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Baptist Church

A Grade II Listed Building in Plymouth, Plymouth

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.3691 / 50°22'8"N

Longitude: -4.1401 / 4°8'24"W

OS Eastings: 247899

OS Northings: 54319

OS Grid: SX478543

Mapcode National: GBR RBP.M9

Mapcode Global: FRA 2862.BWJ

Plus Code: 9C2Q9V95+JX

Entry Name: Baptist Church

Listing Date: 10 December 2008

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393060

English Heritage Legacy ID: 504605

Location: Plymouth, PL1

County: Plymouth

Electoral Ward/Division: St Peter and the Waterfront

Built-Up Area: Plymouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

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Description

PLYMOUTH

740-1/0/10129 CATHERINE STREET
10-DEC-08 Baptist Church

GV II
Catherine Street Baptist Church and Hilliard Hall, with an attached covered walkway arcade and caretaker's flat, all set around a cobbled courtyard. The buildings, which are in a restrained neo-Georgian style, date from 1957-8, with a spire added in 1959. The complex was designed in 1955-7 by Richard Fraser of Louis de Soissons, Peacock, Hodges, Robertson and Fraser; there is a large mural behind the altar by Hans Feibusch dating from 1960. The buildings were constructed by A N Coles Ltd.

MATERIALS: The buildings are constructed from brick with roughcast render, brick facing and local limestone for the plinths; the large windows in the church are constructed from reinforced concrete. The interior of the church has hardwood floors, wide brick faced piers alternating with plastered panels, and the church furnishing is in limed oak. The hall has the same mixture of brick and render, with a terrazzo-floored entrance hall and stair, and hardwood block floor.

PLAN: The church and hall face each other across a cobbled courtyard, with a caretaker's flat closing the courtyard on the east side, and an open arcade of segmental arches carried on slender columns to the west. The church is a single open space orientated north-south, with the altar to the north and a gallery to the south; to the north and east is an annexe of small rooms providing vestries and services for the church, and to the south, facing the courtyard, is a narthex porch running the width of the building. The caretaker's flat is a single depth range of rooms running north-south. The Hilliard Hall is orientated east-west, and is a high single storey with a lower range to the south running parallel to the main hall, housing school rooms, and another range of service rooms to its north. The entrance hall has a meeting room over.

CHURCH:
EXTERIOR: The exterior of the church has a pitched roof with overhanging gabled pediments to north and south carried on decoratively-moulded brackets (inspired by Inigo Jones' St Paul's, Covent Garden of 1631-35), with a timber cupola and copper-clad spire at the south end. The walls are generally rendered above a plinth of coursed limestone rubble. The north wall has a full pediment created by the overhanging roofs, with a recessed, circular panel at its centre. The south, entrance front, which faces into the courtyard, is articulated by a wide central panel clad in two tones of brick set in a subtle diaper pattern between rendered panels, above three sets of glazed doors at the south of the narthex porch; the doors are set under a lean-to tiled porch set on slender columns, leading on to the terrace and yard beyond. The main church has tall rectangular windows of moulded concrete with pointed-arched tops and glazed spandrels forming a high clerestory, each set above smaller, segmental-headed windows at ground floor level set within recessed surrounds. The east side has wide, tripartite windows, and the east single lights, all of the same pattern. All the windows have metal frames. The west side has a gabled, stone rubble entrance porch towards its south end, housing hardwood, part-glazed double doors, set behind a segmental arched opening, which give entrance to the narthex porch; there is a recessed bay towards the north with a wide, five-light window which lights the nave above a projected entrance bay which gives access to the annexe of ancillary rooms to the north. To the east, the body of the church is clasped at its northern end by the eastern arm of the same range.

INTERIOR: The interior of the church consists of nave and slightly narrower chancel, which are continuous. The wall surfaces are articulated by full-height pilasters of warm-toned brick, marking the bay structure. To the east, the space between the pilasters is filled by the five-light upper windows, with smooth plaster panels below; the west wall is similar, with the plaster panels continuing upwards to either side of the single-light windows. The chancel is clad in brick to either side of the mural recess and the east and west returns; the ceiling is cambered and tiled, and the floor is set in oak parquet. There are eighteen rows of pews, set symmetrically to either side of a central walkway, and these, together with the altar, lectern and other fittings are all original; they are of high quality, simply but well-crafted in limed oak, as is the large, circular pulpit, which is set on a moulded concrete substructure with oak-clad, concrete steps. There is a gallery to the south reached by a pair of stairs running parallel to the gallery, clad in panelled limed oak. The north wall houses a very large, full-height mural depicting the Baptism of Christ, by Hans Feibusch, in typical blue, yellow and orange tones. The ceiling of the sanctuary has recessed spotlighting, with the body of the church lit by chandeliers based around globes, designed by the architect. In the chancel, a hinged, glazed panel in the floor gives access to the baptismal tank. To the south, below the gallery, segmental-headed glazed doors give access to the narthex porch, which has segmental arched openings to east and west, and a continuous row of glazed doors to the courtyard. There are stone plaques celebrating the long history of the congregation set into the walls of the porch.

HILLIARD HALL:
EXTERIOR: The Hilliard Hall is a high single storey with lower, flat-roofed ranges set to north and south. The main block has gabled pediments, matching the main church, and a similar brick panel articulating its entrance front; otherwise, the walls are rendered above a coursed limestone rubble plinth. The main hall has regular, segmental headed windows with metal frames set as a clerestory. The lower southern range has segmental-headed doorways with metal-framed double doors which lead onto a raised terrace with decorative railings, and steps to east and west.

INTERIOR: The building has a large entrance hall with a turning terrazzo stair rising to the meeting room above. The main hall has hardwood parquet floor and a raised stage to the east; the room is lit by a clearstory of segmental-headed windows, above double doors opening into classrooms to the south and service rooms to the north, facing the courtyard. The walls have upright timber panelling to dado height, and are further articulated by wide pilasters taking up the spaces between the windows, with a plastered finish providing a subtle contrast with the tiling in the alternate window bays. To the east end, a large internal window gives a view from the first floor meeting room into the hall below; an elegant balconette defines the window in the hall.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the south of the Hilliard Hall is a paved terrace with short flights of steps to east and west. The terrace is bounded by railings fixed on detailed uprights which take a form resembling the letter R. The caretaker's flat is a single-storey, single-depth range of rooms to the west, which links the hall and church and gives access at either end to their ancillary rooms. The windows are segmental headed, to match those in the church and hall. The arcade to the west takes the form of a covered walkway with segmental arched roof sections set on slender circular columns; the arcade is closed to the roadside by late C20 railings. It is reached by a short flight of steps running the length of the arcade, with railings to match those to the south of the Hilliard Hall.

HISTORY: The Baptist congregation in Plymouth has a long history, and was formed from a group which entertained the Pilgrim Fathers before their departure from the city on the Mayflower on 6 May 1620. The early congregation met in the homes of its members, but in 1651, it took over its first house for meetings, and constructed a purpose-built meeting house later in the C17. By 1751, this building was dilapidated and was entirely rebuilt. Expanding numbers lead to a move to a house in Howe Street, which was initially rented and later purchased by the congregation. In 1844, a new site for an enlarged church in George Street was purchased, the new church being opened in the following year. School rooms were added twenty years later, and this church stood until the Second World War blitz on Plymouth, when it was destroyed during the night of 20 March 1941. The congregation had hoped to rebuild their church on the same site, but the city council's plan for the reconstruction of the ruined heart of Plymouth necessitated the compulsory purchase of the area, requiring the congregation to find a new site for their church. The current building was designed by the Louis de Soissons Partnership, an established practice which by this time had an office in Plymouth as well as its headquarters in London and elsewhere in the regions; construction was carried out in 1957-8. The spire, part of the original design, was added in 1959, and a large mural depicting the Baptism of Christ by the émigré artist Hans Feibusch was created in a full-height recess behind the altar in the following year. The church and its attendant hall and ancillary structures have remained almost completely unaltered since completion.

SOURCES: 'Baptist Church, Plymouth', The Builder, Vol. 197 (23 October 1959), 468-470
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Devon (1989) 647
Alan Powers et al: Feibusch Murals: Chichester and Beyond (2005)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
Catherine Street Baptist Church and the Hilliard Hall are designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* The church complex is a high quality, carefully-considered composition by a recognised national firm of architects, the Louis de Soissons Partnership, which responds well to its site and reflects the needs of its post-war congregation
* Its neo-Georgian style, inspired by Inigo Jones' St Paul's, Covent Garden (1631-35), is well handled and unites the various elements of the complex, which comprises the church, church hall, courtyard, arcade and caretaker's flat
* The materials and craftsmanship are of good quality, and are particularly notable in the interior of the church, which is enhanced by the slightly later mural by Hans Feibusch, a nationally significant mural artist of the period
* The church retains all of its high quality, architect-designed fittings, such as the bespoke chandeliers, which demonstrate contemporary design principles
* The Hilliard Hall is a well-crafted design which demonstrates good quality in architectural style and forms an integral part of the complex, complementing the church building
* The buildings are almost completely unaltered since their completion, and the most evident addition, the spire, forms part of the architect's original design
* Catherine Street Baptist Church and the attached Hilliard Hall has group value with the adjacent Notte Street Unitarian Church (designed at the same time by the same architect), the earlier Anglican parish church of St Andrew (C15, Grade I) and the Synagogue (C18 and C19, Grade II*)(qv) which lie immediately to the north; the four buildings represent a microcosm of the range of worship in the post-war city

Reasons for Listing

Catherine Street Baptist Church, the Hilliard Hall and attached structures have been designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* The church complex is a high quality, carefully-considered composition by a recognised national firm of architects, the Louis de Soissons Partnership, which responds well to its site and reflects the needs of its post-war congregation
* Its Neo-Georgian style is inspired by Inigo Jones' St Paul's, Covent Garden (1631-1635), and is well-handled and unites the various elements of the complex, which comprises the church, church hall, courtyard, arcade and caretaker's flat
* The materials and craftsmanship are of good quality, and are particularly notable in the interior of the church, which is enhanced by the addition of a mural by Hans Feibusch, the most celebrated mural artist of the period
* The church retains all of its high quality, architect-designed fittings, such as the bespoke chandeliers, which demonstrate contemporary design principles
* The Hilliard Hall is a well-crafted design which demonstrates good quality in architectural style and forms an integral part of the complex, complementing the church building
* The buildings are almost completely unaltered since their completion, and the most evident addition, the spire, formed part of the architect's original design
* Catherine Street Baptist Church and the attached Hilliard Hall form a coherent group with the adjacent Notte Street Unitarian Church (by the same architect, also recommended for listing in Grade II), the earlier Anglican parish church of St Andrew (C15, Grade I) and the Synagogue (C18 and C19, Grade II*), both listed, which lie immediately to the north; the four buildings represent a microcosm of the range of worship in the post-war city

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