Building » Westcliffe-on-Sea – Our Lady of Help of Christians and St Helen

Westcliffe-on-Sea – Our Lady of Help of Christians and St Helen

Milton Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex SS0

A High Victorian Gothic church by the local architect Thomas Goodman, with carvings by Thomas Earp. The design is in the manner of E. W. Pugin, and was completed over thirty years after opening. The church forms part of a good group of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century parish buildings, including a presbytery by Leonard Stokes.

The site was purchased and much of the initial building cost was paid by Countess Helen Tasker. The church was built in stages as funds permitted, largely following Thomas Goodman’s original design. The nave and chancel were built in 1869, then there was a thirty year gap before the south aisle was added in 1899-1900 (Alderman Tolhurst was the principal benefactor). The north aisle and the enlargement of the sacristy followed in 1902-03. These later additions were built under the supervision of Canon A.J.C. Scoles, who also designed the school, built to the north in 1898.

The presbytery was built in 1887. This was designed by Leonard Stokes and was illustrated in The British Architect for 1887. Cardinal Manning made a gift towards its construction. Stokes also added a wing to the former convent (now St Bernard’s High School) which lies on Milton Road to the south. Other parts of the convent are by W. J. Wood (1888), B.R. Parkes (1909) and Fr Benedict Williamson and J. H. Beart Foss (1912-13).

The parish hall was added in 1911, from designs by A. Berry. The church was repaired in 1952-53 after war damage, with new stained glass by the Hardman firm.

Description

The church of Our Lady and St Helen is in a Middle Pointed Gothic style, its design recalling the work of E. W. Pugin. The walls are faced with yellow brick with red and black brick bands and dressings of stone. The roofs are covered with plain tiles. The plan comprises a nave with north and south aisles, southwest porch, small transepts and a sanctuary flanked by a Lady Chapel on the south side and a sacristy on the north. All these parts have separate pitched roofs. The west end is very Puginian and has a large stepped central buttress flanked by two-light windows with plate tracery. The  gable  is  corbelled  out  from  the  main  wall  face  and  topped  by  a large  and elaborate bellcote with twin bell openings. On the south side is a projecting porch with a door in the east side, two bays of the aisle with triple lancet windows and a small transept. On the north side are three aisle bays with triple windows and a small transept. The sanctuary has a large five-light east window with elaborate plate tracery and an image niche at the gable head; the flanking Lady Chapel and sacristy both have stepped triple lancets.

Internally the church has a timber floor, the walls are mostly plastered apart from the walls of the nave where the brickwork has been left bare. The timber nave roof has arch braces to the collars with boarding above. The lean-to aisle roofs are ceiled. At the west end of the nave is a timber gallery designed by Canon Scoles and installed in 1906. The nave arcades are of four bays with pointed chamfered arches carried on stone  columns, now  painted,  with  elaborate  capitals  carved  by  Thomas  Earp, Butterfield’s favourite carver. The aisle windows are simply chamfered without other ornament.  The wide chancel arch is carried on carved corbels.  The sanctuary has a ribbed pointed timber ceiling, wide arches pointed to the side chapels and a stone reredos set into the wall under the east window.  The sanctuary floor has encaustic tiles by Minton & Co, now covered by carpet. The stained glass in the east window is by Westlake of London (1903). Other windows are by the Hardman firm, 1953, replacing windows lost in wartime  damage.

List description (the church was listed in 2014, following Taking Stock. Stokes’s presbytery was rejected for listing, on account of being too altered)

II

Roman Catholic Church 1868-9, by Thomas Goodman of Southend.

Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Helen, Milton Road, Westcliff on Sea, Essex, designed in 1868-9 by Thomas Goodman and extended by A.J.C Scoles in 1899, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: as a good example of mid-Victorian Gothic Revival church design, displaying the influence of E. W. Pugin and G. E. Street, and notable for its use of structural polychromy. Later additions by Scoles, a Catholic architect of note, are seamless in character; * Interior: for the quality of carved stonework by Earp, and original and later fixtures and fittings of note, including a series of post-war stained glass windows by the Hardman firm; * Historic interest: the oldest Catholic Church in south Essex in modern times, originally serving a large mission territory.

History: A Catholic mission at Southend was established by the Revd John Moore in 1862, serving a large and scattered territory stretching from Burnham-on-Crouch in the north, to the River Thames in the south, Horndon in the west and Foulness Island in the east, and including the garrison at Shoeburyness. The site for the present church and much of the initial building cost were paid for by Miss (later Countess) Helen Tasker, supporter of a number of Catholic building projects in Essex and elsewhere. She laid the foundation stone on 8 October 1868. The church was built in stages as funds permitted, largely following the original design of Thomas Goodman of Southend. The builders were Wilkins & Son of Chatham, while the carving was executed by Thomas Earp of Lambeth, G E Street‚Äôs favourite carver. The first phase, consisting of nave, chancel and sacristy, was opened in October 1869 by Archbishop Manning of Westminster, who described it as ‚Äėthe very model of a country church‚Äô (Weekly Register, October 1869). Temporary walling was placed on the outer face of the arcades until funds were available to continue the work. In 1895 a high altar was installed as a memorial to Fr. Moore (d.1890), paid for by subscription. It was made by Earp & Hobbs of Lambeth from designs by F A Walters. The south aisle was added in 1899-1900 (Alderman Tolhurst was the principal benefactor) and the north aisle and enlarged sacristy in 1902-03. These additions were built under the supervision of Canon AJC Scoles, who also designed the school, built to the north in 1898. In 1903, stained glass depicting the Crucifixion, with figures of the Virgin Mary and St John and saints Mary Magdalene, Helen and Joseph was installed at the east end, by Westlake of London. An organ gallery was added at the west end in 1903 (parish source) or 1906 (Kelly), probably from designs by Canon Scoles. The organ was financed in part by Andrew Carnegie (parish source). In 1912 a memorial window to Fr Moore was placed in the baptistery. The church was consecrated by Bishop Ward, first Bishop of Brentwood, on 12 August 1919. The Church suffered wartime bomb damage, with the loss of stained glass. Repairs in 1949 included the rebuilding of the high altar (separated from the reredos, the design of which was simplified), new alabaster altar rails, entrance doors, Stations of the Cross and reconstruction and relocation of the pulpit. Parquet flooring replaced the original Minton tiles in the sanctuary. It was probably at this time also that much of the internal polychrome brickwork was plastered and painted. In 1952-3 (and later) much new stained glass by the Hardman firm was added. Following the Second Vatican Council, in 1968, the high altar was again rebuilt, modified and further brought forward to allow the priest to say Mass facing the congregation. The nave pulpit and the metal gates of the altar rails were removed.

Details: Roman Catholic church in Early English Gothic style, 1868-9, by Thomas Goodman of Southend, with additions of 1899-1903 by A J C Scoles. MATERIALS: the walls are faced with yellow brick with red and black brick bands and dressings of Bath stone. The roofs are covered with plain tiles. PLAN: nave with north and south aisles, southwest porch, shallow transepts, chancel flanked by chapels, with sacristy to the north connecting with the presbytery. EXTERIOR: the most visible elevation is that to the east, facing Milton Road. This has a large five-light sanctuary window with plate tracery and attached marble shafts. Below the window is a chequerboard brick panel above the sill and an original stone inscription MARIA AUXILIUM CHRISTIANUM ORA PRO NOBIS (Mary help of Christians pray for us). Below this, a buttress incorporates the foundation stone. Above the window, at the gable head, is a stone image niche with pinnacle (no statue). The flanking chapels have stepped triple lancets. The west end elevation of the nave is E W Puginian in character and has a large stepped central buttress flanked by two-light windows with plate tracery. The gable is corbelled out from the main wall face and topped by a large and elaborate bellcote with twin bell openings (the two original bells, cast by Messrs Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel Bell Foundry, have been lost, possibly in wartime). Flanking this, the west elevation of the south aisle has a triple lancet window with vesica in plate tracery (to the original baptistery), while that of the north aisle has just one small window (to the stair to the organ chamber). On the south side is a projecting porch with entrance on the east side with carved stone tympanum and oak doors. The two bays of the south aisle have triple lancet windows, while the transept has a sexfoil round window in plate tracery. On the north side are three aisle bays with triple windows and a small transept with a round window similar to that on the south side but with lean-to (confessionals) below. The sacristy adjoins. INTERIOR: some of the original internal polychrome brickwork has been painted, but is still exposed on the walls of the nave. The woodblock floor has Minton tiles in the side chapels and a small tiled area near the entrance. The sanctuary is carpeted; after the war its original Minton tiles were replaced with woodblock. The timber nave roof has arch braces to the collars with boarding above, while the lean-to aisle roofs are concealed by plaster ceilings. At the west end of the nave is a delicate Gothic oak organ gallery of 1906. The nave arcades are of four bays with pointed chamfered arches carried on stout stone piers, now painted, with elaborate capitals carved by Thomas Earp. The aisle windows are simply chamfered without other ornament. The wide chancel arch is carried on carved corbels. The sanctuary has a ribbed pointed timber ceiling and wide arches to the side chapels, with richly carved capitals. FIXTURES AND FITTINGS: the altar is that designed by F A Walters and made by Earp and Hobbs in 1895, albeit reduced in size, modified and brought forward. It is carried on four stubby marble columns with a wide central support carved at the front with the Agnus Dei. Behind the altar, the stone reredos set into the east wall is also that of 1895, again modified. The alabaster altar rails of 1949 are retained in the sanctuary and the side chapels, minus their gates (in store). The north (Lady) chapel has a stone piscina and a modern altar with statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. The south (now Blessed Sacrament) chapel has a timber altar of 1953. The small painted octagonal font is now located in the south transept. The seating consists of original or early open-backed oak benches with elbowed and chamfered ends. STAINED GLASS: the east window is a replacement of the 1903 window lost in the war, and has the same figures. It is by the Hardman firm of Birmingham, as are the east window of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, two triple windows in the south aisle, and the triple window at the west end of the south aisle (former baptistery), the last in memory of Fr. Moore and replacing that of 1912. Also in the Blessed Sacrament chapel is a smaller window to Canon McKenna (d. 1948, artist not established). In the north aisle there are surviving earlier windows, ranging in date from 1904-18.

The linked presbytery (subject of a separate designation assessment), the former school building to the north of the Church (by Scoles) and a later (1927) school building to the south-west of the Church are excluded from the listing.

Sources

Books and journals: Bettley, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (2007); Kelly, B W, Historical notes on English Catholic Missions, (1907); ‘The Tablet’ (1st June 1912). Other: Architectural History practice, Taking Stock: Roman Catholic Diocese of Brentwood, 2012; Bain, U, Revival of Catholicism in Southend during the Nineteenth Century‚Äô, 1976; Essex Record Office, TS581/26‚Äď32; TS581/4; TS581/8;TS581/15.

Heritage Details

Architect: Thomas Goodman; completed by A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1869

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II