Mutton Lane, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6
A dramatic modern church by Francis Weal, with a vesica-shaped plan and a centralised internal layout. It replaced a church of 1960 by F. X. Velarde, now demolished.
Until 1920 there was no Catholic place of worship in Potters Bar but from that date a room was used at Wyllyotts Manor. From 1922 Sir Nicholas Gratton Doyle MP provided a room furnished as a chapel at his residence, Boundary House, in Little Heath. In the same year the Spanish Vincentians established a House of Studies in Potters Bar for their young priests to learn English before embarking on missionary work; they took up residence at Hillside House in Barnet Road.
The parish of St Francis Xavier was erected in 1925 and a temporary church built alongside the Southgate Road boundary of Hillside House. In 1945 a German V2 rocket destroyed the church and a number of adjacent houses and killed twenty one people. After this, parishioners used the Vincentians’ private chapel and later their community hall, though when the hall at Our Lady of the Assumption in Mutton Lane was built in 1950 (and became the parish church for Potters Bar, South Mimms and Ridge) many parishioners transferred there.
In 1962 the Vincentians opened a new church on the site of St Francis Xavier in Southgate Road, designed by F. X. Velarde and dedicated to St Vincent de Paul. From 1969 this building served a new parish in east Potter’s Bar. The two parishes have now been combined and are served by the present complex of church and hall. The church seats 300 and was built in 2005 from designs by Francis and Francesca Weal of Weal-Architects. The antiphonal plan is said to have been inspired by that in the church at Naas, Eire (information from Chris Fanning and Fr Peter Harris). The church won a regional design award from the RIBA. The Velarde church has been demolished and the site redeveloped.
The new church building is in the shape of an oval or vesica which, according to the architect’s account, refers variously to the Ichthys, a fishing boat and the ark. The building is not orientated. Linked to the church on the (liturgical) north side is the smaller oval of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, while on the other side is the rectangular form of the parish centre with a lower covered circulation space between the buildings. The external walls are faced with red brick set in hydraulic lime mortar, the church roof is covered in slate, the roof of the hall in steel sheet. The curving side walls of the church are blind apart from a small continuous clerestory under the eaves of the sloping roof. There is also a long raised skylight over the ridge. The two ends of the vesica are inset, with full height vertical windows in the returns and oval windows in the end walls.
The interior is an attractive space with plain plastered curving walls and a timber roof with the principals exposed. The layout is centrally planned or antiphonal, with curving benches facing a central vesica-shaped space marked in timber within the stone church floor, which has the altar and lectern at either end and the wheelchair-accessible font on axis towards the main entrance. On the (liturgical) north side large golden double doors with wheat motifs open to the Blessed Sacrament chapel. The chapel and some windows in the main church have modern stained glass. The architects designed the furniture and worked in close liaison with the artists Stephen Foster and Alexandra le Rossignol (stained glass) on the decoration.
Original Date: 2005
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed