Southdown Road, Sandfields, Port Talbot, SA12 7HL
Built in 1970-1 to serve a post-war housing estate, this is an ambitious design by Thomas Price and is typical of many churches of the late 1960s, with curved seating round an open sanctuary and a small altar set well forward, all to create a feeling of intimacy within a large space. The external design is dominated by the ridge and furrow roof, slit windows, a linked campanile and (less successfully) a pebbledash finish. The interior is a powerful piece of architectural design, retaining many original furnishings and good stained glass.
Sandfields is an area with a large amount of housing built before and after the Second World War to provide accommodation for the workers at the Port Talbot steelworks. The area has three churches, Anglican, Methodist and Catholic, all built in the 1960s and all designed by the firm of F. R. Bates, Son & Price. The Catholic church was built as a daughter church of St Joseph at Port Talbot, to accommodate 600 people. It opened in 1971. In c.1973 new stained glass was added in the sanctuary, from designs by John Hardman Studios (information from Alan Randall, Diocesan Archivist).
The church is of reinforced concrete construction and is semi-circular on plan, with a ridge and furrow concrete roof. The external walls of the convex main front are pebbledashed, with a variety of vertical slit windows. The central section is recessed, with cantilevered canopy roofs sheltering three tall windows at upper level. At ground floor level the original main entrance below these windows has been enclosed by a later glazed screen to provide a porch or narthex. At the south end of the front is a single-storey link to a small campanile.
The interior is a powerful space, with massive concrete roof beams radiating out from a convex centre with vertical abstract stained glass windows (designer/maker not established), which forms the backdrop of the sanctuary. The sanctuary itself is demarcated by a raised lobe-shaped platform of green marble; the altar and ambo are of the same material. The tabernacle, originally placed in a separate chapel, is now placed in front of the central sanctuary window. The bench seating is arranged around the sanctuary in concentric rows. At the back of the church is a full-length curved gallery supported on piloti which is reached by two open concrete stairs. Beneath the gallery is a small chapel, while another chapel is set behind four rectangular openings on the south wall, now fully glazed.
Besides the altar, ambo and seating, which are all original features, there is also a quantity of stained glass, much of it with the abstract patterns and amber colours found in other churches by F. R. Bates, Son & Price. The glass was designed and made by John Hardman Studios, and was installed in c.1973. The blue colouring of the ceiling is a recent intervention, which does not detract from the appearance of the interior.
Architect: F. R. Bates, Son & Price
Original Date: 1971
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed