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Polish Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Cuthbert

A Grade II Listed Building in Castle, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1369 / 52°8'12"N

Longitude: -0.463 / 0°27'46"W

OS Eastings: 505292

OS Northings: 249851

OS Grid: TL052498

Mapcode National: GBR G1Z.XDV

Mapcode Global: VHFQ7.XKM5

Entry Name: Polish Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Cuthbert

Listing Date: 14 May 1971

Last Amended: 28 September 2010

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1129019

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35543

Location: Bedford, MK40

County: Bedford

Electoral Ward/Division: Castle

Built-Up Area: Bedford

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Bedford St Peter de Merton with St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Listing Text


(Formerly listed as:


DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: Rebuilt 1845-7 by James Woodroffe of Bedford. Aisles added 1864-5 by FC Penrose. Cloister porch and N organ chamber 1877 by James Horsford. New S organ chamber and previous one converted into a vestry. N porch 1907 by George Grocock.

MATERIALS: Coursed limestone rubble with freestone dressings. Slate roofs.

PLAN: Nave, chancel, N and S aisles, SE chapel, NE vestry, crossing tower with N and S transepts, N porch, W narthex-porch. The W end of the S aisle has been screened off as a vestry and there is a W organ loft.

EXTERIOR: The church was built in a Romanesque style with the several subsequent additions in the same idiom. The principal elevation is the N front facing the street and which presents the N aisle (unusually terminating at the W end in an semi-circular apse and with bold pilasters), two gabled transepts (the E one with a N porch), and three-sided apsidal vestry. The windows are all round-headed arranged in various single, double and triple arrangements. The W end has a narthex-porch under a lean-to roof and spanning the junction of the nave and S aisle. The nave and S aisle are under separate gables and each has three tall, grouped, equal-height narrow windows. The two-stage crossing tower has a low coped parapet with pairs of round-arched belfry windows with tiled arches set in ashlar panels: Lombardic top frieze. To the chancel there are angle pilaster buttresses and a triple round-headed E window with nook shafts and lights of equal height: there is toothed moulding to the arches. In the gable there is a roundel and one-light round-arched N and S windows. The S transept has a roundel in the gable, a triple round-headed window and semi-circular-headed doorway with two orders of zig-zag moulding and nook shafts. To the S aisle there are single-light round-arched windows to each bay with pilasters between. In the angle between the S aisle and transept is a small round turret with a conical stone top.

INTERIOR: The nave and aisles are divided by triple, round-arched arcades with circular monolithic piers and carved, volute capitals. The arches are unmoulded. In the crossing there are round arches with zig-zag detailing and semi-circular responds with richly carved capitals. The capitals to both nave and crossing are decorated with gilding. There is a consistent design to the nave, chancel and aisle roofs which are all arch-braced with flat boarding above the collars and diagonal boarding between the rafters. In the crossing the roof is plastered and divided into panels by moulded ribs. The E wall of the chancel is decorated with round arches with billet mouldings while the chancel and transept windows have zig-zag mouldings.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: A good and interesting set of neo-Romanesque fittings in keeping with the architecture of the building and obtained from Chicheley Park, Buckinghamshire: altar, communion rail, pulpit and nave benches, all with round-arched decoration. The nave bench ends carry fittings for umbrellas. Three fonts. The earliest originated in the church and was reinstated in 1925. It has a deep bowl and is probably early C14 although some have suggested an earlier date due to the corner shafts with fillets: the base is later. The other fonts are C19: one is very small with an octagonal bowl on an octagonal stem. Post 1970s fittings include a reredos with a statue of Christ within a sunburst, and two confessionals. There is a First World War memorial erected by the parishioners in 1921 with a later plaque commemorating those who fell in the Second world war. Stained glass includes an E window with medallions by Baillie.

HISTORY: The previous church was medieval and was a simple structure consisting of a nave and chancel and a small belfry over the middle of the building. The condition of the church was causing concern in 1838 and it was decided to meet the cost of repairs by a church rate until the parish was ready to rebuild it. This decision was taken in October 1844 and building started the following year. It was consecrated on 8 July 1847. To meet increasing needs in the ensuing years various schemes of expansion were undertaken, as detailed in Dates of Main Phases above.
The style of the church 'neo-Romanesque' enjoyed brief popularity between the late 1830s and mid-1840s and St Cuthbert's is, therefore, a late example of it. After the mid-1840s fashions shifted markedly and very rapidly in the favour of Gothic for church-building under the influence of the Cambridge Camden Society and its followers. The church closed in 1974 and became redundant on 22 October 1975. It was used for a while by a Serbian Orthodox congregation until it was taken over by the Harpur Trust and presented to the Polish Roman Catholic community in July 1979 and the name was changed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Cuthbert.
Francis Cranmer Penrose (1817-1903), who added the aisles in the 1860s, was a London architect. He had been to Bedford School (which might explain his involvement), was pupil of Edward Blore from 1835 to 1839. He went on to a distinguished career, became surveyor to the fabric at St Paul's Cathedral (1852-99), and was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold medal in 1883.

Chris Pickford (ed.), Bedfordshire Churches in the Nineteenth Century: Part 1: Parishes A to G, 1994, pp 81- 6
Antonia Brodie et al., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, vol 1 (London and New York, vol 2, 2001, p 350

The church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Cuthbert is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is a Romanesque revival church of 1845-7 and is of interest for a series of additions in the same style
* It has surviving neo-Romanesque fittings

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 16 August 2017.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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