The Square, Wool, Dorset
An impressive 1960s church design, responding thoughtfully to the needs of the post-Vatican II liturgy. The function clearly dictates the form, resulting in a building that is visually memorable as well as fit for purpose. Little has been changed since 1971. The Triodetic spaceframe roof structure is not generally associated with churches but enables a large uninterrupted space for the celebration of the Mass. The interior furnishings and fittings are essential to the totality of the design.
Bindon Abbey, just east of Wool, was founded as a Cistercian house in 1172. In 1641 the abbey ruins came into the possession of the Welds of Lulworth Castle. At Lulworth the Welds built the first freestanding post-Reformation church for Catholic worship in 1786-7. A little later they built a house of retreat adjacent to the ruins, with a first floor chapel over a schoolroom, though the chapel was not registered as a place of worship until 1885. The army camp at Bovington, set up during the First World War, and the nearby nuclear power station, contributed to the growth of Wool, now larger than the neighbouring historic town of Wareham. In 1969 a new school was opened in the village and work began on a new church and housekeeper’s accommodation. In 1968 Sir Joseph Weld commissioned Anthony Jaggard (who was connected to the family through marriage) to design a ‘modern’ church for Wool. The starting point for the design was ‘Guiding Principles for the Design of Churches According to the Spirit of the Roman Liturgy’, published by the German Liturgical Commission in 1947. The completed church was solemnly blessed on 1 December 1972.
Brick (laid in English bond) and render. Blue brick plinth and plum brick above. The plan of the main body of the church is a double square, with an unequal pitched roof with a lantern at the highest point (above the altar). The roof is of shallow pitch and clad in lead, whilst the lead-clad square lantern has steeply pitched sides and a cross rising from the top. At the west end a flat-roofed narthex, the full width of the church and a similar smaller projection at the east end for the sacristies. On the south side, corresponding with the highest point of the main roof is the partly engaged circular tower form of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, with a smaller circular tower, enclosing a staircase, immediately to its west. In the corresponding position on the north side an oval projection houses the family pew over the baptistery. Bold concrete spouts or chutes, reminiscent of Ronchamp, to discharge water from the roofs of the chapel, stair and family pew towers. The main body of the church has a white mineral render finish, whilst the various projecting elements are finished in brick, apart from the aluminium screen wall across the narthex, with the brick walls like book ends. The nave walls have vertical strips with glazing between ‘pilasters’ with chamfered copings. The upper parts of the glazing are contiguous with a clerestory band of glazing, which, interrupted only by the towers, gives the effect that the box fascia of the roof appears to float unsupported. The roof overhangs and has two down pipes at either end which are close in colour to the building fabric and appear like supporting piloti.
The interior of the narthex is a rectangular room with exposed plum brick walls and painted matchboard ceiling. The floor is of rectangular concrete slabs. There is a clutter of later furniture, including an altar table. The main church can be entered by one of three entrances, double doors to the centre and single doors to the ‘aisles’. The doors are highly glazed in narrow vertical strips. Concrete lintel over the main doorway with segmental-arched soffit. The narthex is used as a gathering and social space. The main church is light and spacious and the effect on entering is appropriately breathtaking and humbling. The large volume is remarkably uncluttered; the Blessed Sacrament chapel and family pew do not detract from the all-important emphasis on the altar, which lies at the heart of the plan, raised up, centrally placed and lit from above by the lantern, though the lantern itself is not revealed until the sanctuary is reached. The most striking feature of the interior is the aluminium Triodetic spaceframe roof, the depth of the clerestory. Being of aluminium the roof could be assembled without heavy lifting gear. The aluminium components were hand polished and finished with a clear lacquer. The plain matchboard roof can be seen through the latticework of the structure. The matchboarding in the lantern is painted white. At the west end the three doors have shuttered concrete lintels, broader lintels with segmental-arched soffits span recesses either side of the central doorway; that to the north has a shelf for missals etc whilst that to the south has a free-standing T-plan brick structure forming the confessional. This is detailed with a blue glazed slot and concrete slabs forming elements of the internal confessional which are expressed externally, adding detail and interest to the structure. The main interior walls are of painted brick, apart from the east wall, which is of rock-faced stone in small square blocks laid in stack bond. Two double doors (with the same detailing as the western doors) give access to the two sacristies. The circular and oval shapes of the Blessed Sacrament chapel and family pew are expressed internally, protruding subtly into the double square; their sides are cut away beneath arched concrete lintels which fort part of a complete ring or band. The plum brick is exposed for the walls of these elements. The Blessed Sacrament chapel has a high circular table, on which stands the tabernacle, and around this a tree of life sculpture (in welded steel and GRP resin) entwines and rises the height of the chapel, supporting a Dalmatian pelican in its upper branches. This is by the sculptor, Geoffrey Teychenne. It was originally intended that the tabernacle itself would be held in the branches and not placed on a table. The chapel is top-lit by a circular lantern. To the right of the chapel, in a recess, is the organ gallery, with a small eighteenth-century chamber organ in a mahogany case. Plain metal balustrade with wooden handrail. The Weld family pew is treated similarly, with the concrete ring and lintel and metal balustrades with wooden handrails. The staircase is of tapering concrete slabs cantilevered from the wall and with the metal balustrade taken up to form the upper balustrade. Contemporary pew and lighting to the first floor family pew. The space is lit by an oval lantern.
The sanctuary is defined by a raised square, with the altar on a smaller raised square. The pavement is of brown square tiles with a border of larger square concrete slabs. The altar comprises a heavy stone slab supported on a black metal skeleton frame. (The communion vessels, not seen, were designed by Atholl Hill). Six elegantly tapering candlesticks, originally arranged in lines of three flanking the altar but four of them now placed against the east wall. Sanctuary furnishings, seats, tables, balustrade are all of simple and open design in metal and wood. The ambo is a substitute for the original, which was of much simpler design matching the candlesticks. Altar and ambo both have fabric frontals but this is a modification from the original Spartan effect. Cross with exquisite silver crucifix by Teychenne. This was originally placed centrally but is now placed to one side. In the east wall are two shallow recesses, with smooth finished square stones painted white and of unequal size, providing the setting for statues of Our Lady andSt Joseph, of painted and gilded wood, standing on concrete shelves. They were made inItalyand were intended as aids to private devotion. In their traditional and rather lush form they seem curiously out of place in the austere contemporary setting, despite being part of the original concept. In front of each are pairs of kneelers, metal framed with upholstered knee and arm supports. The nave has concrete pews set at three-foot centres, with felt panels to seat and back supports and wooden tops. The floor of the nave has the same brown square tiles as used in the sanctuary. The lighting is by four box gantries running the length of the pewed area. Around the walls are small built-in wall sconces of concrete with panels of coloured glass. Stations of the Cross, small crosses set above the lower windows. It was originally intended that the lower windows might be filled with stained glass. Circular drum font in the baptistery below the family pew. The original under floor heating has been replaced with storage heaters along the walls.
List description (the church was listed in 2013, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church, built 1969-71, designed by Anthony Jaggard of John Stark & Partners; structural engineers L G Mouchel & Partners.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph of 1969-71 designed by Anthony Jaggard of John Stark & Partners is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural quality: a bold exterior employing exposed brickwork, a mineral render, vertical glazing and sparse ornamentation. It is a building of real quality in its materials, composition and detailing; * Structural interest: for the innovative use within an ecclesiastical building of a space-frame roof to provide a large, open nave and sanctuary; * Interior quality: the interior contains good-quality fixtures and fittings and has an impressive simplicity of design.
History: Bindon Abbey, to the east of Wool, was founded as a Cistercian house in 1172. In 1641 the abbey ruins came into the possession of the Weld family of Lulworth Castle. At Lulworth, the Welds built the first free-standing post-Reformation church for Roman Catholic worship in 1786-7. A little later they built a house of retreat adjacent to the abbey ruins, with a first-floor chapel over a schoolroom, though the chapel was not registered as a place of worship until 1885. During the C20 the population of Wool expanded with the establishment of an army camp at Bovington, set up during the First World War, and the nuclear research station at Winfrith in 1957. In 1968 Sir Joseph Weld commissioned Anthony Jaggard of John Stark & Partners to design a modern church for the village. His design reflected the Guiding Principles for the Design of Churches According to the Spirit of the Roman Liturgy, published by the German Liturgical Commission in 1947 including a raised, free-standing altar, placed where the light was strongest, to give it a monumental character in relation to the rest of the building. Jaggard’s design incorporated a lightweight Triodectic space-frame roof (designed by L G Mouchel & Partners, Bath) of aluminium that spanned the nave and sanctuary without any additional supports, thus providing a large, open space for worship. The completed church was solemnly blessed on 1 December 1972. It was originally intended that the lower windows might be filled with stained glass but this was not carried out. The church has remained almost completely unaltered since its construction, apart from the slight re-positioning of some furnishings, the introduction of a fixed table for the tabernacle, and the replacement of the under-floor heating with wall-mounted heaters. The narthex which forms the west end of the building is used as a gathering and social space. To the north-east of the church is a detached rectory, originally described as housekeeper’s accommodation, and to the south is the Catholic primary school of 1969.
Details: Roman Catholic Church, built 1969-71 to designs of Anthony Jaggard of John Stark & Partners, with structural engineers L G Mouchel & Partners. MATERIALS: constructed of handmade brick in an English bond and shuttered concrete, with a mineral render to the main body of the church, exposed brickwork to the various projecting elements, and a blue brick plinth. The shallow-pitched aluminium space-frame roof is clad in lead. There is a square lead-clad lantern with steeply-pitched sides to the roof which externally reflects the position of the altar, and is surmounted by a large metal cross. PLAN: the church is orientated roughly west to east and is formed by a double square Mass hall comprising the nave and sanctuary; with attached lower blocks to the west and east containing a narthex and the sacristy and kitchen respectively. To the north side is the baptistery with the Weld family pew located above this, and to the south is the Blessed Sacrament chapel and a stair tower; all are expressed externally as curving walls.
EXTERIOR: the flat-roofed narthex occupies the full width of the church, and has a screen of alternating pairs of double doors and windows with aluminium frames; the brick side elevations are blind. The side walls of the main body of the church have vertical strips of glazing between pilasters that have chamfered copings. The upper parts of the glazing are contiguous with a band of glazing to the clerestory. To the north elevation, this is interrupted towards the east end by the partly-engaged curving brick wall of the baptistery tower. It has no openings, and set high in the brickwork are two concrete spouts to discharge water from the roof. The rear elevation of the lower sacristy block is built of brick with a glazed clerestory; there is a pair of plain doors to the centre. Beyond, the east end of the church rises above the lower block; its wall is rendered wall and has a clerestory. Along south elevation the Blessed Sacrament chapel and the stair tower are expressed as projecting circular brick towers of brick. There is a concrete spout to the upper part of the chapel wall and a second spout projecting from a pilaster just to the left (west).
INTERIOR: the interior of the narthex is a rectangular room with exposed brick walls and painted matchboard ceiling. The floor has rectangular concrete slabs. The main part of the church is accessed by one of three entrances: timber double doors to the centre and single doors to the aisles. The doors have narrow, vertical-glazed strips and shuttered concrete lintels. To either side of the central doorway are alcoves that are spanned by deep concrete lintels with segmental-arched soffits. That to the north has a fixed shelf, while the other contains a free-standing, T-plan confessional. It is built of brick, with a narrow window of blue-coloured glass breaking up the brickwork. Concrete slabs form the internal elements of the confessional. The main interior walls are painted brick, except for the east end, which has exposed pale stone-coloured brick (pers. comm. Jaggard), laid in a header bond, and the exposed darker brickwork of the towers. The interior is dominated by the exposed aluminium Triodetic space-frame roof which is hand polished and finished with a clear lacquer. Its geometrical form is a two way, spanning, double-layer grid which is flat in the area of the sanctuary and slopes away to each end at an angle of 5°. The plain matchboard roof can be seen through the latticework of the structure. The nave has concrete pews with felt panels to the seat and back supports, and wooden tops. The lighting is provided by four box gantries running the length of the pewed area, and the floor is laid with quarry tiles. To the side walls are small built-in wall sconces of concrete with panels of coloured glass, and the original Stations of the Cross are set in the lintels above the lower windows. The circular and oval forms of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, and the baptistery with the Weld family pew over, are expressed internally and protrude slightly into the nave/sanctuary. Their sides are cut away beneath arched concrete lintels which form part of a concrete band to the upper part; elsewhere the brickwork is exposed. The Blessed Sacrament chapel to the south side of the church is top-lit by a circular lantern. To the right of the chapel, in a recess, is the organ gallery with a small C18 chamber organ in a mahogany case. The baptistery and Weld family pew is treated similarly to the chapel opposite, with a concrete band and lintel. The staircase is of tapering concrete slabs, cantilevered from the wall, and the metal balustrade taken up to form the balustrade to the upper floor which has a wooden handrail. Contemporary pew and belisha-beacon style lighting to the first-floor family pew, which is also top-lit by oval glazing. The sanctuary is defined by a raised square laid with quarry tiles with a border of larger square concrete slabs and a timber and metal balustrade to the sides, beyond which are aisles. The altar – a heavy stone slab supported on a black metal frame – stands centrally on a smaller raised square with floor tiles and a concrete slab border. It is lit from above by the pyramidal lantern. To the east wall are two shallow recesses with projecting concrete shelves holding painted and gilded wood statues of Our Lady and St Joseph; both are Italian. Two pairs of double doors, with the same detailing as those from the narthex, to either side of the statues give access to the two sacristies. PRINCIPAL FITTINGS: in the Blessed Sacrament chapel is a welded steel and glass reinforced polyester resin Tree of Life sculpture with a Dalmatian pelican in its upper branches, by Geoffrey Teychenne; the high circular table, on which the tabernacle stands, is a later introduction. The silver crucifix in the sanctuary is also by Teychenne. It was originally centrally placed, but has been re-located to one side. A circular drum font is situated below the Weld family pew.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the north-east is a detached, two-storey RECTORY of buff-coloured brick with a slate roof and an off-centre ridge stack. The BOUNDARY WALLS to Dorchester Road and in the front of the church are of matching brickwork to the principal building, and have a brick capping and regularly-spaced brick piers. To the rear (east) of the church is the LOURDES GROTTO which was erected in 1991. It built of random rubble stone, incorporating small stones from Lourdes and Medjugorje, and concrete. These structures are all architecturally modest and are excluded from the listing.
Books and journals: Pevsner, N, Newman, J, The Buildings of England: Dorset, (1972), 554; ‘The Architect’ in Wool Church – A Sum of Squares, (November 1971)
Websites: Cathedral Church of SS Peter and Paul, Bristol, accessed from http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1271209
Robert Maguire & Keith Murray Twentieth Century Architects, accessed from http://www.ribabookshops.com/cms/product/preview/c20maguireandmurrayextract.pdf
Other: Architectural History Practice, Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, An Architectural and Historical Review for English Heritage and the Diocese of Plymouth. St Joseph, Wool, 2008; pers. comm. Church of St Joseph, Wool, Dorset. E. Harwood, Senior Investigator, English Heritage
Architect: John Stark & Partners
Original Date: 1971
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II