Victoria Road, South Ruislip, Middlesex HA4
A suburban church of both historical and architectural significance. St Gregory’s is one of the first churches in the Archdiocese of Westminster whose design fully reflects and realises the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Its oval plan has contemporary parallels, and reflects the architect Gerald Goalen’s interest in polygonal and centralising plan forms. Like other Goalen churches, St Gregory the Great is notable for the quality of its artworks, with original furnishings by Patrick Reyntiens and others, and glass by Dom Charles Norris (added in the 1980s).
In 1958 the Rev. Philip Dayer was appointed to a new parish in South Ruislip. The first task was founding a primary school. Mass was said at 53 Queen’s Walk. In 1965 plans for a new church were prepared by Gerard Goalen of Harlow and building work began in August that year. The expected cost was £57, 500. A model of the scheme was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1965. The oval plan is a variant of the circular plan very much in vogue, as in Francis Pollen’s church at Worth Abbey (foundation stone laid in 1964) and Weightman & Bullen’s church at Leyland in Lancashire, which was opened in 1964. It was also influenced by Goalen’s travels on the Continent in 1958, where he would have seen a number of advanced church designs, some of them round, by Dominikus and Gottfried Böhm, Rudolph Schwarz and others. The church was built soon after Goalen’s church of The Good Shepherd, Woodthorpe (Nottinghamshire), which is an elongated hexagon on plan.
The foundation stone was laid on 30 October 1965 and the church was opened by Cardinal Heenan on 16 April 1967. Accommodating 320 people, this was the first church in the Diocese of Westminster in which the ideas emanating from the Second Vatican Council reached their full architectural expression.
Consecration eventually took place in November 1975. In 1987-89 the church was enriched with dalle de verre glass by Dom. Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey.
The church is entirely different in character from those erected about 1960, and indeed from Goalen’s T-shaped church at Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow, dispensing with the traditional basilican plan in favour of an oval one with a projecting sanctuary (from which no member of the congregation was more than about twenty five feet away). It is built of dark brown brick, has an entrance facing the main road which leads into a narthex (with repository and a children’s room). Over the entrance is a deep relief inscription ‘Come into the temple of God that your lot may be with Christ in life eternal’ (by Stephen Sykes, words from the baptismal rite of the old Mass). The upper parts of the church, as seen from the road, have a clerestory and above this a rising crown of bare concrete. On the south side of the church is a circular baptistery with nearly full-height glazing between vertical, bare concrete members: over the baptistery is a single bell mounted within a metal tripod.
Inside, the lower parts of the walls are of bare brown brick: for two-thirds of the height of this part, there is vermiculated patterning created by projecting bricks (behind these were tucked pieces of foam (mostly disintegrated now) for acoustic purposes). The western half of the church (i.e. that opposite the sanctuary) has an ambulatory with polygonal concrete columns. The upper level of the interior has a clerestory. The western half of this had a series of clear glazed windows but about half the surface area has now been replaced by bright coloured glass, thought to date from the 1970s. The eastern half of the clerestory is differently treated, with triangular concrete vertical members which diffuse the light from the clear glazing behind. Over the worship space the roof is carried on deep concrete beams with wooden boarding between. The floor slopes gently towards the sanctuary.
Fixtures and fittings:
Architect: Gerard Goalen
Original Date: 1967
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed