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.)
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.
List description (church and presbytery listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic church built in 1958-59 and slightly later (circa 1959-60) presbytery, designed by EC Francis. Some minor later alterations.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Teresa of Lisieux of 1958-59 and its attached presbytery, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: for the striking and well-executed design which combines elements of neo-Georgian and Scandinavian architecture to good effect and for the careful use of materials; * Interior quality: the spacious and well-lit interior of the church has an impressive simplicity, and retains its original fittings; * Group value: although of lesser interest, the presbytery has a complementary style to the church and is an integral part of the overall design.
History: The growth of Taunton’s Catholic community in the mid-C20 resulted in the construction of a second Catholic church, dedicated to St Teresa of Lisieux, and situated on the post-war Lyngford housing estate. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Rudderham on 13 November 1958 and the new church opened almost twelve months later on 8 October 1959. It was designed by the architect Eric Carwardine Francis of Taunton, and was his only known church design; he otherwise specialised in domestic work. The finished church differed slightly from Francis’ original plans since they show the baptistery at the W end of the nave, and a symmetrical arrangement of opposing entrances in projecting bays to either side of the nave. However, the baptistery is located within the S projecting bay and the principal entrance leads into a narthex which was originally intended to be the baptistery. The builders were Messrs Stansell & Son Ltd. The church was described at the time as being of a ‘distinctive design, with dignity and spacious interior beauty’ (Harding). The dedication was chosen in recognition of the 1955 twinning agreement between Taunton and Lisieux. EC Francis also designed the attached presbytery, erected shortly after the church, but a planned parish hall was never built. A brass hanging sanctuary lamp which was made for the church when it opened in 1959 is now in the Church of St Mary (Grade II*) in Cricklade, Wiltshire. St Teresa of Lisieux is served from the Roman Catholic Church of St George, Taunton (Grade II*). In September 2009, around the time of its 50th anniversary, the relics of St Teresa of Lisieux were received in the church during their tour of Britain.
Details: Roman Catholic church built in 1958-59 and slightly later (circa 1959-60) presbytery (of lesser interest), designed by EC Francis. Some minor later alterations. MATERIALS: both the church and presbytery are constructed of red brick laid in Flemish bond, under plain tiled roofs with large brick and tile kneelers to the gable ends of the church. There are timber windows throughout the church and early C21 uPVC replacements to the presbytery. PLAN: the church is aligned SW-NE and has a longitudinal plan with narrow circulation aisles to a wide nave, a narrower apsidal sanctuary, two square projections at the W end (a former porch, now the Lady Chapel, to the N and a baptistery to the S), a sacristy, and a S tower. The presbytery is to the SE, attached to the sacristy. For the purposes of this description, the rest of the text will follow conventional liturgical orientation. EXTERIOR: the CHURCH is a mix of ‘Georgian and Swedish Modern’ (Pevsner). The W end has a tall round-arched window with intersecting glazing bars and the foundation stone is below. The S elevation has an entrance with a pair of timber doors to the left-hand bay. To the right, the flat-roofed baptistery breaks forwards, beyond which is the tower. This is square and slightly tapering, with concave chamfers to the top corners, and is topped by a glazed octagon and a needle spirelet. To the right of the tower are two flat-arched casement windows and two pedimented dormers. The opposing (N) elevation has a similar arrangement of openings, though there are three pedimented dormers. The N and S sides of the sanctuary each have a tall, multi-paned window, and the E end has a low apse; its domed roof clad with modern composite sheeting. The PRESBYTERY is attached to the SE side of the church and linked to the sacristy. It is built in matching materials and in a similar neoclassical style. It is a roughly square, two-storey building, and its first floor is lit by dormers set into the flat-topped mansard roof. To the NE is a flat-roofed kitchen and garage wing; the garage now part of the house. The windows have been replaced with double-glazed uPVC, and those to the ground floor on the front and S sides have drip-moulds of tile. INTERIOR: the CHURCH has walls of exposed brickwork, except for the sanctuary and the ceilings which are plastered and painted white. The W end bay serves as the narthex and is separated from the rest of the church by a low timber screen containing five glazed archways with intersecting glazing bars; the central archway has a pair of doors. The broad nave is lit by the dormers and the W window. It has a woodblock floor and plain timber pews. The five-bay arcade has round-arched openings through to the side aisles; though these are no more than narrow passages under lateral brick arches behind the high nave arcade. The nave roof is supported by arched, transverse concrete trusses which rise from scrolled brackets with dentilled cornices. Hanging from each bracket is a pendant light fitting. The sanctuary furnishings are all of matching stone and probably date from a post-Vatican II reordering. The wooden sanctuary crucifix might be that by Estcourt Clack, described in accounts of the opening (Architectural History Practice). The former N porch is now the Lady Chapel and contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and Child set on an octagonal timber pedestal which supports a timber canopy on a fluted pillar. Opposite is the baptistery which has an octagonal stone font on a stepped stone base with an elaborate, painted scrolled timber cover topped by a bird. The organ at the E end of the N aisle was built by George Osmond of Taunton. The PRESBYTERY has a corridor plan with rooms leading off. It has undergone some refurbishment.
Books and journals: Harding, J A, The Diocese of Clifton, 1850-2000, (1999), 199; Orbach, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. Somerset: South and West, (2015), 614
Websites: Taunton Catholic Church, accessed 15 September 2016 from http://www.tauntoncatholicchurch.co.uk/history2/4541152167
Other: St Teresa of Lisieux, Taunton, Architectural History Practice Limited, 2015.
Architect: E. C. Francis
Original Date: 1959
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II