Hepworth Road, Norbury, London SW16
A simple Ellis church of the early twentieth century, much altered and added to over the years. Despite the many changes, the building has a visual and architectural coherence, due to the sensitivity and quality of the various interventions. The liturgical reordering of 1997-8 by Austin Winkley Associates is a model of its kind.
St Bartholomew’s was one of many churches in the Diocese financed by Miss Frances Ellis. It was built in 1908 from designs by (Fr) Benedict Williamson, and originally consisted of the sanctuary with two side chapels and a short nave, seating about 130. It is a typical ‘Ellis’ church, cheaply built in London stock brick, loosely Romanesque in style. There was no priest in residence until 1918, when Fr William Taunton was appointed (the Norbury mission was canonically erected a parish in 1920). In 1929-30 the nave was completed, with a baptistery and narthex, at a cost of about £4,000. The architect for this extension has not been established, but it forms a seamless extension of Williamson’s design, and may be by Williamson (who was ordained a priest in 1909) or more likely his partner, J. Beart Foss.
From 1963-93 Fr James Carolin was parish priest, and during his time the church was extended in two phases, under the direction of Anthony Stalley of Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd. Firstly, in 1964 the bare brick walls of the church interior were plastered and a new reinforced concrete gallery with narthex below built at the west end, along with confessionals, at a cost of £5,000. Then in 1967 a retro-chapel was built behind the sanctuary, along with a new sacristy and an extension to the presbytery; the price for this work was £23,000.
In 1969 the church and its neighbourhood were threatened by a proposed new motorway, stalling any further expenditure on the building. Work resumed in 1973-4 after the road scheme was abandoned. A new repository was built at the west end, octagonal in form to correspond with the adjoining baptistery. The church acquired an organ (by F. H. Browne & Sons of Canterbury, enlarged by them in 1985 and again in 2002), mosaics over the west doors, side altars and stained glass (all by Hardman & Son). Upon the completion of this work, the church was consecrated by Bishop Henderson, Area Bishop, on 6 May 1975.
In 1997-9 a major internal reordering was undertaken by Tim Gough of Austin Winkley Associates, involving the removal of the arcading and wall which separated the retro-chapel from the sanctuary and the introduction of new liturgical furnishings and artworks, described below.
The church is built of London stock brick, under a clay pantile roof. It is in a loosely Romanesque style, and consists of nave with side aisles, sanctuary with side transepts and chapels and a retro-chapel (which since 1998 has been adapted to provide additional seating for the congregation). There is an entrance narthex, and a later octagonal baptistery giving off the north side at the west end. To the east, the presbytery is contiguous with the church, built (in at least two phases) of matching London stock brick, with corbelled stone cornice under the eaves and a round arched stone hood over the doorway. Its windows have been replaced in uPVC.
The west front is gabled, with a typical ‘Ellis’ circular window over the entrance. The west walls of the lean-to aisles are slightly set back. There is a central entrance with a pointed arch over; a mosaic in the tympanum bears a representation of St Bartholomew. This and the mosaics over the round arched entrances to the aisles on either side are by John Hardman Studios, 1967. The (south) flank elevation faces towards Hepworth Road, and has stone corbelled cornices to the nave and aisles and round clerestory windows.
An entrance narthex leads into the four-bay nave, which has plastered and painted walls and a king-post timber roof. At the west end, a reinforced concrete gallery of 1964 occupies two bays. Wide round arches supported on square piers with simple imposts give onto the side aisles. A pair of similar round arches to the west frame the sanctuary and the former retro-chapel beyond, the latter now opened up for additional seating for the congregation (previously, as adapted in 1967, the sanctuary was separated from the retro-chapel by a tall central arch flanked by narrower side arches).
The church contains many furnishings of note, mainly dating from the 1970s-1990s. The major contributors from the 1970s and 80s were Hardman Studios, who provided the designs for the glass in the transepts (1981), the west window (Christ the King, 1973), the baptistery (Baptism of Christ etc) and the retro-chapel (three inserts with insignia). They also provided the designs for the altars, mosaics and stained glass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Lady Chapel (1976). The 1997-8 stone sanctuary dais is circular, with segments cut out at the front (towards the nave) and back (for the font). The fixed sanctuary furnishings (altar, font and ambo) are of stone, simply but exquisitely carved by Nigel Scott of Pontefract. The moveable sanctuary furniture is by David John, as is the hanging cross over the altar (Crucifixion on one side, the risen Christ reaching for His crown on the other), while the painting on the theme of the Holy Spirit on the east wall of the former retro-chapel is by Marianne John.
Architect: Benedict Williamson; Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd; Austin Winkley Associates
Original Date: 1908
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed