Blue Lane East, Walsall WS2
A post-Vatican II urban church with a strong design, clearly influenced by Spence’s cathedral at Coventry, but departing from that building’s longitudinal form in favour of a trapezoidal plan. The building is very little altered, and retains original and later furnishings of note.
An influx of Irish immigrants in the early 1850s meant that St Mary’s, Walsall proved too small. A site in Blue Lane was acquired and a new church dedicated to St Patrick opened there in 1856 (architect not established). The present church was designed in 1964 from designs by B. V. James of Harrison & Cox. It was built to accommodate 450 people, with a trapezoidal plan. The foundation stone was laid on 9 June 1966 and the opening took place the following year. The cost was £55,000. The earlier church was demolished and a new school built on the site.
The main facing material is light brown brick. The body of the church is trapezoidal on plan with triangular projections flanking the nave into which tall rectangular windows are inserted in the sanctuary-facing direction, clearly influenced by Spence’s design for Coventry Cathedral. At the west end is a curved projection pierced by a number of rectangular windows and in which is sited the main entrance, which gives into a narthex with gallery over. The east end of the sanctuary is semi-circular and is studded with small, almost square windows. This projection is flanked by the Lady (north) and Sacred Heart (south) chapels which are placed under low, flat roofs. A nine foot statue of Christus Rex by John Poole, placed over the main entrance in 1968, has since been removed.
The interior fans out towards the sanctuary. The dominant elements are the sanctuary itself with its array of small blue, purple and orange stained glass windows and the circular, flat, canopy-like ceiling (lower than that over the nave); the bare brick slabs and tall windows of the projections along the sides of the building; and the wooden panelled roof (the squares are filled with slatting in counterchanged directions). The sanctuary floor projects into the nave to form a circle (mirroring the ceiling above) which is floored with crazy-paved beige marble laid to resemble breccia. The same flooring surrounds the font which is an attractive tapering piece fashioned from golden-coloured stone. The sanctuary appears to retain its original furnishings, apart from the curved altar rails, which have been removed. The congregational seating consists of curved benches focusing on the sanctuary. The stained glass in the flanking chapels is later work by Louis Healey, bold semi-abstract work.
Architect: Harrison & Cox
Original Date: 1967
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed