Roman Catholic church and associated hall, 1965 to designs by Gerard Goalen.
Reasons for Designation
The Roman Catholic Church of St Gregory the Great and its associated hall, South Ruislip of 1965 by Gerard Goalen, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a simple but highly effective composition which eschews traditional forms, with the focus on basic geometric massing, and demonstrating rational use of reinforced concrete framing;
* Authorship: it exemplifies the work of Gerard Goalen, a noted C20 Roman Catholic architect who was influenced by Continental models and by the Liturgical Movement;
* Planning interest: the first church in the Diocese of Westminster to fully express the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council following its closure in 1965, including a forward sanctuary and close proximity of the congregation, all contained within an elongated oval plan;
* Artistic interest: reflective of a culture of sacred art within the Catholic Church, and Goalen’s interest in the use of contemporary art in combination with architecture, St Gregory’s contains several notable works of art by a number of highly regarded C20 artists, including Patrick Reyntiens, Stephen Sykes, Dom Charles Norris and Willi Soukup:
* Degree of survival: the church is little altered, retaining principal fixtures, fittings and finishes;
* Historical context: the church is representative of a period of massive post-war population shift and immigration.
The parish of St Gregory was formed in response to the rapidly expanding suburban development of the 1950s and 60s, which saw the population of Ruislip rise from 16,000 in 1931 to 68,000 in 1951. Irish immigration peaked in north-west London around the 1950s, contributing to a strong need for a permanent place of worship for Roman Catholics in the area. In 1958 the Rev Philip Dayer was appointed to the new parish in South Ruislip, with the first task being the founding of a primary school. The campaign for a new church began in 1959, with costs to be substantially borne through weekly offering commitments from the parishioners themselves. In 1965 plans for a new church were prepared by Gerard Goalen, whose church of the Good Shepherd in Woodthorpe, Nottinghamshire (Grade II*), had recently been completed. The designs subsequently received approval by the Archdiocese of Westminster and building work began in August that year. The expected cost was £57,500. A model of the scheme was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1965. The oval plan is a variant of the circular plan very much in vogue, as in Francis Pollen’s chapel at Worth Abbey, West Sussex, (foundation stone laid in 1964) and Weightman and Bullen’s church at Leyland in Lancashire, which was opened in 1964. George Mathers’ Church of St Bartholomew, St Albans (1963) was the first church in the Diocese to be built in the round, shortly before the Second Vatican Council reforms. St Gregory the Great also influenced by Goalen’s travels on the Continent in 1958, where he viewed pioneering work by ecclesiastical architects such as Dominikus and Gottfried Böhm, Rudolph Schwarz and others.
Robert Proctor (2014) devotes his introductory chapter almost entirely to the commissioning and design rationale of St Gregory the Great, isolating it as an example of post-war church architecture that demonstrates the results of sweeping liturgical change, combined with the expanding opportunities of modern architectural design as shaped by modern building methods, and the desire of the institutional Catholic Church in Britain to be viewed as relevant, and forward-looking. Paraphrasing Goalen’s talk to parishioners, on the completion of the church, Proctor states: ''He [Goalen] explained that two principles of modern architecture had informed his work: the design of spaces according to function and the ‘honest employment of modern methods of building'' (Proctor, op cit, 6).
The foundation stone was laid on 30 October 1965 and the first Mass was celebrated in December 1966, with temporary flooring and heating. The completed church was opened by Cardinal Heenan on 16 April 1967. Accommodating 320 people, this was the first church in the Diocese of Westminster in which the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council reached their full architectural expression; the forward position of the sanctuary and stone altar enabled the priest to face the people while saying Mass, ensuring high visibility for the congregation. The tabernacle was placed behind within a broad niche in the wall, successfully addressing the problem with regard to positioning of the Tabernacle which was often to accompany Vatican II reorderings. Consecration eventually took place in November 1975. The original furnishings and high quality fittings were by a number of leading artists, including Patrick Reyntiens, who had worked at Coventry Cathedral. In 1987-89 the church was enriched with dalle de verre glass by Dom. Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. This technique dates from the 1930s, translating literally as ‘glass slab’ and involves setting coloured pieces of glass within a matrix of concrete or resin.
A hall adjoins to south, the front elevation reflecting the architectural language of the church and baptistery.
There is a presbytery in a similar style to north, attached to the church via a sacristy. Neither is included in the listing.
The church of St Gregory the Great, a Roman Catholic church built in 1965 to designs by Gerard Goalen and its associated and contemporary hall. There is a presbytery in a similar style to north, attached to the church via a sacristy, and neither is included in the listing.
MATERIALS: the church is of concrete frame construction, faced with brown brick, with a crown of bare cast concrete. The roof is not visible. There are areas of plain glazing, and some high quality stained and dalle de verre glass. The porch is spanned by a sculptural panel in bronze, possibly over a fibreglass base.
PLAN: the plan form is oval, with a projecting narthex porch, and small projecting circular baptistery to south-west. The nave is embraced by an ambulatory and the sanctuary projects into the main body of the church. To the south-west of the baptistery is the church hall.
EXTERIOR: the church is entirely different in character from those erected about 1960, and indeed from Goalen’s T-shaped church at Our Lady of Fatima in Harlow, Essex dispensing with the traditional basilican plan in favour of an oval one with a projecting sanctuary (from which no member of the congregation was more than about twenty five feet away). It is built of dark brown brick, laid in a type of Flemish bond, and has an entrance facing the main road which leads into a narthex (with repository and a children’s room). Over the entrance is a deep relief inscription ‘Come into the temple of God that your lot may be with Christ in life eternal’ (by Stephen Sykes, words from the baptismal rite of the old Mass). Entrance doors are timber with vertical glazed panels, and fixed matching side panels. The upper part of the church comprises a drum-like structure comprising a continuous clerestory surmounted by a rising crown of bare concrete, with a crucifix affixed to centre and punctuated by plainly detailed projections corresponding to the clerestory mullions below. Projecting from the south side of the church is a circular baptistery having nearly full-height glazing between vertical, bare concrete members: it is surmounted by a single bell mounted within a metal tripod topped with a cross finial. To the south-west of the baptistery is the church hall, in complementary style and materials to the church with a strong vertical emphasis to its design.
INTERIOR: the narthex is plainly detailed, with a glazed screen separating a children’s room (formerly a side chapel) to the north. Inside, the western half of the church (ie that opposite the sanctuary) has an ambulatory with polygonal concrete columns, lit from above by a series of small light wells. Walls are generally bare brown brick: the ambulatory and the lower portion of the sanctuary have vermiculated patterning created by projecting bricks with a double-angled ‘hook’ profile (behind these were tucked pieces of foam for acoustic purposes – by the time of writing (2015) these have mostly disintegrated). The upper level of the interior has a clerestory. The western half of this had a series of clear glazed windows but these are now punctuated by a series of dalle de verre panels by Dom Charles Norris, dating from the 1980s. The eastern half of the clerestory is differently treated, with triangular concrete vertical members which diffuse the light from the clear glazing behind. There is an oval glazed Agnus Dei by Patrick Rentiyens over the sanctuary. Over the worship space the roof is carried on deep concrete beams interspersed with pine strips. The floor slopes gently towards the sanctuary, and is tiled.
Fixtures and fittings include glass in the oval windows over the sanctuary and in the baptistery, listing the Seven Sacraments, is original, by Patrick Reyntiens. The original font (still located in the baptistery) is circular, made of travertine with a painted honeycomb brick shaft. Dalle de verre glass by Dom. Charles Norris, added in 1987-89.
The clerestory windows depict St Gregory, the Annunciation, Nativity, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Pentecost, Assumption and the Blessed Sacrament. The strips of windows either side of the entrance depict the Four Evangelists. Fibreglass and bronze statues of St Gregory and the Virgin and Child (near the baptistery) are by Willi Soukup. The original plain travertine altar, in situ. Simple timber benches are supported on bare cast concrete uprights which are fixed to the ground.