Corbett Avenue, Tywyn, LL36 0AH
A striking post-Vatican II design by Weightman & Bullen, hexagonal in plan and with a tapering funnel ‘tower’ reminiscent of Frederick Gibberd’s chapel at Hopwood Hall, Manchester. The church forms part of a complex which also includes a nave annex, parish hall, kitchen, offices and presbytery, and has a notable collection of furnishings by John Skelton, nephew and pupil of Eric Gill.
In the 1920s there were just a handful of Catholics living in and around Tywyn (Towyn), and their nearest church was at Barmouth, some twenty-five miles away. In 1935 Miss Mary Corbett took a lease on a Welsh Presbyterian chapel of 1820 in Brook Street for use as a Mass centre. The chapel was dedicated to St David, and had an altar of carved Austrian Oak. In 1939 Bishop Hannon of Menevia split the parish, giving responsibility for Machynlleth to the Redemptorist Order and appointing the Fr Basil Rowlands parish priest of Tywyn. Fr Rowlands was the first resident Catholic priest in the town since the Ven. John Griffith, martyred at Camberwell in 1539.
In the 1950s and 1960s Tywyn developed as a holiday resort, with visitors swelling the congregation during the summer months and requiring use of the Territorial Army hall for Mass. In 1954 a fund for the construction of a new church was established, and four years later Fr Joseph Jackson purchased the present site. Further fundraising continued under Fr Jackson’s successors. In 1967 The Universe published an article about the parish’s efforts to build a new church and within a month a further £8,000 had been added to the fund, allowing construction finally to start. Built under the direction of Fr Charles Lloyd, the new church of St David was a striking modern design designed for the post-Vatican II liturgy by Weightman & Bullen of Liverpool (who later designed Christ the King, Aberdyfi, for Fr Lloyd, qv), with furnishings by John Skelton. It was opened and blessed by Bishop Petit of Menevia on Saturday 25 October 1969. The church cost £47,000 and was designed to seat up to 250 people.
In 2001 the walls were strengthened by buttresses in the courtyard, the rendering was renewed and the windows double glazed, at a cost of £42,000. The leaking copper cladding of the tower and roof was replaced in 2002 at a cost of £120,000.
The complex consists of the church, attached hall serving as an extension to the nave, kitchen, sacristy, offices and presbytery all on one level with a central courtyard. The hall is to the west of the church, separated by a sliding partition, the sacristy with confessional is to the south accessed directly from the nave, and from the hall via a kitchen area. The presbytery is accessed by a cloister-like corridor leading from the sacristy with offices to the south side and views of the courtyard to the north.
The church is constructed of brick with a white Tyrolean render finish, metal-clad funnel-shaped roof incorporating high-level glazing, and continuous clerestory windows around the main body; the design is reminiscent of Frederick Gibberd’s chapel at the former De la Salle College at Hopwood Hall, Manchester (1963-65). The windows are a mixture of original hardwood framed and recent uPVC double-glazed replacements. There is a projecting apsidal baptistery to one side of the entrance porch and the hall to the other.
Inside, the plan of the church is hexagonal, with the entrance porch to the north and an adjacent sunken baptistery housed in an apsidal bay. The interior is dramatically top-lit by the central tower/funnel and perimeter clerestory. The roof is of laminated timber construction with hardwood panelling, the brickwork plastered, and the low ceilings throughout have painted textured coatings. The floors are covered with white terrazzo in the porch, green terrazzo from Porthmadog in the church and hall, with green terrazzo and slate in the sanctuary, and vinyl tiles elsewhere. The sanctuary is placed centrally, extending to the east, up one step with a rail surrounding it. The altar is placed centrally on the predella and the tabernacle is on the wall behind. The sanctuary furniture is of Welsh oak, and the altar, font and tabernacle plinth of Corris slate and granite. The seating is arranged in a fan shape around the sanctuary on three sides.
Many of the furnishings were designed by John Skelton FRSA MBE (1923-99), nephew and pupil of Eric Gill. The Stations of the Cross are of carved Corris slate, square with incised designs. Other furnishings include a cast bronze statue of the Madonna and Child (another version is in Chichester Cathedral), a bronze tabernacle with incised gold lettering, and mosaic above with A and Ω detail. A banner for the churches of St David Tywyn and Christ the King Aberdyfi was designed by Skelton and made by Rosalie Sinclair; a design for this is in the presbytery.
Architect: Weightman & Bullen
Original Date: 1966
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed