chapel opened on 29 June 1978. A second phase of the building was completed in 1979-80; it is unclear what this comprised but was probably additional school accommodation. In the late 1980s the priest lived nearby in one of the new Corporation houses; the church is now served from Holy Spirit, Halton Brook but is temporarily in the care of Fr George Malecki from St Augustine’s, Castlefields.
St Martin’s is a small functional chapel, integral with the school to which it is attached. Externally the walls are clad with pale red brick with, to the west, a deep catslide roof to a vertical raised clerestory with a shorter pitched roof to the east, laid with terracotta tiles. The west elevation is blind with a narrow clerestory below the eaves. The chapel is accessed through double entrance doors to the south, leading into an entrance hall shared with the school. The south elevation is the only elevation visible and is blind, the other elevations being connected to the school.
Internally the chapel is compact, characterised by the sloping roof and lofty space given by the glazed ‘tower’ above the sanctuary. The walls are fair-faced brown brick laid in stretcher bond, with bands of bricks on edge at wall plate level. The ceiling is plastered and painted and the floor is covered with a modern carpet. The clerestory glazing on the west wall incorporates Stations of the Cross in silhouette on blue glass. The sanctuary is raised upon a dais of one step, and is top-lit by the raised clerestory. The ‘back wall’ of the sanctuary is a double folding screen to the school hall. The altar, font and tabernacle are of brick construction. Seating is provided by contemporary oak bench pews and the chapel retains its original shaded pendant lights.
The practical concept of the multi-purpose chapel/hall/school/church is well expressed. During the week the chapel is used with the congregation facing east towards the sanctuary and closed folding screen. For Sunday Mass the screen is folded back, and pews and chairs arranged in the school hall with the congregation facing west towards the clerestory windows. Originally there were steps on the east side of the sanctuary island, with the hall on a lower level; this was altered for ease of access.
Architect: Weightman & Bullen
Original Date: 1978
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed