Northumberland Avenue, Whitley, Reading, Berks
This church forms a landmark among the housing developments of Whitley, on the southern outskirts of Reading. The planning is of the traditional longitudinal type with transepts, the details are most round-arched openings, and, externally, the various parts are all separately articulated. The use of non-standard thin bricks for the facing both in and out helps elevate the building above the commonplace. The interior offers good vistas and clean, bright spaces. Although well-handled, such treatment was by no means novel and follows on from a stylistic tradition established before the First World War and which became very popular for both Catholic and Anglican churches.
Small, makeshift buildings of 1928 and 1945 on other sites served Catholics in the southern outskirts of Reading and were also dedicated to Christ the King. After the Second World War the priest serving the church was Fr Patrick Collins who, in the 1950s, began seeking a new site. This resulted in the present church being built in 1958-9, at a cost of £70,000. Built to the designs of the Bournemouth architects, Alan Stewart and H. Jacobs, this was an expensive building, designed to accommodate 450 people.
(The church is oriented south, so all directions given here are liturgical).
The church is faced with narrow (4.5cm deep) buff bricks and consists of an aisleless nave, transepts, sanctuary with flanking chapels, northwest tower (with repository in the base) and, at the west end, an entrance vestibule and baptistery. The presbytery is linked to the church through the south transept. The pitched roofs are covered with plain brown tiles: the tower and parts at the west end have flat roofs. The nave has four narrow, single-light windows on each side with light-coloured artificial stone surrounds. All the other openings are round-arched too except for the north window in the north transept which has stylised cusping creating a stepped effect. The tower rises in two principal stages, the upper one of which is noticeably stepped back from the lower one; at the top with a plain parapet, also stepped back.
Inside there is a wide nave which broadens out in the area of the transepts while the east end culminates in three round arches which lead to the sanctuary with the Sacred Heart Chapel on the north and Lady Chapel to the south. The south transept carries an organ gallery set behind two round arches at first floor level: the sacristy is located beneath it. The walls are faced with the same bare buff bricks as the exterior. The nave has a shallow segmental plaster ceiling while the crossing has a groined ceiling. In the sanctuary the ceiling is almost semi-circular. The east wall of the sanctuary is blind. At the west end the baptistry is entered, symbolically, down a flight of three steps. The church was reordered in 1990. The fittings are relatively modest with a wooden altar and lectern, both with round-arched detailing. The organ case is a modern reworking of a traditional Gothic style and has some delicate filigree work in both the towers and flats.
Architect: Alan Stewart & H. Jacobs
Original Date: 1959
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed