Park Road, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire WD3
An attractive early twentieth-century design by Arthur Young, built for a French congregation but thoroughly English in style. The church is prominently sited on a main road leading out of Rickmansworth; it follows local architectural traditions and contributes greatly to the character of the area. The interior has a three-bay arcade and a broad keel-shaped timber roof; its fitting out includes stained glass windows by G. P. Dagrant and Joseph E. Nuttgens.
About 1886 a Catholic presence in Rickmansworth was established by Fr Henry Hardy, with a mission at 86 High Street. Fr Hardy was an Anglican convert and a descendant of Captain Hardy of Trafalgar fame; he also built churches at Berkhamsted, Boxmoor and Tring, qqv. In 1902 increasing Mass attendances encouraged Fr Hardy to buy land and a cottage further up High Street and build a corrugated iron hut as a chapel (demolished in the 1950s). It was from there that in 1903 the Assumptionist fathers established themselves. They were a French congregation, founded in 1845, who had come to England, invited by Cardinal Manning as far back as the 1880s, but who had only been able to establish themselves in 1901 with a mother house in Bethnal Green. The new church was built from designs by Arthur Young; work on site began on 2 February 1909 with the foundation stone being laid on 27 March. Building proceeded rapidly and the church was opened on 26 October 1909, having cost £1,500. A drawing in the church by the architect, dated 1907, shows that the aisle was not originally intended. The Calvary on the rock in the front lawn was erected in 1914. The Assumptionist fathers departed in September 1979.
The presbytery, beyond St Augustine’s Hall, was built in 1994-5 (architect J. P. Canepaero of Watford), replacing an older building. St Augustine’s Hall itself is a late-nineteenth century former malthouse. Both this and the church were listed Grade II in 2017. List description at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1430603
The church is oriented to the northeast; directions given here are liturgical.
The church is an attractive building which pays some respect to local medieval church building traditions, especially in its use of its facing material and the design of the west tower and shingled spire. It is built of concrete, but is faced with field flints, under a tiled roof. It comprises a west steeple, nave, south porch, northwest (former) baptistery, north aisle and Lady Chapel (the latter added 1935), and south sacristies. The style is late medieval, hence the use of Perpendicular windows; the two-light mullioned windows in the belfry are even suggestive of a sixteenth or seventeenth-century date. The porch is half-timbered above the concrete and stone plinth. Over the nave/sanctuary junction there is a single-opening bellcote without a bell. Beyond the east end of the church and attached to it is St Augustine’s Hall, faced with brick and having Perpendicular fenestration suggestive of the sixteenth century. Beyond, and still attached, is the presbytery which follows the style of the hall but on a slightly larger scale.
The interior walls are plastered and whitened. The principal feature is the three-bay arcade with slightly segmental arches to the north aisle; the inner chamfering of the arches dies into the jambs. There is no clerestory. At the west end there is a small gallery set in the lower part of the tower. At the entrance to the original sanctuary is a slightly pointed chancel arch. The sanctuary has been drastically reordered and is furnished barely; the old high altar has now been brought forward and truncated, by Ormesby of Scarisbrick. Over the nave the boarded roof is of a broad keel-shape; that over the sanctuary is segmental.
Stained glass: The east window depicts the Holy Family, St Augustine and St Anna, 1911, signed by Gustave Pierre Dagrant of Bordeaux (presumably he was known to the French Assumptionists), and the windows in the north (Nativity, Presentation, Christ and the Doctors) and south chapels (Annunciation, Visitation), by Joseph E. Nuttgens, c1935.
Entry amended by AHP 7.1.2021
Architect: Arthur Young
Original Date: 1909
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II