Pembroke Road, Ruislip, Middlesex HA4
A large brick, inter-war suburban church in a stripped round-arched style. Located near to a shopping area, the building displays a good presence towards a busy road. It has an interior that is wide, light and welcoming, and which includes some good fixtures and fittings.
At the start of the twentieth century Ruislip lay within the parish of Uxbridge. As the area developed after the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in 1904, the need to provide for Catholic worship became apparent. Work was begun on a church in High Street in March 1920 to designs by the architect A.S.G. Butler. This was opened on 25 September 1921: it was consecrated six years later. The chief benefactor was Eleanor Warrender of Highgrove, Eastcote, and, when it came to building the present church, she again was the major contributor. The foundation stone was laid on 25 March 1939 and the church was consecrated on 15 June that year (hence construction must have been going on a long while before the formal laying of the foundation stone). The architect was George Drysdale, who had been a pupil of Leonard Stokes, whose practice he continued after the latter’s death in 1925. Statues, the high altar and font were brought from the old church.
In 1968 the sanctuary was remodelled and a Blessed Sacrament chapel created on the right-hand side. A new high altar, made from stone from near Guildford, was installed. About this time the baptistery was incorporated into the porch. In 1981 the Blessed Sacrament was returned to a tabernacle behind the altar and the chapel became the Lady Chapel. In 1985 the ceiling was lowered to conserve heat but, according to Bowlt, at the cost of spoiling the proportions of the building and altering the acoustics. St Joseph’s Colonnade was built in 1984 in front of the Hesdin Hall to hide the rather utilitarian 1960s façade of the latter and to link the church and hall: a coffee lounge was created to fill the alleyway between the church and hall
The church is oriented to the north; all directions in this report are liturgical.
The church is built of golden brown two-inch brick under a copper-clad roof and is designed in a very plain round-arched style. In terms of planning it is a very simple structure, consisting of a very broad nave, and a sanctuary with flanking chapels. The narthex/entrance occupies the west extremity of the nave and has a gallery over it. The main body of the nave expands beyond the western parts and is of approximately 55 ft width. The lack of aisles is unusual for the time in a building of this scale but their omission is said to have been insisted on by the first priest, Fr Edward Sutton. There are a pair of chapels flanking the sanctuary – that on the south (the Lady Chapel, photo bottom right) is apsidal and a little longer than the one on the north (Sacred Heart) which is square-ended. The west front, facing the road, is in two registers, the lower having a square-headed doorway and, above this, four roundels with very individualistically treated, low-relief emblems of the Evangelists, unmistakably of the 1930s: the upper register has a row of six windows with a crucifix in the centre. The fenestration, apart from that at the east end, is all placed at clerestory level.
The interior is a remarkably wide, light airy space. Originally the walls appear to have been of bare brick, but now, above a four-foot high brown brick dado in the nave, they are mostly painted magnolia (probably in the 1960s). The flat ceiling was concealed by a suspended ceiling in 1985 and was reinstated in 2004. There is lovely marble work in the chapels (the south chapel also has a semi-dome of mosaic in blue with gold stars). There is a gallery at the west end.
Fittings and furnishings:
Architect: George Drysdale
Original Date: 1939
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed