Building » Woodley – St John Bosco

Woodley – St John Bosco

Built in 1967, the church reflects typical architectural and liturgical interests of the time – a desire to break away from historicism, use modern materials, and achieve modern liturgical planning with a brought-forward altar and a three-sided arrangement for the sittings focusing on the altar platform. The architects, Lionel Brett (Fourth Viscount Esher) and Francis Pollen, were respectively major figures in the post-war conservation and church building worlds, and the church is contemporary with Pollen’s Abbey Church at Worth. Apart from the seating arrangements, the focus on the altar is emphasised by the use of a glazed lantern over. This was a device derived from Maguire and Murray’s influential church of St Paul, Bow Common (1958-60), with the use of a steep monopitch lit on one side perhaps owing something to Gillespie, Kidd and Coia’s St Paul, Glenrothes (1956-7). In the diocese the design is paralleled by the exactly contemporary St Gregory the Great, Alresford, and in its polygonal form by St Mary Alton (1966).

The present church supersedes a Mass centre on a different site and was built in 1967 to designs by the Oxford architects, Brett & Pollen. Furnishings provided by sculptor David John included tabernacle doors, a mahogany font cover and a processional cross. A parish centre was added in 1971 to designs by Peter Bosanquet & Partners, also of Oxford. The church was dedicated on 4 March 2007.


The church is oriented north, so all directions here are liturgical. Viewed from the road the church rises in three polygonal tiers. The roofs of the two lower tiers are flat. The buff brick laid in stretcher bond (plus two soldier courses) forms an outer perimeter to the building and is brought forward to the left of the entrance to form a short corridor with utility rooms. On the right a semi-circular apse breaks forward and encloses the baptistery. Above and behind the perimeter wall is a further, recessed plane, this time comprising a glazed clerestory strip, topped by horizontal timber boarding. Then above this and set further back comes a tall triangular glazed lantern with a two-sided, imitation slate roof at its back: the glazed face has a cranked plan beneath projecting eaves.

The interior planning has three concrete columns at the southern corners of the polygon which support I-section steel beams which support the clerestory and roof above. Between the columns and the outer walls is an ambulatory: behind the middle column lies the baptistery. The wall behind the altar has broad waves and rises straight to the ceiling without a clerestory. The underside of the main ceiling is boarded with the timbers following the shape of the building. Towards the back wall the boarding is raked upwards towards an irregular four-sided opening for the lantern. The altar stands forward on a two-stepped platform of irregular polygonal shape (the platform extends to the back of the building). A Lady Chapel lies behind a metal and glass screen to the left of the altar platform: it houses a confessional in its western part. The church is floored with parquet blocks and the walls are painted a light cream.

Entry amended by AHP 28.08.2023

Heritage Details

Architect: Brett & Pollen

Original Date: 1967

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed