Hereward Way, Deeping St James, Lincolnshire
An interesting design of the 1960s, somewhat compromised by the filling in of the porch. The medieval font, statue of the Virgin and crucifix are of considerable interest. Wilson’s later church at Oakham is a copy of his design for Deeping St James.
The revival of Roman Catholicism in The Deepings was due to the antiquary Edmund Waterton (1830-87), who purchased Deeping Manor in 1879. Like his father, the naturalist Charles Waterton, Edmund was a devout Catholic and had been educated at Stonyhurst College. Soon after his arrival in Deeping St James Waterton converted a stable for use as a Catholic church, which remained in use until 1968. The Waterton’s left Deeping in 1891 and the Manor (also know as Deeping Waterton Hall) was given to the Xaverian Brothers. The Manor was demolished in the 1960s. The Deepings are only a short distance from Peterborough and in the 1960s new housing estates were built at Deeping St James, providing the opportunity of a site for a new church. This forms part of a new Neighbourhood Centre, including shops and paved area, all designed by Thomas E. Wilson. It was designed to seat 200 at an approximate cost of £24,000.
The altar faces roughly west but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will assume an eastward facing altar. The church is built using laminated timber beams for the main mono-pitched roof, supported on steel stanchions and faced externally in brick. The main body of the church is a rectangle with a continuous clerestory on the south side (actually north, so that there is always a uniform light) at the highest point of the roof. A lower flat-roofed element covers meeting rooms and the porch. The latter has been filled in to create an internal porch. Whilst the reason for this is entirely understandable it has harmed the architectural integrity of the building. This front elevation was originally quite striking with its balance of elemental forms; the brick west wall of the church, battered at each end and with the slope of the mono-pitched roof, the brickwork pierced only by six window slits arranged in rising and diminishing length. To the right the flat roof of the covered porch projected slightly and linked to the open steel belfry which still provides a significant marker. Whilst much of this remains, the dynamic impact is lost. The north wall is pierced by slit windows and a full bay of glazing in a hardwood frame to light the sanctuary.
The interior is restrained and simple, the roof structure a dominant visual element. The altar is not placed centrally against the east wall, a slightly unsettling arrangement. Original pews, altar and ambo, and round-headed niche for the tabernacle in the east wall. Altar rails have been removed and the sanctuary floor appears to have been raised but otherwise the church is little altered since 1968.
Edmund Waterton was a great collector of religious artefacts and three exceptional and precious objects remain in the church. The first is the stone font which appears to be early 14th century but is possibly a concoction of pieces from different sources. Deep octagonal bowl with trefoiled ogee arcading. In the spandrels heads and beasts. The font basin is, unusually, divided into two compartments. The bowl sits on eight stubby colonnettes. On the east wall a wooden crucifix of which the Corpus is believed to have come from Belgium and to date from the first half of the 14th century and, to the left of the sanctuary, a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary, believed to date from around 1500 and to have come from the old cathedral at Boulogne.
Architect: Thomas E. Wilson
Original Date: 1968
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed