Radway, Sidmouth, Devon
A 1930s church of some architectural and townscape interest, in the round-arched brick basilican style so popular in the interwar years. The 70 ft campanile is a local landmark.
Catholicism revived in Sidmouth in 1880 with the arrival of migrant French community which occupied Peak House. The Jesuits decamped to Hastings in 1883 but the Sisters of the Assumption had arrived in 1881 and proceeded to build a convent northwest of the town to designs by the architect George Goldie, completed in 1884, to which a chapel was added in 1895, served by Canons Regular from Bodmin until a diocesan priest could be appointed. The chapel served the needs of Sidmouth parish until a new parish church was built in the early 1930s under the auspices of the then parish priest Fr Power. He raised funds for the purchase of the site in 1930 and the new church was opened in November 1935. The architect was J. E. Walter of Paignton, and the high altar of Devonshire marble – since removed – was Sidmouth’s Catholic war memorial (The Tablet, 16 November 1935). Apparently the design made to allow for future enlargement, but this never took place. The interior was reordered in 1974.
The church is designed in a free Romanesque style. The walls are faced with red brick laid in stretcher bond and the roofs are covered in red pantiles. The plan comprises an aisleless nave with a 70 ft northwest campanile and various single-storey additions east of it including a link to the presbytery, a southeast transept and an apsidal sanctuary lower than the nave. The west front has a giant central round-headed arched recess containing the main door with a round-headed window over; to either side are smaller single round-headed windows. On the north side the tall campanile is set back from the main facade. The lowest stage is rectangular on plan but the upper stages are chamfered to give the appearance of an octagon intersecting a rectangle. The lower stages have small slit windows, the top stage a larger round-headed window on each face. East of the tower the nave side walls have two pairs of triple windows under large round-headed relieving arches. In front of them is a modern single-storey brick-built porch and eastwards a small sacristy. The south side wall also has two triple windows under large round arches and east of them is a tall transept.
The interior is Italianate in feel. The nave has whitewashed walls, with the heads of the window and other round-headed openings picked out in brick and tile, and an open timber roof whose king-post trusses have raking struts. The nave floor is covered with carpet. The west wall has two small side galleries either side of the recessed central window. Both nave side walls are articulated with four tall arches. The northwest arch opens into the base of the tower, while the two southeast arches open into a side chapel, with paired arched openings at lower level and triplet of small windows over. Similar paired openings in the northeast arch lead to the sacristy. In the east wall a tall round-headed brick arch opens to the apsidal sanctuary. The windows in the church are mostly clear glazed. The timber nave benches may be original, but the present altar and other sanctuary fittings belong to a post-Vatican II reordering.
Amended by AHP 23.01.2021
Architect: J. E. Walter
Original Date: 1935
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed