Fernhurst, Halton Brook, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7
Built in 1971 as part of the development of Runcorn New Town, and an example of the type of dual-purpose church and hall building widely adopted in the 1960s and 70s to serve new housing estates. It has been extensively altered.
This was the first Runcorn parish independent of St Edward’s, established in 1968. Holy Spirit church was built in 1971 at a cost of £53,000, to accommodate 430 people. It was originally designed with the principal entrance to the north (liturgical west) and the sanctuary opposite. The nave was designed with a folding timber screen which divided this large space, creating a weekday chapel and community hall. A presbytery was attached to the east of the church. Following a fire in 2001 the presbytery was converted into a Children’s Centre and the church reordered and refurbished, including new sanctuary fittings and a new folding screen. A new entrance was inserted on the west (liturgical south) elevation.
A dual function church and hall, not unusual for its date (1971). The church was originally orientated with the sanctuary to the south, but for this description this will be referred to as the liturgical east end; the sanctuary is now in the southeast corner. Externally the walls are of loadbearing blue brick on a steel frame, with a steel-framed and glazed clear storey below a flat roof embellished with projecting rectangular panels. The west elevation was originally designed to be the principal and only entrance into the church. Central on the elevation are contemporary timber and glass entrance doors beneath a projecting canopy, accessed up a flight of concrete steps flanked by brick piers. This entrance is today unused and closed off, to discourage anti-social activities. The main entrance is now on the south elevation, with timber doors between projecting brick piers, flanked by square windows. At its west end the original entrance narthex is slightly recessed, with a roof height lower than the main church. The Children’s Centre is reflected at the east end, in similar form. The north elevation backs onto a public footpath and is the same as that to the south, but is blind. It is surrounded by a security fence. The east elevation comprises the Children’s Centre, above which the clerestory and roof of the main church rises. A simple geometric steel crucifix is central on the roof.
Internally the body of the church is square in plan, with a suspended tiled ceiling divided into quarters by cased beams. The altar is situated on a low raised area in the southeast corner (liturgical east). The church is well-lit by clerestory glazing of glass blocks, with additional light provided by a timber and glazed narthex screen to the south, added in 2001. The folding screen occupies the entire west wall. Interior walls are a mixture of fair-faced blue brick and painted render. The floor has a fitted carpet and seating is provided by moveable modern chairs arranged in a quadrant facing the altar; the architects’ drawings from 1971 suggest that the church was originally more traditionally planned with two blocks of pews or benches and a central aisle. The sanctuary altar and lectern were added in 2001, and are of a simple stone design. The original narthex is now used as a meeting room, adjacent to which is a kitchen and WCs, easily accessible from the community space formed from part of the nave.
Architect: Ellis Williams Partnership
Original Date: 1971
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed