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Anglican Church of St Aldate

A Grade II* Listed Building in Gloucester, Gloucestershire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8467 / 51°50'48"N

Longitude: -2.2285 / 2°13'42"W

OS Eastings: 384357

OS Northings: 216479

OS Grid: SO843164

Mapcode National: GBR 1LD.1F2

Mapcode Global: VH94C.BV76

Entry Name: Anglican Church of St Aldate

Listing Date: 9 December 1999

Last Amended: 3 December 2013

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1379929

English Heritage Legacy ID: 479373

Location: Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL4

County: Gloucestershire

District: Gloucester

Electoral Ward/Division: Matson and Robinswood

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Gloucester

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Coney Hill St Oswald

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester

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Summary

An Anglican parish church, designed in 1959-61 by Robert Potter (1909-2010) and Richard Hare (1924-1990), with engineering input from EW Gifford and Partners and the Faculty of Engineering, Southampton University, built 1962-4. The church hall, formerly a temporary timber church, 1928, designed by Harold Stratton Davis; railings around the church hall; and the vicarage, dating from 1929-30, by WH Randoll-Blacking, are all excluded from the designation.

Description

An Anglican parish church, designed in 1959-61 by Robert Potter (1909-2010) and Richard Hare (1924-1990), with engineering input from EW Gifford and Partners and the Faculty of Engineering, Southampton University, built 1962-4. The church hall, formerly a temporary timber church, 1928, designed by Harold Stratton Davis; railings around the church hall; and the vicarage, dating from 1929-30, by WH Randoll-Blacking, are all excluded from the designation.

MATERIALS
Reinforced concrete frame, clad in brick, with large areas of clear glazing and with a timber hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) roof clad in copper. Reinforced concrete spirelet with timber cladding. The interior is rendered, with Iroko hardwood fittings.

PLAN
The fan-shaped plan, determined by the ideas of the Liturgical Movement, bringing celebrant and congregation closer together and with a forward altar, has the sanctuary in the narrow eastern end of the fan, with the congregation in the ‘wings’. The eastern end is clasped by a narrow range of ancillary buildings extending part-way back along the long sides. The western end has a sharply-pointed triangular entrance porch.

EXTERIOR
The main mass of the building, housing the worship space, rises at double height from west to east, and thrusts strongly towards the east as it narrows and rises, terminating in a convex brick curve. The deeply-oversailing roof reaches a sharp point over the east end. The sharply-angled west end entrance is set under the partly-detached spirelet. The roof at this end dips down to ground-floor level; below its deep overhang a strongly-modelled, two-legged flying buttress emerges. There are lower chapels with flat roofs to the sides, and east end vestries, all reinforcing what the architect has described as the building’s thrust, appropriate to its prominent corner site. The elevations are articulated by high-quality brickwork and Iroko timber windows, with strong but delicate mullions. The ground-floor side chapels are largely glazed, with narrow panes between timber mullions, giving a strong vertical emphasis. Large-paned timber windows almost entirely fill the elevations at clerestorey level.

INTERIOR
The interior space is lofty, with the main worship space open to the hypar roof, which rises towards the liturgical east end. The floor of the nave is laid in parquet, with terrazzo for the sanctuary. The sanctuary has lectern and pulpit, on opposite sides of a simple forward altar set on a single, widely-curving step with a communion rail. The concave rear wall of the sanctuary has a painted inscription: GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON THAT EVERYONE WHO HAS FAITH MAY NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. The west end has a substantial choir gallery, reached by a central, open timber stair. Beneath the stair is the font. The gallery front is inscribed: GO TO EVERY PART OF THE WORLD AND PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THE WHOLE CREATION. Above this, a simple metal balustrade carries a continuous, angled timber music stand. The ceiling is clad in narrow boards of Iroko hardwood, which is also used for the frames of the large windows which form almost the entire north and south elevations at clerestorey level, and for the sanctuary fittings, together with the clergy seating, which has been reconfigured using the original materials. Glazed screens have been inserted to north and south of the sanctuary. The Lady Chapel has hardwood fittings.

PRINCIPAL FITTINGS
The sanctuary fittings, contemporary with the building of the church, form a suite, and are executed in Iroko hardwood to match the timber used in the roof and windows. The PULPIT and LECTERN are simple in form but strongly modelled, and have vertical hardwood cladding, which matches that of the CHOIR STALLS, which echo their design. The FONT is the C18 font from the town-centre St Aldate, retooled by Robert Potter to create a simple limestone cylinder, and set on a slightly narrower, cylindrical stone base. It has a polygonal cover of Iroko hardwood.


History

The previous church of St Aldate was a late-Saxon foundation in the city centre which was demolished in 1653 and rebuilt in the C18. In 1927 it was declared redundant, and profits from its sale were used to found a new parish serving the council estate being built around the Finlay Road on Gloucester's outskirts. A temporary timber church was erected in 1928, to a design by Harold Stratton Davis, a Gloucester architect. The timber church was extended in the 1950s, adding new rooms to the southern end and creating a new entrance from Reservoir Road, replacing the earlier porch to the south elevation shown on the 1938 Ordnance Survey map. Later still a lean-to extension clasping the southern end of the building was added to three sides of the end bay, and a ramp was created to the west side to allow access for people with mobility problems.

The vicarage or rectory was constructed to the south-western end of the plot in 1929-30, in a neo-Georgian style, to designs by WH Randoll Blacking. It was surrounded by a large garden which was divided from the church by iron railings.

It was only in 1958 that it was resolved to build a permanent church, following a bequest, and Robert Potter was approached on the advice of the Diocesan Board of Finance. The earliest plans, still held in the church, show a much more regular, geometrical design, with a larger east end, but as the concept of a hypar roof of hyperbolic paraboloid form was evolved with the engineer E W H Gifford, so the building took on its current form. Hypars, which used a thin shell of timber or concrete held in tension, was a briefly fashionable idiom around 1961 but was rarely used for churches despite the precedent of Peter and Alison Smithson’s much-published competition entry for Coventry Cathedral a decade earlier. The Faculty of Engineering at Southampton University produced a detailed model of St Aldate's, which was exhibited by the Central Council for the Care of Churches at its 1963 exhibition of new architecture, held in London. The church was consecrated by the Bishop of Gloucester on 13 June 1964. The timber church was retained for use as a hall after the completion of the new church.

St Aldate has been little altered since its completion. Glazed screens were added to either side of the sanctuary to divide the Lady Chapel to the south and the former Jubilee Room and coffee bar to the north, from the body of the church. The former Jubilee Room is now (2013) in use as offices, and the former vestry and choir vestry have been subdivided to create small rooms. The clergy seating has been reconfigured using the original materials. The parish of St Aldate ceased to exist in June 2012, and the church has since become a chapel of ease from Coney Hill parish.

Reasons for Listing

The Anglican Church of St Aldate, designed 1959-61 by Potter and Hare, is listed at Grade II*, for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the church is probably the best example of the work of Potter and Hare, whose churches in the period are both innovative and attractive; the remarkable, thrusting hypar roof is the most dramatic feature of the design, creating an unbroken, soaring internal space;
* Historic interest: this is among the very earliest examples of the Anglican church responding to the mature Liturgical movement – the earliest in the UK is in Scotland, dating from 1959, the date that the designs for St Aldate were begun;
* Planning: the rare fan-shaped auditorium, which brings the altar forward into the body of the church and makes no distinction between nave and sanctuary, clearly reflects and embodies these contemporary changes;
* Interior: the Iroko hardwood fixtures and fittings, which are of quality in design and execution, lend warmth and harmony to the interior;
* Intactness: the building is very little altered other than the sensitively-introduced glazed screens between the body of the church and the Lady Chapel and office to either side of the auditorium.

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