Manor Road, Kingsthorpe, Northampton
A mainly Gothic church of the 1960s and a late work by J. S. Comper. Although old-fashioned for its date and externally uninteresting, it is well detailed and has a pleasant internal character. Comper built widely in the diocese and this church, like several others he designed, was built to allow for later enlargement. The domed Lady Chapel is stylistically somewhat at odds with the rest of the building, and is evidence of Comper’s embracing of his father’s doctrine of ‘unity by inclusion’. The church lies within the old village settlement of Kingsthorpe, and the presbytery is a listed former farmhouse.
The former village of Kingsthorpe is now a northwestern suburb of Northampton. In the early 1960s part of the land formerly belonging to Manor Farm was acquired for a church and the old stone farmhouse (Manor House) became the presbytery. The church was built in 1964 from designs by J. S. Comper, at a cost of £35,183. As built, it was designed to seat 412. Like several other Comper churches built around this time, it was designed to be enlarged, the west wall being described in 1965 as ‘temporary’. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Parker on 16 May 1963 and the church was opened on 27 July 1964.
The church is in the Gothic style, built of pink Fletton brick, with reconstituted stone dressings and a steep pantile roof. It consists of a nave with south porch and north baptistery and a chancel with apsidal east end, north sacristy and domed south chapel. The main west front, intended as temporary, has a large circular window with curvilinear tracery in the gable flanked by stepped buttresses, with a flat-roofed appendage (built as a confessional?) to one side. There is a plain central entrance with a soldier course lintel. There is a more substantial gabled entrance in the porch on the south side. There are three nave bays to the west of this, with triple lancet windows in each bay and buttresses with offsets marking the bay divisions. The chancel is narrower, but with a continuous ridge, and giving off its south side is the Lady Chapel, crowned by a domed lead-covered roof which is stylistically at odds with the rest of the church, and evidence of Comper’s doctrine (inherited from his father Ninian) of ‘unity by inclusion’.
The interior consists of a single volume for the nave, with an organ/choir gallery at the west end carried on octagonal reconstructed stone columns, reached from a stair on the south side with splat balusters. The internal walls are faced with white painted brickwork and the bay divisions of the nave are marked by wide pointed transverse arches with triple arcades towards the apex, a Gothicised version of a detail employed by Comper at his earlier Christ the King, Bedford. Between these arches are exposed rafters with three purlins on either side, the plaster interstices painted red. There is a narrow moulded chancel arch, without capitals, to the left of which is a doorway to the sacristy and to the right a four-centred arch leading to the Lady Chapel. The chancel has a collar rafter roof with soulaces; its east wall is windowless and has a shallow curve enclosed by a pointed arch with an aumbry to the left and a Gothic piscina to the right. A crucifix hangs from this arch. There are triple lancet clerestory windows on either side of the sanctuary and on the south side trabeated openings onto the Lady Chapel, carried on two octagonal reconstituted stone piers. The Lady Chapel has an octagonal roof, with timber ribs leading up to a central oculus giving top light. There is a four-centred arched recess on its east wall designed for a Lady altar, now containing a statue. There is a forward side altar under the dome.
The sanctuary furnishings appear to belong to a post-Vatican II reordering and there is no evidence of the altar canopy and other architectural treatment intended by Comper to relieve the bareness of the east wall. In the nave the pine benches were ‘not designed by the architect’ as the Catholic Building Review (1965) rather pointedly remarks (Comper would probably have preferred chairs), but were brought from a Methodist chapel in Lancashire on the initiative of the bishop. The font remains in its original location behind iron gates in the canted baptistery in the northwest corner of the nave. The small organ in the western gallery is by Alfred E. Davis and Son, 1965. There are good hardwood doors throughout.
Architect: J. S. Comper
Original Date: 1964
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed