Prince Charles Road, Wrexham, LL13 8TH
The church was designed in the late 1950s and built in the early 60s. This was a time of optimism after wartime sacrifice and the long period of post-war reconstruction. Its progressive octagonal plan and light and airy interior expresses the spirit of aggiornamento which heralded the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
Following World War II, the Queen’s Park estate on the edge of Wrexham was developed to accommodate an expanding population. Many of the residents were ex-servicemen, others were evacuees from Liverpool who decided to stay on. They included substantial numbers of Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants, and by the early 1950s it was estimated that over 900 Catholics lived on the estate. In 1953 it was formally proposed to build a Catholic church, school, convent and presbytery on the estate and Fr James O’Donoghue was appointed as the first parish priest. He was a former Irish policeman and undertook successful fundraising in Ireland.
The architects Patrick and M. White of London WC2 submitted plans in January 1958 for church, convent and presbytery, although the convent was later omitted. The church was designed as an octagon, and one of the early plans in the diocesan archive suggests that it was intended that the altar should be at the centre with the seating placed around it on all sides. The octagonal plan was retained as built, but the sanctuary was actually placed at one of the eight sides with the altar against the wall in a more conventional layout. The contractor was J. W. Bostock of Wrexham, and the church was opened on Low Sunday 1962. The construction of St Anne’s School followed in the early 1970s, as did the parish hall.
In 1979 changes were made to the sanctuary by Bowen Dann Davies. These included timber panelling to the wall behind the altar and tabernacle, moving the altar forward, new freestanding altar rails, extending the platform to provide room for an ambo and repositioned font, a new cantilevered credence table and stained glass windows to each side. Further minor reordering was carried out in the late 1990s when additional stained glass was installed and step-free access into the church was introduced. In 2008 it was decided to demolish the parish hall, which had fallen into a poor state of repair, and to adapt the ground floor of the presbytery into a parish centre with meeting rooms, kitchen and other facilities.
The church is octagonal in plan, providing an unobstructed view of the altar from any position. It is built of red sand-faced bricks with stone dressings, metal windows containing leaded glazing and it is surmounted by a copper dome supported off the octagonal ring beam that runs around the flat roof over the aisles. Historic photographs show that originally slender circular steel columns supported the ring beam, but the majority of these appear to have been replaced by oddly shaped reinforced concrete piers. The church was built on a land fill site and required pile foundations; therefore ground subsidence might have led to the subsequent structural changes.
The sanctuary remains as Bowen Dann Davies reordered it in 1979. This included moving the original green Connemara marble altar, which had been donated by the Irish Garda, forward on the dais. Glass doors with finely engraved emblems of the sacraments in octagonal frames were also introduced leading into the church from the narthex. At the same time the blank arched openings, which had originally been brick were infilled with coloured slate slips in an irregular pattern with mosaic inserts. The wooden benches are original, as is the grey-flecked granolithic paving to the floor and the statues of the sacred Heart, Our Lady and St Anthony.
Architect: Patrick and M. White
Original Date: 1962
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed