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Roman Catholic Church of Marychurch, Welwyn Hatfield

Description: Roman Catholic Church of Marychurch

Grade: II
Date Listed: 4 April 2013
Building ID: 1410142

OS Grid Reference: TL2331408544
OS Grid Coordinates: 523314, 208544
Latitude/Longitude: 51.7620, -0.2146

Locality: Welwyn Hatfield
Local Authority: Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
County: Hertfordshire
Postcode: AL9 5JE

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Listing Text


Church, 1970, designed by George Mathers; glass by Dom. Charles Norris and Dom. Paulinus Angold; font and welded steel screens and gates by Angela Godfrey.

Reason for Listing

Marychurch, Hatfield, a Roman Catholic church built in 1970 by George Mathers, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: its plan form adopts the formal changes to liturgical practice that followed Varican II, but illustrates a slightly later experiment with seating arrangements within a unified circular space;
* Architectural interest: the exterior uses both traditional and modern materials, referencing the early-C20 church to the north, but making use of contrasting texture and colour to good effect. The exterior encloses and conceals an interior with a sense of space and colour created mainly by the open plan form and the dalle de verre glass panels, which form an integral part of the church's design;
* Artistic interest: the church is embellished by highly accomplished pieces of art work: these include the extensive scheme of dalle de verre glass by Dom. Charles Norris and Dom. Paulinus Angold, as well as the welded steel screen and font by Angela Godfrey.


A Roman Catholic Church was opened here in Hatfield in 1930, immediately to the north of a row of terraces, in an area called Batterdale. This church was able to seat about 120 people, but by the early 1960s a growing congregation needed more space, and plans were drawn up for a new church. The proposal was delayed while plans for Hatfield New Town were developed, but at the end of the 1960s land to the south of the existing church was made available as a result of the re-planning of the Hatfield Old Town: terraces were demolished and the street pattern redrawn to allow for the straightening and widening of the old Great North Road, as a result of which the new circular church was built attached to the south end of the earlier building, replacing terraces and a road. The new church was designed by the architect George Mathers of Ware and built in 1970 by George Davis and Sons, with parish rooms attached to the north-east corner forming the east side of a courtyard garden of which the old church and the presbytery form the other two sides, with the new church to the south.

The church's scheme of coloured glass employs the dalle de verre technique developed in France in the 1920s. Windows are constructed from thick, faceted glass slabs, originally held within a concrete matrix, the thickness of the glass allowing an intense depth of colour. The windows in Marychurch were designed by Dom. Charles Norris (d.2004), a Benedictine monk and artist, trained at the Royal College of Art, who with Dom. Paulinas Angold (d.2010) had been responsible for the creation and construction of the coloured glass at Buckfast Abbey Church (Grade II*), where they developed the technique to create lighter windows using Epoxy Resin and sand instead of concrete.


Church, 1970, designed by George Mathers; glass by Dom. Charles Norris and Dom. Paulinus Angold; font and welded steel screens and gates by Angela Godfrey. The church is built of brown brick with some concrete and stone, a slate roof and aluminium spire.

PLAN: the church is a multi-faceted circle in plan, with a small projection to the west; the baptistery and entrances forming a rectangle with hexagonal forms to either end.

EXTERIOR: the church appears encircled by wide, brown-brick piers on concrete plinths, the upper third of white concrete, incised with evenly spaced vertical lines, rising above the eaves to form a broken parapet, the sloping top surface of which is glazed to allow light into the interior. Recessed between the piers are tall, narrow, coloured-glass windows that rise for the full height of the brickwork, with a pale ochre section between the white concrete caps to the piers. The upper section of the south pier is taller, clad in slate, and contains three narrow rectangular openings. Projecting from the west side is a small chapel with slightly splayed sides and a flat roof, rising to about half the height of the piers, and employing the same materials in the same proportions. The chapel has coloured glass windows to north and south. The church roof is conical, surmounted by an aluminium-frame spire.

Projecting to west and east from either side of the north curve of the church are hexagonal entrance porches. Both are the same height as the chapel, and as with the main body of the church, the top third of the walls are concrete, rising as a broken parapet above flat roofs. Four sides of the hexagon are external walls; the other two are inside the building, and contain double doors opening into the back of the church. Two of the four external sides contain white panels between brick piers, while the other two contain long narrow panels of glazing, one side with double doors, one without. To either side of each entrance are panels of coloured glass.

Attached to the north-east corner above the east entrance is a single-story, flat-roofed wing, containing parish rooms and offices. The same materials and colours are used, with high, narrow windows captured between the white fascia and pale concrete band that forms the top of projecting brick panels, two to either side of a wide entrance.

INTERIOR: the circular body of the church has a two-part domed ceiling: a smaller, conical shape set at the centre of an outer dome and capped by a bullseye window. The acoustic beneath the central cone is vibrant, but the altar is placed to the south on a forward projecting platform raised up by two shallow steps, the floor raking up from the altar to the sides of the church. Around the wall, each external pier is expressed internally as a wood panelled recess. Naturally lit from above, the wide recesses alternate with tall, abstract, intensely coloured glass panels, mainly in shades of green and blue, with some yellow and orange, held between narrow brick piers. Only at the back of the sanctuary, behind the altar, does the recess contain glass to the sides, in yellow, pale blue and grey. The domed ceiling rises from just above the glass panels.

The pattern of alternating recesses and glass panels is broken to the west, where the lower part of the recess opens into the Lady Chapel through wide, plain-glass doors. Coloured glass panels to the north and south of the chapel, in paler colours than those around the main body of the church, represent, respectively, a beam of light and the Tree of Jesse, or a lily. To the north of the church the lower part of the wall is open across an area spanning three recesses and four panels, the glass in the upper part of these containing images of the four evangelists in shades of red to yellow against a blue background. The church is open here to the baptistery and entrance porches, separated only by a welded steel screen, with gates to the centre opening from the church onto the baptistry. Opposite the gates is the font, an angular and irregular abstract structure cast in Creetown granite aggregate and set on a circular stone base, immediately above which is a circular lightwell. Behind the font the whole north wall of the baptistry contains a dramatic abstract scheme of coloured glass representing the Creation and the cosmos, at the centre of which is a cross, the full height of the wall, constructed of small panels each with an identical relief pattern in glass fibre. To east and west of the baptistery, either side of each porch, are coloured glass panels, that to the south of each porch representing, to the east, morning, and to the west, evening. The bottom right hand frame of the latter has been replaced.

To the east of the baptistery is the sacristy, which contains the panel of glass on the north side of the east porch. The sacristy leads into the parish rooms in the north wing. These are plain and functional.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.