Atherley Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
A good example of a small 1950s church building of some character and distinctive design, by a local architect.
The first church on the site, a ‘tin’ church was opened in 1888. This was replaced by a permanent Flemish Gothic brick church by Fr Benedict Williamson in 1906-7. This church received a direct hit from German bombers on 3 January 1943 and was almost totally destroyed. A temporary church was used until the present building was erected in 1956-7 to designs by R Lethieullier Gilbert of Gilbert & Hobson of Ventnor. The plan followed that of the previous church and is unusual in having a four-square porch tower (the lower part survived the bombing) placed in the middle of the north side and set back from the road at a higher level.
Sacred Heart has only one generally viewed aspect, that to the north. It is set back behind a steep forecourt and is of distinctive 1950s design, with a mighty tower broader than it is deep, the lower part clearly of a different brick (surviving from the previous church). Into this is inserted the entrance which has a rounded Gothic arch with a kind of rusticated surround altering to a parabolic form. The bell stage is of strongly horizontal form divided into five bays to the north, four bays to east and west, each divided by a plain equilateral cross. The high-level nave windows to either side are angled, as at Coventry Cathedral, with concrete frames. Pantile roof and deeply overhanging eaves.
The interior is a single volume with a canted gallery to the liturgical west (the church is actually oriented west-east). Light and airy because of the uninterrupted rectangular volume and the angled windows throwing light towards the altar. The sanctuary is differentiated by sycamore wall panelling and projecting bricks to form a decorative pattern at higher level. A full height velvet curtain hangs behind the altar and there is a fabric-covered tester above. The cross is by Henry Farmer of Stratford on Avon and dates from 1949, when it was commissioned for the temporary church. The sanctuary originally had side altars and the high altar placed against the wall and was reordered in 1988. The pointed arch and brickwork above the entrance internally shows the retention of the surviving part of the tower of the previous church. The Stations of the Cross are of distinctive primitive design, executed in painted wooden relief with integral frames.
Architect: Gilbert & Hobson
Original Date: 1957
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed