Anglican church, 1967-1968, to the designs of Kenneth Nealon Tanner and Partners, with interior fittings by Frank Roper. The adjoining church hall is excluded from the listing.
Reasons for Designation
The Church of St Peter is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* including a large collection of polystyrene-cast aluminium fixtures and fittings by Frank Roper, which exhibit great artistic merit and inventiveness, and showcase the fabrication technique that he pioneered;
* for the collection of etched glass by Roper, an excellent representation of his distinctive artistic individuality and sensitivity, and the stained-glass stations of the cross made in collaboration with Nora Roper;
* the building is an architecturally accomplished design, thoughtful in its scale, massing and planning, using a simple palette of materials;
* for its striking interiors, particularly the hexagonal nave, dramatically lit with full-height strip windows, exposed concrete ceiling structure, and containing a collection of good-quality furniture.
* containing the most extensive and varied collection of works by Frank Roper in England, including large-scale etched glazing and cast aluminium architectural features and fixtures.
The Church of St Peter dates from 1967-1968 and was built to serve the expanding population of Chippenham. Designed by Kenneth Nealon of architects Kenneth Nealon, Tanner and Partners, and constructed by Dudley Coles Long. The church has with an extensive collection of glass and interior fittings by Frank and Nora Roper.
The cost of the church was £70,000, which was met from the Bishop’s appeal for new Churches and War Damage claims for bombed churches, while the interior scheme was paid for by the proceeds of a local bequest. The foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Bristol on 27 June, 1967, and the Bishop of Malmesbury consecrated the site on 7 December 1968. The building was extended in the mid-1990s.
The nave takes a hexagonal plan form, and it was originally intended that worship would be 'in the round,' to put the Eucharist spiritually and physically at the heart of worship. This approach is said to have been vetoed by the first incumbent who insisted on the placement of the altar to the west. The bell, cast in 1866, was given by All Saints Church in Clifton, Bristol. The roof was originally clad in copper, and had a fibreglass spire; these were replaced by a steel spire and a tiled roof in 1992. The pews and choir stalls have been removed. A church hall has been built adjoining the service range; the architect’s plans show that this was always the intention, along with the provision of a school on the east.
The architects, Kenneth Nealon, Tanner and Partners of Bristol, designed several churches in the region, including the Roman Catholic churches of Christ the King, Knowle West, Bristol, and the Grade II-listed Church of St Bernadette, Bristol, which also features a sculpture by Frank Roper. The partnership also designed schools and housing schemes in Bristol and the West Country.
The church features an extensive scheme of fixtures and fittings by Frank Roper (1914-2000). Roper was born in Haworth, Yorkshire, and attended the Keighley School of Art where he met his future wife and collaborator, Nora Ellison. Together they went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London where Roper was a student of Henry Moore. In 1947, after appointments to art colleges in Lincoln and Sheffield, he became vice-principal at Cardiff Art School, retiring in 1973 to be “free to play my own games”. He developed a new process for aluminium casting using a lost-polystyrene technique. The lightness and strength of the metal enabled large-scale, complex and delicate constructions, while its comparatively low price meant sculpture was more affordable. His work was noticed by the architect George Pace and Roper became, like Jacob Epstein and John Piper, one of the artists helping him to adorn Llandaff Cathedral after its wartime destruction. Other important church commissions included the lettered panel for the tomb of Bede in Durham Cathedral, the Lady Chapel Screen in St David’s Cathedral, the Crucifixion at Peterborough Cathedral and figures at Wells cathedral. His scheme at St Peter’s, made in collaboration with his wife, is understood to be the most comprehensive collection of his work, featuring large-scale etched glass windows, stained glass, sculpture, light fittings and screens, along with other minor fittings. This ‘artistic unity’ is noted in the Buildings of England (2021).
Anglican church, 1967-1968, to the designs of Kenneth Nealon Tanner and Partners, with interior fittings by Frank Roper.
MATERIALS: buff brick elevations with concrete dressings. The roof of the nave is tiled, and has a steel spire.
PLAN: the building stands set back from the junction of Lords Mead and Frogmore. The nave, at the south-west of the building complex, is hexagonal, and is entered from the narthex on the east. Projecting north-east from the nave is a cranked range containing the Lady Chapel, vestries, and other service and meeting rooms, accessed from a perimeter corridor. The church hall, adjoin the north of the cranked range, is excluded from the listing.
EXTERIOR: a single-storey building, with a double-height hexagonal nave, stepping down to the Lady Chapel, and again to the ancillary range. These distinct elements are unified by the consistent application of a concrete plinth and eaves band, with sections of brickwork between full-height window openings. Windows, usually, take the form of narrow vertical lights separated by projecting concrete fins. The south elevation of the nave is occupied by the St Peter window, which consists of 11 full-height vertical lights. The west elevation – the location of the altar within – is blind, and is flanked by narrow windows on the margins of elevations to either side. Clerestory windows light the nave above the narthex and Lady Chapel. The roof is a shallow pyramid, topped by a steel spire.
The narthex adjoins the nave on the east. It is rectangular on plan and is entered on the east via a pair of timber double doors with glazed panels. A corresponding entrance on the south has been infilled with glazing. Doorways are flanked by full-height vertical glazing.
The Lady Chapel adjoins the nave on the north-east. It is rectangular on plan, with a glazed north-west elevation with five vertical lights.
The south-facing elevations of the cranked range are largely glazed, with an alternating pattern of wide, full-height three-light windows with horizontal glazing bars, separated by narrow full-height openings, all with projecting fins. There are sections of brickwork at the angles, and to the meeting room at the east. The north elevations replicate the glazing pattern, though have and larger sections of brickwork.
INTERIOR: internal surfaces are simply finished, and are enriched by an extensive collection of fixtures, fittings and artworks. Fitted furniture, doors and other joinery is in American ash, and repeats the fin detailing and verticality of the external window frames. There is a collection of etched glass by Frank Roper, along with stained glass made in collaboration with his wife, Nora. There are various polystyrene-cast aluminium features, including sculpture, screens, light fittings, and door furniture.
Internal elevations of the narthex are largely glazed, with narrow full-height openings and exposed concrete mullions. Flooring is reconstituted stone tiles, and it has a tiled ceiling. There are fitted units on either side of the door, and a cast aluminium ceiling light fitting.
The hexagonal nave is a double-height space; the south-east, east and north-east walls each have eleven narrow, vertical full-height openings in concrete frames. The south-east openings contain the window of St Peter; etched and lens glass depict tall images of Peter as fisherman, disciple and apostle, along with smaller images and text related to his experiences. The openings on the eastern wall also contain etched glazing, with a double doorway to the narthex, and a clerestory above. The north-east has a cast-aluminium screen, containing a fish motif, the Paschal Lamb and dove, with a clerestory above. The altar, to the west, stands on a two-stepped dais, and has an altar table of polished reconstituted stone; above is Roper’s Crucifixion in cast aluminium with blue enamelling. Nave furniture includes a pulpit on either side of the altar, radiator covers, dado panelling, and an organ case, with the pipework above. The floor is parquet block, laid mainly in a stack bond with the aisle picked out in a perpendicular bond, and with marginal detailing. The pyramidal roof of the nave is supported on deep concrete radial rafters from the wall plate (a tension ring beam) to an apex ring (in compression); there is an intermediate ring beam, and braces to the wall plate. There are strip timber and aluminium panels between concrete framework, laid concentrically from the apex. Six angular aluminium light fittings are suspended from the roof.
The Lady Chapel has a dais with simple altar rail, and reconstituted stone mensa. Its backdrop is a five-light etched glass window of Mary presenting the Son of God to the sons of men. There is a piscina, again in reconstituted stone, and a clerestory window on the rear wall.
The cranked range has a corridor running along the south; it is fully glazed and contains the Stations of the Cross, by Nora Roper. Flooring is parquet block and the ceiling is tiled. Rooms within this range are plainly detailed.
Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the church hall adjoining the building to the north is not of special architectural or historic interest and is excluded from the listing.