Margetson Crescent, Parson Cross, Sheffield, S5
A pioneering, but altered, multipurpose church of the late 1960s, embodying post-Vatican II ideas about church design and the role of the Church in the wider community. The worship space forms part of a complex of interlocking spaces, but was always intended as a church rather than a dual-purpose space, and fitted up accordingly. Furnishings of note include a crucifixion panel and the Stations of the Cross, made of slabs of coloured glass by Patrick Feeny of Hardman Studios.
In the interwar years, Sheffield Council built several housing estates on the edge of the city, including the Parson Cross estate, with over 5,000 new homes. St Thomas More’s was founded as a Mass centre from St Patrick’s, Sheffield Lane Top (qv). Mass was initially said in a council school on Meynell Road, from 1944. In the following year, a house on Halifax Road was purchased for use as a presbytery and Mass centre. The makeshift chapel within the presbytery was unable to accommodate the growing Catholic community, and in 1950 a temporary dual-purpose church and hall was built on Halifax Road, designed by Hadfield, Cawkwell & Davidson. Dedicated to St Thomas More, this was blessed on 22 June 1950 by the Rt. Rev. Mgr Provost Hawkswell. Its fittings included four oak sculptures of c1952 by Harry R. Stone (Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima) and Walter V. Cowan (Crucifix and St Thomas More).
In 1967 Fr O’Reilly purchased from Sheffield Council a piece of land for a permanent church at Margetson Crescent. The brief, according to the Diocese of Leeds Almanac and Directory (1970), called for a permanent church with a hall and stage facilities, an old persons’ club and youth club which could be linked with local authority services. The church complex was designed by Anthony Tranmer of John Rochford & Partner, and opened by Bishop Moverley on 22 May 1969. The total cost including furnishings was £78,000. The nave provided seating for 230 but there was provision for further accommodation if required beyond a folding screen at the west end.
The church complex demonstrated a strand in post-Vatican II thinking about church design, as well as the move towards ecumenism. The worship space was just one part of a larger parish centre; one of several interconnected spaces which included halls, meeting rooms, a dance floor, coffee bar etc. In the words of the 1969 guide, ‘The opening of St Thomas More’s parish centre is a totally new concept in Catholic tradition. So far as it is known, this is the first such building of its type to be designed and built, as a single unit, to form a focal point for a parish. The value that this Centre will give to every section of the community in the parish is a milestone of much significance in religious relations, not only with Christians of other denominations in the parish, but with Christians in the whole surrounding area. It makes possible the implementation of the recent teachings of the Church on Ecumenism and must certainly foster better understandings’. The guide also wrote ‘if medieval cathedrals were sermons in stone, then our new Parish Centre will be … a blueprint in brick’.
However, the vision was not purely utilitarian; the church space was intended exclusively for worship, and was not a dual-purpose space. Provision was accordingly made for suitably worthy artworks and furnishings.
Architect: J. Rochford & Partner
Original Date: 1969
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed