Love Lane, Pinner, Middlesex HA5
A late work by F. X. Velarde, in his distinctive modern basilican manner, with a prominent Westwerk. This was the first, and the best, of three surviving designs by the practice in the Archdiocese of Westminster, well-handled and elegant, with good furnishings and finishes. The sanctuary has been reordered but the interior is otherwise little altered. The entrance front is a major presence in the townscape, and the church forms an interesting and varied group with the original Gothic church of 1915 (now a parish centre) and the modernistic 1960s parish hall.
Pinner parish was erected in 1914 and the first Masses were said by Fr John Caulfield in Dudley House at Hatch End. In 1915 the foundation stone for a new church, designed by Percy Lamb, was laid in Love Lane. A sketch in a contemporary newspaper report shows the west front of a building with a nave and one aisle, with a turret between them and presbytery attached to the aisle. In the event, Lamb’s nave was never built and in 1957-8 a new and much larger church by F. X. Velarde was built alongside. This was the first of four churches by the Velarde practice in the diocese. He was brought in by Fr Wilfrid Trotman ARCM, liturgist and composer, who wrote: ‘while I live, and I am here, I’ll have no “repository” art invading this church. Nothing will go in it that has not the approval of the architect’ (quoted in Catholic Herald, 17 January 1958). The large sculpture on the west front of Our Lady sitting for St Luke, the artist, was by a newcomer, the 27-year-old David John.
The 1957 Catholic Herald description of the building is as follows:
‘The £46,000 building, to seat 350 people, somewhat suggests basilica-type forerunners in the arcading, the pillars being bright in their expensive gold mosaic sheathing, the ample bare walling above them stark in its lilac hue. It is the humble simplicity of the nave wall that accentuates the glory of a suspended flat ceiling panelled off in varying shades of blue. Its regal sumptuousness is continued down the sanctuary wall, where behind the altar a great gold cross, really part of the same panelling device, bears the crucified Christ in waxed mahogany. The lighting is pleasingly concealed in the ceiling panelling, and for a tester above the altar, Velarde once more teases in his own inimitable manner by giving us four extra concealed panel lights forming a square above the altar-piece.
Since the early days of his St Monica’s at Bootle, Velarde has turned his attention, as Pinner shows, more to colour effect, and at Pinner too shows us what can be done with glass. The door separating narthex from nave is a vastness of plate-glass, allowing an impressive view from the street at all times of the gold altar cross and the fenestration is an irregular glazed pattern of panels of slightly differing hues’.
In 1965 a new parish hall was built behind Velarde’s church, a striking modern design by G. H. and G. P. Grima. In 1986 the old church was adapted by Keystone architects to serve as a parish centre. In 2005 plans were prepared by Anthony Delarue Associates for a grand entrance portico/colonnade at the west front, incorporating ramped access. This was not implemented, and instead a more modest scheme to provide ramped access was prepared in 2007 by Alexander Good RIBA (plans in Diocesan Property Services files).
The building is not orientated; the east end lies to the west. This description follows conventional liturgical orientation.
Velarde’s church is in a neo-Romanesque version of the continental modern style he had employed at St Monica Bootle in the 1930s. The exterior is of pale brown brick laid in English garden wall bond and with roof coverings of copper. The plan comprises a nave and sanctuary under a continuous pitched roof with twin west towers and low flat-roofed aisles with chapels, sacristies etc giving off.
A broad flight of steps leads up to the striking west front. This has a cubical brick porch with a round-headed doorway. Behind the porch, the nave and aisle west walls are blind and the nave rises sheer and windowless to a pierced brick parapet between the two corner towers. In the centre of the wall below the parapet is a large Portland stone statue of the Virgin Mary sitting for St Luke, artist (by David John, 1957). The towers are rectangular on plan with round-headed arches to the bell stages and pyramidal roofs. On the side elevations the aisles have continuous multi-paned concrete windows, the panes alternately square and arched and filled with opaque coloured glass. By contrast, the upper parts of the nave wall are completely plain with only small square openings. The east wall is blind.
The interior has a full-height narthex with a baptistery on the south side and a Lady Chapel on the north side, both top-lit. The narthex opens into the nave under a wide unmoulded brick arch. The nave has walls of painted brick, a flat panelled timber ceiling painted blue and six-bay nave arcades of unmoulded round arches with incised decorative capitals carried on concrete columns faced with gold mosaic. The floor is of composition, inlaid with stars. The nave retains its original open-backed bench seating. The sanctuary occupies two bays. On the south side are tall double arches with the sacristy below and the organ gallery above; the whole of north side has a full-height window like those in the aisles. The panelled ceiling of the nave is continued over the sanctuary and also down the east end wall, forming the background to a large crucifix. The sanctuary floor-covering is also blue. Post-Vatican II reordering has seen the removal of the high altar and the communion rails, but the new furnishings are in keeping with the style of the church.
The church was listed Grade II in 2016, following Taking Stock. The list description provides more information on the furnishings by David John and others:
Architect: F. X. Velarde
Original Date: 1957
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II