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St Gabriel's Church Including Boundary Walls, Railings and Cross, West Loan, Prestonpans

A Category B Listed Building in Prestonpans, East Lothian

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Latitude: 55.9556 / 55°57'20"N

Longitude: -2.9808 / 2°58'50"W

OS Eastings: 338858

OS Northings: 674049

OS Grid: NT388740

Mapcode National: GBR 2J.XVNR

Mapcode Global: WH7TV.5KVR

Entry Name: St Gabriel's Church Including Boundary Walls, Railings and Cross, West Loan, Prestonpans

Listing Date: 26 March 2014

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 402176

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52187

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Prestonpans

County: East Lothian

Town: Prestonpans

Electoral Ward: Preston, Seton and Gosford

Traditional County: East Lothian

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George Kennedy and Michael Landon of Alison and Hutchison and Partners, 1965. Single-storey, radially planned Catholic church with vertically banded rendered walls in Modernist style rising in height to the east and sited in open ground to the centre of a large square corner site with a tall timber cross marking the entrance of the site. Expanding finned walls forming vertical window details to the east end and framing the altar. There is a large secondary section wrapping around the principal concentric circular plan to the south ending in the large glazed Lady Chapel window facing east. The entrance is to the east side and flanked by double sided glazed baptistry with taller concave curved wall at the end. Shallow concrete ponds (empty 2013) under the decorative windows were designed to reflect sunlight through the stained glass and there is a low base course glazed window wrapping around the main space to light the interior. There is a sloping flat roof with 3 bands of rooflights.

Large cross made from timber I-beam sections set just inside the main entrance gate of low brick walls and gatepiers with concrete capping (replacement railings).

The interior was seen in 2013. The main congregation space has solid curved walls and no windows with the only natural light provided at floor level by a horizontal glazed band at skirting height. The boarded timber ceiling rises in height in 3 stages to the altar where the space is lit by 3 bands of rooflights and vertical side lights created by the external fin sections. There is black terrazzo flooring throughout with raised curved altar plinth in patterned light grey polished marble. There are large Scandinavian style Stations of the Cross built into curvature of wall by artist Fred Carson in brown ceramic with coloured glazed details. There is a 5-bay stained 'dalles de verre style glass window to Lady Chapel depicting the Resurrection which was designed in 1965 by the stained glass artist Crear McCartney. There is a stone altar table with indented cross and sculptural laminated timber tabernacle enclosing metal sphere. Bespoke timber pews and vertical timber boarded doors. Open timber screen doors with paired red ceramic crosses leading to timber lined and glazed former baptistery with central rock plinth on radially carved stone base for former font bowl (now lost, 2013).

Statement of Interest

Place of worship in use as such. St Gabriel s Roman Catholic Church is an important example of Post-war ecclesiastical architecture retaining its original character and form as an unusual modernist concentric circular design which forms a striking contrast to its surroundings in the centre of a residential area. The rendered, angled rising walls are punctuated by vertical glazed strip window sections to form a highly sculptural building which is still in its original plan. The interior of the church has a light and delicate sculptural quality with the interior design cleverly using the expanding concentric circle plan to create windows and rooflights to direct shafts of light on the altar and crucifix throughout the day. The church retains its original form and detailing throughout with only minor alterations to some windows.

The church was built in 1966, the first church in Prestonpans for the parish that had been founded in 1932 to include Prestonpans, Wallyford and Port Seton. At the time when it was built the diocese was forward thinking in commissioning unusual modern designs and modern congregational spaces, a result of the implementation of liturgical reform and the renewed theology of Vatican II from this period.

As Glendinning notes in Rebuilding Scotland (p131) 'the movement to single interior spaces for modern church architecture allowed the architect to focus on and use the finishes of floors, ceilings and walls as important part of the overall design. This ethos is well demonstrated at St Gabriel s with the use of vertical side windows and bands of horizontal rooflights to light the altar and crucifix in different ways through the day. The way the ceiling height rises towards the altar also acts as a focus for the congregation to the heart of the church.There is a brightly coloured contemporary 'dalles de verre style window depicting the resurrection. This style of glass was established in France in the 20th century by Gabriel Loire (1904-1996) of Chartres and became popular in post war churches in Scotland. The window at St Gabriel s was designed by renowned scottish stained glass artist, Crear McCartney (1931-2016) who carried out work to around 100 churches in Scotland. He studed at the Glasgow School of Art from 1950 -1955 under Walter Pritchard. Examples of his work include Pluscarden Abbey, following his graduation in 1955, and St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney in 1987.

Other important examples of a circular planned Post-war churches in Scotland are Brucefield Parish Church, Whitburn 1966 and St Andrew s Roman Catholic Church, Livingston 1969, which is also by the firm Alison and Hutchison and Partners (see separate listings).

Minor changes made to listed building record (non-statutory information) in 2016.

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