Bridle Lane, Streetly, Walsall B74
The narrow facade conceals a surprisingly spacious if simple interior. The lack of an architectural sanctuary is explained by its original dual function as a church hall; social uses now occupy a west narthex and sizeable underground spaces below the sanctuary.
Streetly is apparently named after the Roman road that passes through this semi-built up area between Walsall and Sutton Coldfield. Post-war housing development encouraged the Franciscans of Aldridge (to the north) to establish a Mass centre in the Hardwick Arms, Chester Road. They were assisted by the Claretian Fathers and in September 1958, Rev. Con O’Healy became parish priest. By mid-1959 a dual purpose church and hall had been begun, designed by Jennings, Homer & Lynch of Brierley Hill and built by Walford and Davis. The first Mass was at Christmas midnight, 1959. The final bill for both church and linked presbytery was £16,000.
Although not mentioned in the 1959 CBR account of the new church, it seems that the sanctuary was built over an underground space, accessed from an external door in the southeast corner. In the 1970s, this appears to have been enlarged into an underground social room with kitchen and WCs extending under the northeast weekday chapel with a new staircase entry under a flat-roofed extension. More recently, the west narthex has been glazed in and refurbished and a small west porch added to the west facade.
The church stands square to Bridle Lane, which means the sanctuary is at the southeast end. For the purposes of this report, the church is presumed to be oriented, i.e. with the altar at the east.
This 1959 brindle brick building with a steep tiled roof is surprisingly spacious for a building seating around 300, perhaps because it was designed to be both a church and a hall. It is of seven bays, with plastered internal walls and laminated portal trusses and a panelled soffit. The five eastern bays have three round headed windows, each with exposed brick arches and sills internally; those above the northeast side chapel are shorter. All windows but one to the northwest have recently been replaced with double glazed uPVC frames. The original window has a Crittall metal frame set in a timber surround.
The sanctuary is formed in the east bay and only separated from the nave internally by a single step podium and a ceilure above painted blue with gold stars. The east wall has a central tall recess within which is a plaster arch encircling a small oculus, above which is a painted hand of God in a sunburst. To the north is a small Lady chapel, its altar on the north wall and with a small square window to the east; it has been recently refurbished.
A large gallery fills the two western bays, glazed below to the nave; it contains benches, a pipe organ and band kit. Below on the south side is a kitchen, WC and confessional with the staircase at the southwest corner. The west gable has a high level round headed window, now sited over a gabled west porch. The west facade features five panels of ‘tinted Glamrock’, now painted white.
Below the two eastern bays is a social area, with meeting rooms, children’s corner, kitchen and WCs with a choir sacristy. It is approached from the exterior by a staircase in a northeast flat-roofed brick extension and links through to the priest’s sacristy (reached from the church by a door in the penultimate north bay). Another external door is at the southeast corner.
The benches are clearly late nineteenth century, with shaped ends incorporating a trefoil. Otherwise, the furnishings are twentieth century.
Architect: Jennings, Homer & Lynch
Original Date: 1959
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed