Building » Southampton – St Boniface

Southampton – St Boniface

Shirley Road, Shirley, Southampton, Hampshire

Church designed by the Preston-based architect, Wilfrid Clarence Mangan, who worked extensively in Portsmouth diocese. Mangan was an enthusiast for round-arched, predominantly Byzantine, styles which were highly popular for Catholic churches between the wars. Extravagant brick detailing is often a feature of these churches. Other such work by him in the diocese is to be found at St Joseph, Romsey (1913), the convent church of the Sacred Heart, Waterlooville (1922-5), St Saviour, Totland Bay (1923), St Theresa of the Child Jesus, Totton (1925), English Martyrs Reading (1926), St Joseph, Newbury (1926-8) St Patrick, Sandown (1928-9) and St Patrick, Southampton (1939). His output varies in style and quality. St Boniface is a work of considerable originality in its detailing and its Byzantine style is most attractive and unexpected in a 1920s suburban high street.

The Catholic mission at Shirley was founded in 1902 with Mass said first in a cottage and soon after in a tin church. The plot of land for the present church was purchased in 1919 for £1,200 and the present church was opened on 26 October 1927. The architect was Wilfred Mangan of Preston and the builder, Jenkins of Southampton.Drawings in possession of the parish are dated 23 February 1925 and signed by W.C. Mangan. The church was sensitively re-ordered by R. Sawyer of Winchester in 1967-9.

The Buildings of England Hampshire volume says of the church ‘Expensive neo-Byzantine with heavily-laden brick exterior’. Nave with prominently projecting transverse gabled bays, three to each side, the gables encrusted with ridge tiles and pantiles, a most unusual feature. Similar paired bays form transepts. Octagonal lantern over the crossing with a circular window to each face and a hipped roof of two pitches. Polygonal sanctuary. The liturgical west front is a tour de force in miniature. Slender tower to one side, turning into an octagon and topped with a roof similar to that of the crossing. Apsidal projections on either side. The centre part of the front is treated with a pair of modest towers with pyramid roofs either side of a central gable. Below this a round-arched recess forming a kind of open porch with a three-bay arcade across the lower level on which stands a more than life size sculpture of St Boniface, a replacement of 1954 after the original oak statue disintegrated. Lunette window set within the arch. In the re-entrant angle to either side a quadrant porch with paired doors under a round arch, the tympanum filled with decorative brickwork. Decorative brick and tile work is the leitmotif of Mangan’s exterior. The bricks used are sand faced multi-coloured bricks from Daneshill, Basingstoke.

The interior is a little claustrophobic, with transverse tunnel vaults interrupted by canted beamed ceilings. The tunnel vaults are pierced by tall arches relating to the transverse projections. Plain paired round arches to the intermediate bays. Passage aisles with a sequence of round arches. Only the crossing, beneath the octagon, opens up with paired arches into the transepts, beneath a single blind super arch. The two bays of the transepts are groin vaulted. Round arches into the sanctuary, the crossing arch wider and taller than the inner arch opening into the polygonal end. Elaborate cornicing with details picked out with gilding.

The original furnishings survive throughout. Extravagant use of coloured marble in the sanctuary, as at Mangan’s church in Newbury. The high altar has been moved forward (by Messrs. Vokes & Beck, masons of Winchester) but the round-arched reredos remains behind with a stepped arrangement of arches and the tabernacle set in front of a baldacchino over a crucifix. Communion rails of steel and brass set between square black marble piers. Steel and brass also the ambo and reading desk. Side chapels with marble altars, reredos with saints in niches. Cylindrical marble font. The marble and mosaic work was executed by Marchetti Ltd of Portsmouth. Good joinery, pews, gallery with screen below and doors throughout with brass furniture. Apart from the oak block floor and the Austrian oak entrance doors the joinery is executed in British Columbian pine. An organ was installed in the early 1930s and was enlarged and moved to its present position on the gallery in 1975.

Heritage Details

Architect: Wilfrid Clarence Mangan of Preston

Original Date: 1927

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed