Brabazon Road, Hellesdon, Norwich, Norfolk, NR6 6SY
A practical modern church built to a good standard that can also be used for social occasions.
In January 1949, the Revd Kevin Jones of St George, Fishergate, Norwich was told that an Air Ministry gymnasium and chapel near the Horsham St Faith airfield (three miles north of the city) had come on to the market. He probably knew of it from his work with the airmen (especially Americans) during the war. By March he had obtained planning permission for use of the site for religious purposes, and it was purchased for £2,000 on a 25-year lease. It replaced a Mass centre at Norman School, Mile Cross.
The Eastern Daily Press covered the blessing and first Mass by Bishop Parker of Northampton on 24 July 1950:
The building, substantially constructed of concrete was designed as a gymnasium for the St Faith’s airfield, but owing, it was stated, to an error it was mistakenly sited in Brabazon Road and after the War was discarded as being too far from the station.
It is about a kilometre from the end of the main runway (now Norwich Airport) on the city side and now surrounded by post-war suburban housing. The EDP described the interior then as ‘colour washed in cream with a light grey-blue roof. Altar rails and pulpit have been constructed of red brick and the altar is also supported on brick piers’.
During the time of the Revd Philip Shryane (1990-2000) the building was found to be full of asbestos and had to be replaced rather than repaired. With fundraising and especially by selling some of the surrounding land for two houses, it was replaced by the present structure, designed by Feilden & Mawson of Norwich and opened by Bishop Peter Smith on 5 June 2001.
The roughly square plot is on the corner of Brabazon and Prince Andrew roads, with the church filling the southeast quadrant next to the corner, two new houses fill the northeast quadrant and the remainder of the site is used for car parking. The church is square with a slated pyramid roof crowned with a glazed timber lantern, itself with a lead covered pyramid roof and a cross at the apex. Off the east wall is a polygonal sanctuary with slated lead-hipped roof and on the west is a long rectangular building, with a slated pitched roof with a small ridge louvre. This contains the entrance foyer with kitchen and WCs to the left (north) and sacristy and small meeting room on the right (south). The church is entered through an open timber porch with pitched slate roof; the main gable above has deep eaves with an exposed timber truss. The external woodwork is painted pale blue; the rendered walls are painted white.
The north and south walls of the church have a row of square wooden windows below the deep eaves with central vertical windows of glass bricks, each with a blue glass brick cross. Similar vertical glass brick windows are on either side of the sanctuary; in the southwest corner is a small square blue glass brick window at mid-height. The main door has a triangular fanlight echoing the porch gable, and this is also the shape of the double door into the church. Internally the timber lining of the pyramid roof is of random wood colours laid in herringbone fashion. The polygonal sanctuary can be closed off from the main space by a folding partition when the church is used for social functions. The Blessed Sacrament is placed in a small square recess on the northeast wall. To either side of the rectangular opening are fire doors and across the corners are round-headed niches with statues of St Boniface (right or southeast) and Our Lady (left, northeast). The vertical glass brick window recess on the south holds the small modern wooden font and candlestick, while the north recess is empty. There is a further round-headed fire door in the northwest corner. On the south side of the west entry door is a glazed rectangular opening linking the small meeting room with the main space and on the north side a folding hatch to the kitchen.
The sanctuary has modern furnishings and the church has loose folding chairs.
Architect: Feilden & Mawson
Original Date: 2001
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed