Breakspear, Stevenage, Herts SG2
The most ambitious of the new Catholic churches built for Stevenage New Town, this is a modern design on a traditional longitudinal plan, built by Burles & Newton in 1961-62.
Stevenage was designated the first post-war New Town on 1 August 1946. The town was planned with six self-contained neighbourhoods, starting with the Stoney Hall and Monks Wood estates in 1951. Bedwell was laid out in 1952, followed by Broadwater and Shephall (1953), Chells (1960s) and later Pin Green and Symonds Green. A new Catholic parish at Shepwell was erected in 1958, the congregation initially worshipping in a temporary building that had been brought over from St Joseph’s at Bedwell. The present church was built in 1961-62, from designs by Burles & Newton. A projected flat-roofed hall attached at the (ritual) west end was not built.
The church is reverse orientated, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. is if the altar was at the east end.
A large church on a slightly raised site, this giving added prominence to the vigorous design. It consists of a wide aisleless nave, western narthex and attached cantilevered baptistery on the south side, flat-roofed sacristies etc on the north side, and narrower (than the nave) square-ended sanctuary. The building has a reinforced concrete frame, externally clad with multicoloured stock bricks, but with prefabricated flint pebble panels on the west elevation and below the windows on the north elevation. The concrete eaves and gutter are canted over the large windows on the flank elevations; the windows all have precast concrete mullions. East elevation is windowless, enlivened by raised brick patterning. The roof is of shallow pitch, now clad with concrete tiles (originally aluminium), and there is a tall, slender aluminium-clad fleche on the ridge. The interior has not been inspected. Early photographs indicate a single space, with an interesting timber boarded roof of Parana pine. A new marble altar was installed in the 1990s, designed and manufactured in Malta (information from Chris Fanning).
Architect: Burles & Newton
Original Date: 1962
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed