Hampton Court Way, Thames Ditton, Surrey KT7 0LP
An unusually big and austere building, not intimate but very striking in its design.
The Catholic Church built a large number of churches in the years between 1953 and 1965 that experimented with new plans in order to achieve a closer relationship between, to put it very simply, God and man. A centralised plan provides a less hierarchical setting for worship than the traditional plan of sanctuary and nave but also tends to lack focus (besides having the problem that part of the congregation may be seated behind the celebrant). The construction of the vestry and choir gallery, behind the sanctuary helps in this case to solve the problem. Even so, despite, or perhaps because of, the great span of its shallow dome, the central altar and sanctuary seem rather dwarfed.
The church at Thames Ditton was built to the design of one of F. G. Broadbent’s partners, D. A. Reid, in 1965. Reid had joined the practice of H. S. Goodhart-Rendel (later headed by F. G. Broadbent) as Senior Assistant at the age of thirty in 1952. He worked closely with Goodhart-Rendel during the architect’s final years, completing the chapel of the Tyburn Convent in Marylebone, London, very sensitively after his death in 1959.
Our Lady of Lourdes is constructed in brick with pre-cast concrete panels and a copper roof. The church is circular on plan, with four full height projections, built in brick with gently curved tops. The one facing west is adorned with a huge sculpture of Christ on the Cross, carved in situ by David McFall. Beneath this there is a projecting single-storey porch flanked by auxiliary accommodation that wraps round the central drum.
In 1988 a large hall, built in brick in a matching style, was attached to the north of the church. This was designed by Jeffrey MacCormack. An illustration in Bryan Little’s book shows how the church looked prior to the construction this extension.
The internal plan of Our Lady of Lourdes reflects the changes in liturgical practice introduced following the Second Vatican Council (1962-5). The sacristy occupies the wedge-shaped structure behind the altar, with curved benches in the nave surrounding the circular sanctuary. The choir was originally accommodated in the gallery located above the sacristy but has now abandoned this and sings from the floor. Emphasis is given to the centrality of the altar by the giant corona suspended from the dome, and natural light is provided by the clerestory windows that run round the wall enclosing the central drum. The side chapels contain stained glass designed by Pierre Fourmaintreaux of Whitefriars.
Architect: F. G. Broadbent & Partners
Original Date: 1965
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed