Kirkdale, Sydenham, London SE26
A small church post-Vatican II church of hexagonal plan. The building has a rather forbidding character, leavened by some sculpture and furnishings of good quality, notably Steven Sykes’s sculpture of the Risen Christ over the main entrance.
A Mass Centre for Upper Sydenham was founded at Kirkdale from Sydenham parish (itself located in Lower Sydenham). In 1969 a site previously occupied by St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School became available and was purchased for £14,000. The building was opened in March 1974 by Archbishop Cowderoy. The architects were Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd, the successor practice to H. S. Goodhart-Rendel. The partner in charge was D. A. Reid and the structural engineers were Norman Crossley & Partners. The cost of the building was £51,900. The brief asked for a church which would seat a congregation of 250 and bring the people close to the altar.
The building was consecrated by Archbishop Bowen on 24 September 1982. The sculpture of the Risen Christ, which hangs above the entrance, designed by Steven Sykes and made from fibreglass and cement, apparently suggested the dedication. Sykes (1914–1999) is most famous for his mosaic at the Gethsemane Chapel at Coventry Cathedral. Several furnishings were donated by parishioners during the years following the consecration: a fibreglass statue of the Madonna and Child was designed by Sister Concordia, a nun from Minster Abbey near Ramsgate, and is dated 1983; and the Stations of the Cross by the sculptor Michael Clark (1918–1990), dated 1985.
In 1987 the mission was formally erected as a parish. Originally, a small parish room was provided above the narthex, however, by 1990, this had become insufficient. In c.1990, the church was extended, providing a larger parish room with kitchen and toilets, as well as a flat for the priest on the second floor. The sanctuary area has recently been redecorated. Over time, several small alterations have been made, such as the installation of a suspended porch above the entrance.
The church, completed in 1974, was designed by the architectural practice of Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd. It is constructed using reinforced concrete and pale yellow brick, laid in stretcher bond. The plan of the church is an irregular hexagon, with a projecting chapel in the southwest, and extensions to the northeast, containing the parish hall, sacristy and the priest’s flat.
The west front is facing the corner of Kirkdale and Sydenham Park. The only decoration on the windowless brick walls visible from the entrance is the bas relief of the Risen Christ by Steven Sykes above the west doors. To the rear, square windows on the two storey parish hall and sacristy blocks give those parts a more domestic character. On the roof between these two blocks is a flagstaff fastened to two raised brick walls, compensating somewhat for the absence of a bell tower.
Inside, there is a small narthex with stairs leading to a small room above. The narthex is flanked by two confessionals (accessible from the nave), of which the northern one is now used for storage. The main internal space is top-lit from glazed portions of the irregularly pitched roof which is supported on concrete ribs. Several vertical windows down to ground-level have glass bricks. The congregational space is fan-shaped, focusing on the sanctuary. The timber chairs are the original chairs provided when the church opened.
The timber font is placed at the west, near the entrance. To the southwest is a small chapel, with a security shutter which can be lowered. Above its entrance from the nave is a mosaic frieze with the inscription ‘Ubi caritas et amor deus ibi est’. On both north and south walls are the Stations of 1985 by Michael Clark. Above a fire exit on the north wall hangs an oil painting of the Risen Christ. The fibreglass sculpture of the Madonna and Child by Sister Concordia is located in the southeast corner of the auditorium.
The sanctuary furniture, including the font, is all of matching timber. The timber crucifix above the altar is by Elspeth M.G. Reid. To the north is a shallow niche for the tabernacle. It has a surround of green Westmorland slate with some gold leaf decoration and a background of small red bricks laid in herringbone pattern. Below the table ledge is a relief showing the Host and Chalice.
Architect: Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd
Original Date: 1974
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed