Higham Road, Rushden, Northants
A modest basilican 1950s church by Sebastian Comper, sensitively enlarged in the 1960s. Simple but well designed.
In 1868 Mass was said at Knuston Hall just west of Rushden. The first church and presbytery was commissioned in 1899 and the church opened in 1904. This served until 1955-6 when the new church, at right angles to the old, designed by Sebastian Comper, was opened, at a cost of £9,016. This church was in turn enlarged with a new aisle in the late 1960s.
The church and presbytery occupy a corner plot, north of the centre of Rushden, on Hayway and Higham Road. The altar faces northwest but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will be on the basis of conventional orientation, with the altar facing due east. The late Victorian/Edwardian presbytery has its entrance on Hayway. It is not distinguished architecturally but is a typical red brick house of the period and groups well with the church and Edwardian school on Hayway. The church, opened in 1904, is set back between the presbytery and present church. It has more of the appearance of an Edwardian schoolroom than a church, with large rectangular window openings with cross-windows. The only ecclesiastical note is a blind Gothic arch internally against the original sanctuary wall.
J. S. Comper’s church of 1955-6 is of small basilican type, consisting of a nave and sanctuary in one, a west porch and a Lady Chapel. It is constructed of wire cut brick with reinforced concrete columns carrying the prestressed roof beams. Shallow pitched roof and cast stone detailing. The flat-roofed north aisle was added in the later 1960s in a seamless manner using the same wire cut bricks and round-arched basilican Romanesque style. The west front has a gabled porch with a semi-circular arch on reconstituted stone Tuscan columns. The sides of the porch are closed in and the upper brickwork projects on brick corbels. There are small rectangular windows to either side and a tripartite group of round-arched windows above with simple chamfered surrounds. The north aisle has a similar group of windows. The side elevations have single round-arched lancets divided into bays by full height unadorned brick pilaster strips.
Inside, the aisle is broad and high, giving the effect of a second nave. It is separated from the nave by a lofty five-bay arcade of double chamfered round arches, the chamfers taken down into the piers and with concave moulded capitals. At the east end of the aisle is Comper’s original Lady Chapel, separated from the sanctuary by a tripartite arrangement of openings formed by two piers, the design of which was used for the piers of the later arcade. Plain chamfered sanctuary arch and short sanctuary recess of one bay with a round-arched lancet to either side but no east window. The east wall has a trompe l’oeil geometric design and a painted crucifix above. Attractive stone west gallery supported on Tuscan columns but with a balustrade balcony front of more Jacobean character with bottle balusters and intermediate square posts with geometric patterning. Octagonal stone font with carved sunk quatrefoil panels. Carved wooden statue of St Peter with the keys, 1999 from Padua. The 1904 church is now the sacristy.
Architect: J. S. Comper
Original Date: 1956
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed