Building » Watford (North) – St Helen

Watford (North) – St Helen

The Harebreaks, Watford, Hertfordshire WD24

An interwar brick church at the heart of a large council housing estate, built in a round-arched style by the accomplished and prolific Catholic architect, T. H.B. Scott, and only completed in 1996. It has a good presence in the surrounding area and quite a striking interior.

The parish was established in 1931 out of that of Holy Rood, Watford (qv). A temporary wooden church had been built in 1925, seating 120 and occupying the site of the later parish hall. The presbytery was built in 1934 and on 19 August 1935 the foundation stone of the present church was laid. Work proceeded quickly and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on 3 December 1935. The end of the sanctuary, however, remained incomplete and was only built in 1996, when the south wall and entrance porch were completed (architects Solway Brown Partnership of Sunningdale, builders Goodplan Ltd of Edmonton). The parish hall was built in 1971, to designs by Denny & Bryan.


The church is built of dark red brick in the round-arched style much favoured by its architect, T. H. B. Scott. It has a basilican arrangement with wide nave and narrow aisles, the latter under flat roofs. The east end is a three-sided apse. The fenestration consists principally of an oculus at the west end and pairs of high-level windows in the aisles. The north porch entrance has a carved panel over the door, possibly by Philip Lindsey Clark, and a large modern ceramic tile icon of St Helen in the gable above. The south porch entrance has capitals and a carved panel of the Loaves and Fishes, by Martin Duncan Jones (1996).

The interior is faced with light brown brick and is dominated by the four tall arches of the nave, which rise to within four feet of the wall plate of the roof. They rest on square piers. A further bay houses the gallery. Transverse arches span the aisles. At the entrance to the shallow sanctuary is a broad semi-circular arch. Throughout the church the architect uses his hallmark motif of triple, wicket-like lines – they occur on the roof beams, the benches, wall plates and door surrounds. The altar, lectern, tabernacle plinth, and sanctuary cross are by the local artist Siegfried Pietzsch, who was also responsible for the shrine to St Helen under the gallery, consisting of four simply carved and decorated panels surrounding a cross.

Heritage Details

Architect: T. H. B. Scott

Original Date: 1935

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed