Building » Syston – The Divine Infant of Prague

Syston – The Divine Infant of Prague

Broad Street, Syston, Leicestershire

The church developed out of a temporary post-war structure. While of little architectural interest, the building of the church after the last war with mostly voluntary labour is a noteworthy example of community enterprise.

Fr Hendricks opened a Mass centre in Syston in 1899 with a shrine to the Divine Infant of Prague, perhaps because he had visited Prague and seen the image in the church of the Carmelite nuns there. The Mass centre closed within a couple of years but in 1939 Rosminians from nearby Ratcliffe College held services in the village Assembly Rooms.   During the Second World War the congregation was swelled by both American servicemen and Italian Prisoners of War.   In the mid-1940s the Assembly Rooms were destroyed by fire and Fr Horgan obtained permission to build a temporary church on the present site in Broad Street, to be dedicated to the Divine Infant.  The design appears to have been provided by the building firm of Cravens of Leicester, who prepared the specification and probably provided the design (letter in Diocesan Archives). Much of the labour was voluntary and many of the materials were salvaged from bomb sites in the vicinity.  The new church was opened in 1948. Syston became an independent parish in 1964. The building has been considerably enlarged since then.

The  church  at  Syston  is  part  of  a  complex  of  low  single  storey  buildings  which includes church and hall.   It seems likely that the original church comprised the single low space, which forms the nave of the present building.   To this have been added two large transepts, so that the church is now ‘T’-shaped in plan, and a forebuilding containing a front lobby.  The exterior of the building is generally faced with cement render, though the front wall of the lobby has facings of artificial stone. The shallow pitched roofs are covered with concrete tiles.  The prefabricated timber windows are mostly set in plain round-headed openings.

The interior is plainly finished with carpeted concrete floors, plastered walls and low canted plaster ceilings.  All the windows are clear glazed.  Over the high altar at the junction  of  the  two  arms  of  the  church  a  modern  timber  baldacchino  has  been formed.  The marble altar is of 19th  century character and was presumably brought from another church.

Heritage Details

Architect: Cravens of Leicester (Builders)

Original Date: 1949

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed