Boniface Lane, Crownhill, Plymouth, Devon
A bold centrally planned and polygonal design of the post-Vatican II years, evidently inspired by Gibberd’s Liverpool Cathedral, and forming a good group with the linked contemporary presbytery. The interior is notable for the Charles Norris dalle de verre stained glass panels fixed to the windows.
In 1937 a little brick church was built to serve the Garrison at Crownhill. With the growing population brought about by post-war expansion this became too small, and John Evans of the firm of Evans & Powell Associates (Paignton) drew up plans for a large new modern church, to be built on a site next to what was then Bishop Vaughan School. Bishop Restieaux laid the foundation stone on 2 August 1969 and blessed the completed church on 3 September 1970. The church was designed to accommodate 350 worshippers in the main space and 50 in the weekday chapel.
The church is orientated north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.
An innovative, centrally-planned, sixteen-sided design with a porch or narthex at the northern end and a linked presbytery on axis on the south side. Structurally the building is of loadbearing concrete block walls supporting a reinforced concrete perimeter tension beam which carries the outward thrust of the hinged steel rafter roof. Reinforced concrete buttressing piers at the angles rise up as fins to give a crown effect, and also carry rainwater from the roof. There are solid white painted concrete panels in the bays between, framed by tall narrow windows at the junctions with the piers and with a larger clerestorey window over the entrance. The church is built on a grey brick plinth, which increases to the east as the ground slopes away. Central glazed polygonal cupola of crown form, repeating the motif of the walls.
Inside, the narthex contains a former baptistery on the right hand side and a WC to left. The main body of the church is a large, bright single volume, with the altar placed slightly behind the centre line, and with radial seating arranged towards it. Behind the altar, a panel reredos/partition enclosing what was originally a chapel, and confessionals, now a meeting room. In the original design, the tabernacle was placed in a window recess behind the altar, so as to be visible both from the nave and from the chapel behind. Raking raftered roof up to the central cupola. The font is now in the main body of the church, by the entrance. The chief feature of the interior is the dalle de verre stained glass panels by Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey. These are fixed to the internal face of the narrow side windows, with larger panels over the entrance doors and in the former baptistery. The glass is in abstract patterns of grey, blue and green, with lots of red in the larger panel over the entrance. The meeting room behind the altar leads through into a link to the upper floor of the presbytery. The presbytery was built at the same time as the church and like the church is a bold contemporary design. The windows in both church and presbytery have been renewed in uPVC.
Architect: Evans Powell Associates
Original Date: 1970
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed