Church of St Mary the Virgin
Anglican church. Designed 1937, built without major revision 1952-5; architect H S Goodhart-Rendel. Brick, clad externally in banded red and blue brick with diaper work to chancel. Westmorland slate roofs.
Planned as a series of relatively small spaces that could be spanned economically. Central crossing defined by arches, with broad transepts, nave flanked by aisles; sanctuary flanked by St Joseph's chapel and space for organ, with vestries behind. Link to earlier hall (not included in the listing). Liturgically the plan is reversed, with the altar at the west end. Liturgical points are, however, used in this description.
The exterior is in Goodhart-Rendel's distinctive style, with high gables, brick diapering and round-headed windows. Round arched windows to transepts, nave and West End set between brick piers. Narrower round-headed lancets to chapel; lines of square-headed windows based seventeenth-century style to aisles. Timber double doors, the main door under round arch; smaller door in transept under square stone head. Higher gable with Diocletian windows to chancel, between this roof and that of the chapel a brick bellcote with cross and bell.
Interior. Painted brick interior repeats the arch motif dramatically. Rounded arch to chapel, sanctuary and organ aisle is cut by side walls, incorporating arches to transepts; these terminate in solid buttresses pierced by round-headed arcades to aisles. Exposed painted rafters panelled with `Donnacona' board bwetween the purlins and principal rafters.
Large faience tiled reredos behind the altar, by Goodhart-Rendel's favourite decorator, J Ledger and made by Carter and Co. of Poole (now Poole Pottery), depicting scenes from the lives of Our Lady and of Christ. Original altar, now moved forward, with marquetry panels. Sedilia to side and chunky altar rails with horizontal bead motif in similar timber. Pulpit (with similar sedilia built into side) and reading desk of corresponding design now in aisle. Timber rail with kneelers to front row of chairs. Stone font with timber cover in centre of nave, level with door. In St Joseph's Chapel a stained glass window of St Joseph as a working carpenter with his tools, designed by Thomas Derrick and made by Loundes and Drury; painted crucifix by J Ledger. The bell in the bellcote is that of the ship to which the Rev. F DG Campbell, vicar at the time of the church's building, served when he was awarded the Victoria Cross; it was presented by his father, Vice Admiral Campbell. Light fittings of intersecting vesica-shaped iron bands support naked light builbs, a favourite device of Goodhart-Rendel's derived from J F Bentley.
Like many of Goodhart-Rendel's churches, the plan is much simpler than the sections and elevations devised for the economy of short roof-spans. The main space in front of the altar with its intersecting arches is developed from an idea by Eric Gill at St Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Gorleston. From the back of the church the three spans seem the same, but in fact all are subtly different.
St Mary's is of great interest as transitional between his inter-war churches for the Anglican Church and post-war churches - mainly for the Roman Catholic church. It is also the most interesting of his smaller church works. Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel (1887-1960) was the most exciting designer working in a personal Gothic tradition in the 1950s, and a leading historian of the Gothic Revival. His own work accepted every tenet of the Gothic tradition except the pointed arch, and his work remained loyal to an arts and crafts synthesis he developed in around 1912. A convert to Roman Catholicism in 1936 and imbued with the ideas of St Thomas Aquinas as reinterpreted in Jacques Maritain's Art et Scholastique (first published in English translation in 1923), Goodhart-Rendel's work became increasingly concerned with the craftsmanship of construction. He came to set out every detail of his brick construction on squared paper, proportioned according to some arithmetic system that in his post-war works achieved a grand simplicity. This is his first complete post-war church.
The Builder, vol. 189, 29 July 1955, pp.180-3
Incorporated Church Building Society, Sixty Post-War Churches, 1956, p.32
Alan Powers, H S Goodhart-Rendel 1887-1959, London, Architectural Association, 1987, p.57