Carronbridge Road, Eastleaze, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN5
A 1980s church built to a longitudinal plan, with the top-lit altar placed along the long axis. The utilitarian design is enlivened internally by colourful furnishings and artworks. There is also a medieval font.
The church was built by the Rev. Liam O’Driscoll to serve the expanding population of West Swindon. Before it opened the Catholic community worshipped at Toothill Shared Church, local schools, and even in a converted garage at Fr O’Driscoll’s house. The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Bishop Alexander on 22 February 1985 and the building was ready for use at Midnight Mass at Christmas 1985. A parish centre and presbytery were built at the same time. The identity of the architect has not been established, but similarities with the slightly earlier English Martyrs, Tuffley (qv) suggest the hand of Keith Savory.
The church is built to a longitudinal plan, with painted concrete blockwork walls and a long, pitched artificial slate roof at the front, and a shorter, steeper pitched roof to the rear. At the centre the rear slope continues up to provide a raised clerestory for the sanctuary area. The link with the presbytery has a plain wall with projecting blockwork cross, and the walls are otherwise articulated by concrete projections or faux buttresses.
A narthex area separates the church (to right) from the parish hall (to left). Originally this was open, but has now been enclosed with glass doors. An oval foundation stone with fine lettering is set into the narthex wall. There are also two wall-mounted sculptures, a roundel (copy of Michelangelo’s Pitti tondo) and a carved eagle panel (from a pulpit?). The church itself is a single volume with a small, rectangular, side-lit recess at the back of the sanctuary. The internal walls are also faced in blockwork, with the steel sections of the roof rising from concrete projections. The ceiling is of boarded pine, softening the effect of concrete and steel. The sanctuary is a curved platform placed along the long axis of the building, with the seating (which consists of upholstered chairs) arranged around this.
Other furnishings include:
Altar with carved frontal (oak leaves and Agnus Dei)
Ambo with carved frontal (Eagle of St John)
A series of stained glass windows along the back of the sanctuary, backlit, with scenes relating to the life of St Peter (by the Rev. John Potter, 2000 and 2007)
The tabernacle is placed on a marble plinth in the recess behind the altar
A further and larger backlit panel in the recess behind the altar, with abstract pattern and central IHS roundel, also by Potter, 2011
A painted crucifix hanging over the sanctuary, with Christ clothed and crowned
Glass with roundels of Faith, Hope and Charity, and the Sword of St Peter, in a door near the font, reset and of unknown provenance/maker
Large panel paintings on the theme Aspects of Christ, by Bob Jones (figure 2)
Panels of the Madonna and St Joseph with the Christ Child, also by Jones
Mosaic panel of St Antony of Padua
Stations of the Cross, imported.
Within this somewhat austere and utilitarian setting, colour and enrichment are provided by the furnishings. They include one item of considerable antiquity, an octagonal stone font, of apparent late fifteenth-century date and unknown provenance (figure 1). In another corner is a statue of St Peter, an 1890s copy of the famous bronze statue in St Peter’s in Rome, which came from the pro-Cathedral at Clifton. And in another corner is the pipe organ, 1905 by Griffen & Stroud, which came from Marlborough United Reformed Church.
Architect: Keith Savory (unconfirmed attribution)
Original Date: 1985
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed