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Description: Chapel, St Mary's University College
Date Listed: 17 February 2006
Building ID: 1414413
OS Grid Reference: TQ1582172152
OS Grid Coordinates: 515821, 172152
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4365, -0.3351
Chapel, St Mary's University College
College chapel set over small chapel and crypt, originally the library, and with former covered way and steps. First design 1960, built to revised design 1962-3 by Sir Albert Richardson, Houfe and Partners, job architect S P A Holland; Travers Morgan and Partners, structural engineers. Reinforced concrete construction clad in Stamfordshire brown grey brick with stone dressings, windows and copings are in Box and matching reconstructed stone. Stonewold interlocking tile roof on timber and steel trusses, concealed behind parapets.
First-floor chapel reached up external stairs and with projecting ancillary staircase to north. Five-bay nave with two-bay chancel and single-bay entrance containing a pair of staircases leading to a West end balcony and ambulatory. East end sacristy. The ground floor has a small chapel flanked by vestries, with to the west a former library, and a former covered cloister way set behind the external stairs. The new library added to the south in 1996 is not of special interest. It was decided to raise the chapel over a library crypt to give the building prominence within the expanding college, and it gives the building a double focus of learning within the historic campus.
The deep buttresses are within the church, cut by passage aisles, and leaving the outside elevations sheer, simple and very powerful, with only slightly projecting brick piers articulating the composition. West end higher, with tall West window set between angled staircase turrets, over double entrance doors under segmental head and with brick ribs in tympanum over. Trefoil-headed lancet windows of concrete. Blind East end incorporates foundation stone laid in 1962.
Internal finishes include Agba joinery, screens, balustrades and furniture designed by the architects; stairs of reconstituted stone and lino tile floor. The windows, originally with leaded lights, were filled with stained glass by the studios of M. Gabriel Loire, master glazier of Chartres Cathedral to a programme not completed at the time of the Chapel's opening in 1963 but now a complete and impressive abstract ensemble strong in blues and reds with contrasting West window of blue and yellow. Their underlying concept is the mysteries of the Rosary - `excellent', commented The Buildings of England. High painted reredos set behind marble altar and steps that are a post-Vatican II reworking of Richardson's simpler raised forward altar. Lower chapel with nineteenth-century altar imported. Timber ceiling with timber trusses and ashlar sides. Reredos by Peter Gallichen and Albert Rose, teachers at the college, and depicting the commissioning of the project from Richardson in the lower right-hand corner. The linking projecting spiral staircase is glazed with stained glass by Lavers and Westlake, signed and dated 1901, original location unknown.
Projecting steps enforces the overall symmetry of the composition, little compromised by the adjoining library added in 1996. Six buttresses set between them add to the verticality and power of the composition. Four bay cloister with segmental arched openings flank the chapel on the line of its entrance ¿ ie. behind the projecting steps.
The design of the chapel was influenced by the medieval brick cathedral of Albi, a popular model in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for brick churches. This chapel marks the end of a long and distinguished tradition appropriate to High Anglican and Roman Catholic worship, its total cost of £104,000 reflecting its lavish scale and superior finishes. It is rare to find a church of the 1960s so massive and traditional, and which is so distinguished a successor to college chapels of previous centuries.
Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964) was one of the last and most renowned architects to work in a traditional style. He was noted for his love of the late Georgian style (and was outspoken in his detestation of modernism in his later years), but the range of architectural styles in which he worked was far greater than is commonly imagined, as shown here. He combined an architectural practice with a teaching career as Professor of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College, London, from 1919 to 1947, and his pre-1939 was predominantly commercial, although it included two churches, in Luton and Greenford, Ealing, based on timber-framed barn construction and already listed. His post-war work was more wide ranging, including a range of college and public housing commissions as well as offices and public buildings, the most important of which are listed. This, however, is his only complete post-war church, and one of his most significant late works.
The Builder, vol.190, no.6103, 6 May 1960, p.872
The Builder, vol.206, no.6300, 14 February 1964, pp.325-8
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 2 South, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1983, p.549
Simon Houfe, Alan Powers, John Wilton-Ely, Sir Albert Richardson 1880-1964, London, RIBA, 1999.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.