Witham Road, Osterley, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7
A new church, thoughtfully designed and with some good quality fittings. It makes a reasonable architectural contribution in its suburban context, which forms part of a conservation area. What is now the parish hall was the original church; this has an effective presence along Witham Road.
Prior to the 1930s there was limited provision for Mass in the Osterley area although the French Vincentian community and Medical Mission Sisters offered some facilities. Fr Eric Green, parish priest of Isleworth proposed, before his death in 1929, to develop a site on the corner of Borough Road and College Road. In time this was deemed too cramped and land was purchased from the Vincentians between their house and Spring Grove Road. The architect appointed was T. H. B. Scott, who was responsible for many churches in the diocese. The church was finished in July 1933, having cost £3,000, and was opened on 7 January 1934 as chapel of ease within Isleworth parish. It soon became an independent parish, and a presbytery was built in 1937, from designs by E. J. Walters.
The church was designed like a parish hall, which is what it was intended to be after the building of a permanent church. This, however, would take another seventy years. Moves were made in the 1980s and designs submitted in 1985 by Gerald Murphy of Burles, Newton & Partners. Eventually designs by Jos Townend of Didsbury, Manchester, made in 2002, were selected after a limited competition of six architects and the church was built in 2004-05.
The original church is now the hall running along Witham Road: it is a pleasing building but not of any major architectural distinction. It is brick-built and has a large plain-tile roof. The interior is functional and of little architectural interest.
The new church is faced in brown Chesham stock bricks, is polygonal, and has a tower over the sanctuary, the aim of which is, symbolically, to make a statement about the presence of the Church here, and, practically, to give top-lighting to the sanctuary. On the plans it was called a bell-tower but no bell has ever been installed. The gilded iron cross surmounting the tower came from the former St Vincent’s Orphanage at Mill Hill (information from Chris Fanning). The roof on the body of the building has two slopes to it, the upper one of which is the steeper.
The interior, entered via a lobby, is a broad space focusing upon the sanctuary, and has four banks of seating tapering towards the front. It is ringed with a series of columns which effectively create an ambulatory around the congregational area. The windows are vertical strips which are glazed with tinted glass which gives the interior a rather disconcerting greenish hue when the lighting system is not in use. The tiled floor slopes slightly towards the sanctuary area. This space has a single roof over it, with concrete ribs meeting at the apex. Either side are two small chapels. Fittings of note include the crucifix in the sanctuary, by Sr Bernadette Crook, a fine piece inspired by early medieval work. She also painted the two panels on either side of the tabernacle, depicting the Annunciation and the Harrowing of Hell. The bench seating, of American ash, is excellent; each bench is said to be different to take account of the shape of the building.
Architect: Jos Townend of Didsbury, Manchester
Original Date: 2004
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed