Building » Taunton – St Teresa of Lisieux

Taunton – St Teresa of Lisieux

Eastwick Road, Taunton, Somerset TA2

A striking and unusual modern-traditional design, combining Scandinavian and neo-Georgian elements, built to serve a post-war housing estate. The interior is well-detailed and retains a number of original fittings, such as the brackets holding the lights, and the elaborate font. The tapering tower with spirelet is a local landmark.

The mission was founded from St George’s, Taunton (qv) to serve a post-war housing estate at Lyngford. On 13 November 1958, Bishop Rudderham laid the foundation stone. He opened the church on 8 October 1959. The architect was Eric Carwardine Francis of Taunton and the builders were Messrs Stansell & Son Ltd. This is the only known church design by Francis, who otherwise specialised in domestic work. The cost of the church was £18,000. The dedication was chosen in recognition of the 1949 twinning agreement between Taunton and Lisieux. E. C. Francis also designed the attached presbytery (erected shortly afterwards) but a planned parish hall was never built.

In 2009, at the time of the fiftieth anniversary year of the church, the relics of St Teresa of Lisieux were received here during their tour of Britain.

The church faces northeast. This description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was at the east.

The church was built in 1958-9 to a design by E. C. Francis. The plan is longitudinal, with narrow circulation aisles to the wide nave, a narrower apsidal sanctuary, two square projections at the west end (a former porch to the north and a baptistery to the south) and a south tower. The external walls are of brick laid in Flemish bond; the roof is tiled. The overall style is described by The Buildings of England as a mixture of ‘Georgian and Swedish Modern’. The latter might be applied to the tower in particular: square on plan, it is slightly tapering with concave chamfers to the top corners, and topped by a glazed octagon and a needle spirelet likened to a radio mast by The Buildings of England. The rest of the building has more overt references to Georgian architecture, such as pedimented dormers and round-arched windows with intersecting glazing bars. The west elevation has the largest of these windows, as well as large brick and tile kneelers and a chimney-like feature at the apex of the gable. Below the west window is the foundation stone. The main entrance is the door at the southwest; the porch at the northwest has been converted to a chapel. (The original plans show two symmetrical porches (figure 1); this was obviously not executed.)

The interior is divided by transverse arches into five nave bays with an additional bay for the narthex. The latter has a screen with five elaborate windows with intersecting glazing bars; the central one is a door. The walls are faced with bare brick. The transverse ceiling arches are supported by scrolled brackets with dentilled cornices which also support the light fittings. The brick arcade divides the nave from the narrow passage aisles with transverse brick arches. In addition to a few rectangular side windows, the interior is lit by three dormers to the north and two to the south. The former north porch is now the Lady Chapel, with a statue on an octagonal timber pedestal which supports a timber canopy on a fluted pillar. Opposite is the baptistery, containing the octagonal stone font on a stepped stone platform with an elaborate scrolled cover topped by a bird. The organ at the east end of the north aisle was built by George Osmond of Taunton. The sanctuary furnishings are all of matching stone; they seem to date from a post-Vatican II reordering. The sanctuary crucifix might be that by Escourt Clack, described in accounts of the opening.

Heritage Details

Architect: E. C. Francis

Original Date: 1959

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II