Building » Redbourn – St John Fisher

Redbourn – St John Fisher

Peppard Close, Redbourn, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3

A well-considered design of the immediate post-Vatican II years, with a dramatic ‘one-sided’ roof and furnishings and artworks of note.

In 1936 a Mass centre was established at Redbourn by Canon Bernard Longstaff of Harpenden, in a temporary church dedicated to the then newly-canonised St John Fisher (a companion church dedicated to St Thomas More was built at Wheathampstead at about the same time, qv).  The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Auxiliary Bishop David Cashman on 3 July 1965 (foundation stone on front elevation) and the church was blessed by Cardinal Heenan on 30 April 1967. The architect was Henry V. Gordon FRIBA of Gordon & Gordon Associates, of Finsbury House, London EC2 (their only church in the diocese) and the builders were Willis-Dawson Ltd of Leighton Buzzard. Plans in the Diocesan Property Services archive show a nave seating 256, and a linked parish hall and presbytery to the (ritual) east; the land to the east has since been redeveloped, and a new presbytery forms part of that development.  


The church is set back from the road, and is faced in orangey-red brick laid in English bond. It has a dramatic asymmetrical slate-clad roof (replacing the original copper). The main entrance front is of plain brick, forming a backdrop to a 9 ft 6 ins steel and glass reinforced polyester resin sculpture of The Good Shepherd, of aluminium appearance, by Bernard Davies, FRBS, of Heathfield, Sussex. Under the ridge on the left hand side (over a single storey entrance porch with shallow pitched roof) is a large rendered cross. Large windows filled with coloured (pink, blue and yellow) mottled glass predominate on the south-facing (ritual north) side, and low continuous glazing under the eaves on the north-facing (ritual south) side, with slab glass at the ritual west end.

The interior has not been inspected, but is described in the Catholic Building Review account as follows:

Inside, the high altar acts as a strong focal point and the whole interior is balanced about it; the achievement of this is by the very narrow and high aperture to the small altar on which rests the Blessed Sacrament; a large crucifix enforces this as the focal point of the church.

Maintenance and renovation costs have been virtually removed by the use of unplastered brick walls, with terrazzo on the sanctuary floors, and ceramic tiles to the aisles and nave. Acoustic tiles have been used to achieve a monolithic ceiling, in lieu of plaster. English oak pews and wood block floors between complete the finishes.

Stained glass has been used to great effect in the baptistery and the choir with four high arrow slits in the spline wall. The Lady Chapel is enclosed by a wrought iron screen with glass backing.  

The architect’s plans show a wide nave with choir robing room, stores and confessionals giving off the ritual north (geographical south) side and a sacristy, Lady Chapel and baptistery giving off the ritual south side. The sanctuary is lit by a large window on the ritual north side. The Buildings of England describes the interior as ‘different spaces ingeniously grouped within the basic rectangle, yet avoiding a sense of clutter through carefully worked out lighting effects’. The stained glass in the baptistery consists of dalle de verre or slab glass by the Hardman firm (1966). Here there is also a cast concrete font, also of 1966, with a gritblasted Cornish granite aggregate finish, by Angela Godfrey of Roydon, similar to her font at Marychurch, Hatfield (qv).     

Heritage Details

Architect: Gordon & Gordon Associates

Original Date: 1965

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed