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St Mungo’s Church (Roman Catholic) including boundary walls and railings and excluding presbytery to the north and hall to the rear (east), 25 Mar Street, Alloa

A Category C Listed Building in Clackmannanshire South, Clackmannanshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.1154 / 56°6'55"N

Longitude: -3.7935 / 3°47'36"W

OS Eastings: 288577

OS Northings: 692854

OS Grid: NS885928

Mapcode National: GBR 1J.LRQM

Mapcode Global: WH5QD.PKR6

Entry Name: St Mungo’s Church (Roman Catholic) including boundary walls and railings and excluding presbytery to the north and hall to the rear (east), 25 Mar Street, Alloa

Listing Date: 9 November 2017

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406934

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52460

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Alloa

County: Clackmannanshire

Town: Alloa

Electoral Ward: Clackmannanshire South

Traditional County: Clackmannanshire

Description

Built in 1959 by the architects William Friskin and William Allan, St Mungo's Church is a rectangular basilican plan brick-built church with concrete dressings, close to the centre of Alloa. It is a stripped modern design inspired by Dutch modernism of the interwar period. It has a contemporary interior in keeping with the pared back geometrical design of the exterior with a number of quality fixtures and fittings, including a timber baldacchino, dalle de verre stained glass windows by Sadie McLellan and sculpture by Scott Sutherland.

The asymmetrical gabled main entrance to the east has five slender windows and low flat roofed sections flanking a two-bay entrance porch. The north side has a square-plan squat tower with vertical strip mullions and louvered openings. At the base are a pair of entrance doors set back in an open porch. The nave and sacristy has tall narrow windows with shaped concrete margins. The lower flat roofed sections on the front elevation and the Lady Chapel have smaller round arched windows. There are decorative panelled and glazed entrance doors.

There are metal framed windows with squared leaded opaque glazing and some opening pivots. The main roof has a shallow pitch behind a brick parapet wall. The smaller pitched roofs to the sacristy and Lady Chapel are slate with shallow angle overhanging eaves. There are cast iron hoppers and downpipes

The church is set back from the street behind contemporary low coped walls with decorative wrought-iron railings and gates.

The interior of the building was seen in 2017. The main space is an open basilican-plan in painted render with an angled ceiling. Eight pairs of octagonal columns create side passage aisles. There is a stepped alter area in the west end lit by five square headed slit windows in each side. A prominent tall timber baldacchino (free-standing canopy) sits over the altar on slender columns and there is a bronze sculpture of the crucifixion on the end wall. There is a matching group of a geometrically styled alter table, pulpit and a font in multi-coloured marble. To the north side is a small Lady Chapel with a vaulted ceiling and a triple arched window with highly coloured dalle de verre (slab glass) style stained glass.

There are contemporary ceramic mosaics in timber panels depicting the Stations of the Cross in the side aisles. The fixed timber pews in the main space have pivoted kneelers and the sacristy at the rear has bespoke timber fitted furniture. The main entrance lobby has exposed brick with paired timber and glazed entrance doors. From the lobby there is a narrow brick lined stairway leading to the balcony over the east end. This is lit by a five-light window and there are pews and a bespoke timber organ with decorative bronze fretwork. There is decorative wrought-iron work to the former baptistery doors, decorative panel and balcony railings. There are timber doors with angled architraves, inbuilt storage heaters on the side walls and travertine detailing to some flooring, skirting and the column bases.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the separate presbytery to the side (north) and the hall to the rear (east) of the church.

Statement of Interest

St Mungo's Church is a notable and largely unaltered example of a traditionally planned church which has thoughtfully incorporated modern European church design, especially of Dutch Art Deco inspiration. It is among a small number of churches in this style in Scotland. The building is notable for its high quality interior decorative scheme in a complementary streamlined style as well as including individual works by renowned contemporary artists.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the separate presbytery to the side (north) and the hall to the rear (east) of the church.

Age and Rarity

The foundation stone for St Mungo's Church was laid on 31 October 1959 by the Rt Rev William Andrew Hart, Bishop of Dunkeld. He consecrated and blessed the new church on 21 September 1961. The church was built on land previously occupied by houses, as shown on the Ordnance Survey National Grid Maps Series Map (surveyed 1951 and published 1952).

Following mass migration and immigration, primarily from the Highlands and Ireland, the growing population of Roman Catholics gradually increased in Scotland's towns and cities from the middle of the 19th century until it peaked in 1970. In the period after the Second World War there was a significant building programme for housing, schools and related places of worship to serve new communities that were established around Scotland's larger urban centres. St Mungo's Church, is the only Roman Catholic in the burgh of Alloa and was built centrally and on a relative large scale to serve the increased number of Roman Catholics who had moved to Alloa in the post-war period. The parish of Alloa forms part of the Diocese of Dunkeld which was established in 1878 and has its diocesan cathedral in Dundee.

Designs for churches in the post-war period ranged from the traditional to modernist and the quality of individual churches was usually led by the available budget, the commissioning diocese and their chosen architect. The subsequent building programme for the various Roman Catholic dioceses across Scotland was prolific and church buildings of this date for this religious denomination are not rare.

Although St Mungo's was built during a period of liturgical reform in the Roman Catholic Church which was codified by the Second Vatican Council from 1960–5, it retains the traditional separation of clergy and congregation. While it is conventional in its layout, St Mungo's is of particular interest for the high quality and completeness of its external composition and treatment and for its high quality contemporary interior decorative scheme which is largely unaltered (see below).

To the north side of the church is a two-storey, five-bay presbytery which was also built in 1959. It also built in brick with stone or concrete margins, has a slate roof and an advanced curved stair tower. The presbytery is plainer than the church and for its building type is not considered to be of special interest in listing. To rear of the church is a single storey, brick hall which is not contemporary with the church and presbytery. The presbytery and hall are excluded from the listing.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

An Art Deco scheme of geometric overlapping planes is consistently applied throughout the interior. The decorative detailing of the fixtures and fittings are of a very high standard, including works by leading artists of the period. The majority of the interior detailing appears to be contemporary with the construction date of the church and is almost complete. There are only minor changes evident in the former baptistry which has been changed to a shop but which retains its iron railings.

The delicately proportioned timber baldacchino sits over the altar on a raised dais on the sanctuary floor. Baldacchinos, normally associated with Roman Catholic or Episcopalian high church worship, are rare in Scotland with only a small number of known examples incorporated in 20th century architecture.

The Lady Chapel at the northeast corner has a three light stained glass window of 'Our Lady' by Sadie McLellan (1914-2007). McLellan was an artist renowned for her use of the dalle de verre technique which is a highly impressionistic style of decorative glazing using concrete and glass. This stained glass method was established in France in the middle of the 20th century by Gabriel Loire (1904–1996) of Chartres and can be found in a select number of churches in Scotland from the 1950s.

The east wall has a timber crucifix with a fine bronze figure of Christ dating to 1961 by the renowned artist and sculptor Scott Sutherland (1910–1984).

Other decorative art works include an expressionistic series of ceramic mosaic panels depicting the Stations of the Cross.

Plan form

Changes to Roman Catholic church plans as set out by the Vatican II reforms led to innovative layouts from the 1960s onward. While St Mungo's rectangular basilican plan form is conventional for a church of this date, the building has incorporated octagonal columns which are carefully placed to give the appearance of passage aisles. The inclusion of a baptistery at the entrance to the church is also typical for traditionally planned church.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The design of St Mungo's Church merges modern continental church design and detailing (in particular Dutch precedents) with traditional conceptions of church planning. The work of H P Berlage in The Hague or Willem Dudok in Hilversum which emphasised geometric massing with exceptional brickwork are particular relevant to Friskin's work. St Mungo's brick entrance tower is reminiscent of a medieval village church however all of its windows and simple flat topped lancets in the side elevations reflect its simple style. Internally the building has a typical basilican passage aisle plan but is expressed in geometrical structural elements which are Art Deco in their styling.

In the interwar and early post-war years architectural commissions by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland favoured Neo-Romanesque and Italianate designs which often used Latin cross or basilican plans. These historicist styles (mostly prevalent in the west of Scotland) which often had hall-like interiors were enhanced by innovative structural elements and contemporary art and design. These church designs combined a general modernity in structure and materials with the traditionalist hierarchy of plan form and decoration (See Watters's St Peter's, Cardross, Birth Death and Renewal).

In stylistic terms, St Mungo's contrasts with the new overtly modern church designs of the mid-1950s onward being produced by the later incarnation of Gillespie Kidd and Coia, and the more historicist designs which continued to be favoured by Thomas Cordiner or Alexander McAnally, who preferred pared back or abstracted Gothic or Romanesque architectural treatments. St Mungo's is among a small number of church designs in Scotland reflecting modern European influences such as Jack Coia's St Laurence in Greenock (1951, LB34184) and Alexander Esmé Gordon's Innerleven East Church, Methil (1939–41, LB52337). As with the former Innerleven East Church, St Mungo's demonstrates a move away from historical-revivalist church architecture of the period and a debt to European precedents.

William Wallace Friskin (1889-1966) attended Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow Technical College before working in Glasgow and London. After war service in 1920 he set up partnership in Dundee with William Allen and the majority of Friskin's work was in Dundee. In the early years of the practice during the 1920s and 30s, they built schools, churches and cinemas, showing a particular flair for decorative brickwork and Art Deco detail. Friskin's St Theresa's, Dundee (LB25322) is a small single aisle church but is distinctive in the architect's use of brick detailing. After the Second World War they almost exclusively designed Roman Catholic churches in Dundee, building six in total from 1950-1967. St Mungo's was one of only two churches of the period to be built outside Dundee and is unique in the architect's ecclesiastical work in the use of the more overtly Dutch Art Deco style, as seen in his earlier school work.

The artist Sadie McLellan (1914-2007), among Scotland's most recognised stained artists of the mid 20th century, is known primarily for her fine work in the dalle de verre technique. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art and in 1951-4 she designed the stained glass windows in the Robin Chapel at the Thistle Foundation (LB48686) and at other churches. Her windows at St Mungo's were a precursor to her larger work of 1964 at Sacred Heart in Kildrum, Cumbernauld by Gillespie Kidd and Coia (LB24091).

Scott Sutherland (1910-1984) is a sculptor who trained at Gray s School of Art in Aberdeen, Edinburgh School of Art and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. His work includes the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge (LB6842) and the Black Watch War Memorial, in Powrie near Dundee (LB19085).

Setting

St Mungo's Church is in the centre of Alloa and in a conservation area. It is set back from Mar Street and is fronted by boundary walls with distinctive iron railings and gates. The building is prominent within the streetscape which is an area of mixed commercial and domestic buildings, many of which are listed buildings, including Alloa Sheriff Court (LB20970). St Mungo's forms part of an urban setting that is characterised by a variety of buildings of different dates and styles.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2017).

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