Building » Wantage – St John Vianney

Wantage – St John Vianney

Charlton Road, Wantage, Oxfordshire

A competent design dating from 1960, located in the Charlton conservation area.

The church of St John Vianney was built by a local builder in 1960. According to Canon Turbitt, no drawings were commissioned from an architect. Canon Turbitt recounts that the parish priest in 1960, Father Jim Wixted, did not gain permission from the council to build the church, relying instead on lobbying from the local Catholic population to gain acceptance of the finished building. 

The church consists of a large, four-bay nave of reddish-blue Michelmersh brick, with an open sanctuary at the east end and a two-storey, three-bay entrance porch attached to the west end. The nave and porch have long, single-light, round-headed windows, with plain, narrow surrounds of reconstructed stone or concrete. Set into the first bay of the north wall of the nave is a brick bell tower with a pyramidal roof. This has three stages divided by string courses and window surrounds of concrete or reconstructed stone.

The west porch is built of the same reddish-blue brick as the church. Above the double doors of the west entrance is an arched, three-light window, diluted baroque in character, with a moulded and recessed stone or reconstructed stone surround which also extends to the doorway. Flanking the large window are shorter windows of the same style as the rest of the church. The entrance is preceded by a shallow-arched canopy supported on metal columns. Two bays of long windows (of the same style as the nave) light the north and south walls of the porch.

The interior of the nave is cavernous and undivided, providing (according to Canon Turbitt) particularly good acoustics for the regular concerts held here. The main structural element is the concrete portal frame, with brick for the infilling and external facing. The nave windows have metal glazing bars and small panes of clear, leaded glass. Saucer-shaped light fittings hang from the roof of the nave, which has rows of plain wooden pews.

The sanctuary is reached via steps from the nave, but is otherwise part of the main body of the church. There is a forward altar and a stained glass window in the east wall. To the north side of the sanctuary is a free-standing limewood relief of St John Vianney by Duncan Hughes of Wantage. This was installed in 2002. A small organ fills the bay in the south wall between the sanctuary and the first pews of the nave.

In the upper storey of the porch, where the organ loft was originally housed, is a meeting room. This is divided from the church by a segmental-headed, frosted glass window. The ground floor of the porch provides a lobby and space for a WC.

A parish hall was added to the east end of the church in about 1992. It is single-storey but gains width by having a double gable roof set in parallel. It is roofed with cement tiles, faced in red and blue-ish brick and has arched windows broadly matching those of the church. French doors in each gable end provide access to a small courtyard to the east.

The presbytery is linked to the north wall of the church via a single-storey garage. Built before the church in 1955, it is of the same Michelmersh brick, with brown-framed replacement windows and a hipped, cement tiled roof. A brick wall divides the front of the presbytery from the parishioners’ car park beyond.

Heritage Details

Architect: Unknown

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed