Building » Portsmouth – St Colman

Portsmouth – St Colman

St Colman’s Avenue, Cosham, Portsmouth, Hampshire

An interesting late Gothic Revival church, drawing upon regional traditions in its design and materials. The architect was Wilfrid Mangan, who had a prolific Catholic practice in the interwar and post-war years, and who was responsible for several churches in Portsmouth diocese. The church has similarities with Mangan’s slightly earlier church at New Milton. The external design is particularly striking, and the church and contemporary presbytery have good group value.

Fundraising for a church in Cosham was in progress from 1921, during which time Mass was said in the Territorial Drill Hall, Albert Road and at ‘The Rosary’, 29 St John’s Road. Building on the present church started in 1927, and the building was opened for worship and blessed by Bishop Cotter on Saturday 24 November 1928. St Colman was the patron saint of Bishop Cotter’s native diocese of Cloyne, whence came many priests to Portsmouth diocese. The architect was W.C. Mangan of Preston, the builder Marchetti of Portsmouth. The church was built to seat 400, at a cost of £10,000. The design generated some interest, and was the subject of correspondence in The Tablet. The church was consecrated on 9 June 1953.

The sanctuary was reordered in 1969, by John Newton of Burles Newton & Partners. The church hall was built in 1973.


The church is a striking local landmark, and is an interesting re-interpretation, using modern materials, of the medieval churches of Berkshire and Hampshire (see also Mangan’s church of Our Lady, New Milton and J. Arnold Crush’s work at Douai Abbey). The design is a chequerboard pattern of cream-coloured concrete blocks alternating with square flint-faced panels, with some areas of plain render and cast stone dressings to the windows and doors. There is a tall west tower asymmetrically placed over the arched entrance, above which is on each side an arcaded frieze, a window on the north side and belfry louvres all set within a tall blind arcade. This in turn is surmounted by a quatrefoil panel frieze and an openwork cast stone parapet. The tower bears the arms of Pope Pius XI and Bishop Cotter; on the west side of the tower there is a statue of St Colman placed on a column rising from a short buttress, and under a Gothic canopy. The church is roughly T-shaped on plan, consisting of a four bay unaisled nave with canted western baptistry (no longer used as such), transepts and a short chancel. The windows are plain lancets, apart from the gable walls to the transepts, which have three lights and Decorated tracery. The external bays are marked by stepped buttresses, and there is a decorative parapet running around the building. The steeply pitched roof is clad in Westmorland slates.

The interior is fairly plain, with a western gallery. Paired arcades across the transepts ensure that the east-west axis is not broken. The original high altar was an elaborate Gothic ensemble in French stone, a gift from Quarr Abbey. The altar was supported by marble shafts and had an arcaded front. The tabernacle was surmounted by a throne and canopy with crocketed spire, and flanked by elaborate panels of figures in high relief. These were all removed along with the altar rails in 1967, when the present sanctuary arrangements were introduced. There are now no fittings or furnishings of particular note. Recently new stained glass windows have been introduced in the nave.

The presbytery is located to the northwest of the church, and is a free Arts and Crafts design, L-shaped in plan, with the entrance in the angle. It is faced in roughcast, and like that of the church the roof is clad with Westmorland slates. It is contemporary with the church, and doubtless also by Mangan. Its windows have been replaced in uPVC.

Heritage Details

Architect: W.C. Mangan

Original Date: 1928

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed