Cole Green Lane, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL7
A large post-war church on a prominent site, designed (with the presbytery) in neo-Georgian style to fit in with the prevailing character of the Garden City. The light and spacious interior was dramatically transformed in the 1980s, with new glass and stone furnishings by Carmel Cauchi. The church and its asymmetrically-placed tower make a prominent contribution to the local scene.
Growth of the Garden City meant that by 1957 Sunday Mass attendance at the church of St Bonaventure had risen to nearly 1500, and the need for an additional church had become urgent. A site had been purchased with great prescience by Fr Horgan as early as 1938, and in 1955 plans were drawn up by A. J. Hodsdon Archard FRIBA. Early drawings show a more modernistic design, without a tower. In the event a more traditional neo-Georgian design was chosen, as more befitting the architectural character of the Garden City. In 1959 a contract was let to Charles Brightman & Son of Watford for a large church seating 600, Cardinal Godfrey laying the foundation stone on 30 September. As built, the church had a light and bright interior of great simplicity, with a high altar and side altars of Portland stone and a mosaic floor for the sanctuary. A neo-Georgian presbytery was built at the same time. The new parish was erected in February 1961 and Cardinal Godfrey presided at the solemn opening of the church in June 1961. The combined cost of church and presbytery was about £65,000.
In 1969 a new stained glass window depicting the Crucifixion was installed in the east window. In 1973 the high altar was brought forward to allow for westward celebration and the more collaborative worship being encouraged by the Second Vatican Council. The altar rails were removed, and at the west end the underside of the gallery enclosed. At about the same time a new parish hall, or Family Centre, was built to the rear of the church. At the end of 1973 the church was consecrated.
In 1986 Fr Eamonn O’Brien invited Carmel Cauchi (b.1927) to undertake a further major scheme of reordering and enhancement. The east window was relocated to the north transept and a dramatic sculptured figure of the risen Christ within a sunburst was placed against the now solid east wall of the sanctuary. The floor of the sanctuary was lowered and an elliptical dais formed. Cauchi designed the new altar, ambo, celebrant’s chair and font, all in Portland stone. The enclosed underside of the western gallery was removed and the entrance from here into the aisles embellished with two arches. The floor was carpeted, the interior repainted and a decorative pattern of timber battens added to the ceiling. Most notably of all, Cauchi designed and made twelve painted fibreglass panels of striking design.
In 2002, Cauchi created a stone niche housing the original tabernacle in the southeast corner of the south transept. In 2003, the church was again fully decorated and a new carpet laid
A large church in monumental neo-Georgian style, cruciform in plan and consisting of a wide nave with narrow circulation aisles, western narthex with tower, transepts and sanctuary. The narthex originally incorporated a baptistery (now a cry room). The church is faced with Matlock Grey bricks, with stone dressings. The low-pitched roofs are covered in copper. The arched windows have metal glazing subdivisions and rectangular panes. Less neo-Georgian and more Gothic in character are the brick buttresses on the west front, end walls of the transepts and at the east end, while the battered planes of the parapets have a Moderne character.
The main west front is dominated by the asymmetrically-placed tower, with a recessed central plane on each of the more public west and north faces incorporating windows at four stages. The entrance is via three pairs of hardwood doors recessed within a flat roofed porch, upon which is placed a nine foot Portland stone statue of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles by John A. Green (c1960; Green also carved the original font).
The interior is a large volume, with plastered and painted walls. There is a gallery at the west end of the nave. The three bays of the nave are separated by wide transverse arches rising to a height of nearly forty feet. Within these, the ceiling are picked out with painted or stained battens, part of the 1980s transformation of the interior. There is no arcade as such, the flat-topped openings onto the aisles being punched through the walls between the piers marking the bays. Wide transverse arches also demarcate the sanctuary and transept areas.
The church retains its original polished sapele mahogany benches, but otherwise the internal fittings belong to Cauchi’s work of the 1980s. Most notable amongst this work is the sculpture of the risen Christ against the east wall and twelve painted fibreglass windows, of big, bold and largely semi-abstract design. The theme for most of these was chosen by the parish priest, and was taken from the Walsingham litany. Others depict Our Lady Queen of Apostles (south transept), the Tree of Life (west window) and Pietà (in the Reconciliation Room). The Portland stone sanctuary furnishings, the enamel processional cross, and the font and tabernacle shrine (in the south transept) are all also by Cauchi. Further stained glass windows in the lower aisles by Matthew Lloyd Winder, 2011.
Architect: Archard & Partners
Original Date: 1961
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed