A church and bell tower, designed by Basil Spence and built by Wimpey between 1954 and 1957.
Reason for Listing
The Church of St Chad and the Bell Tower, Hillmorton Road, Wood End, Coventry, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural quality: Basil Spence was one of the foremost architects working in the immediate post-war era. This is one of three church designs, commissioned by Bishop Gorton in which Spence experimented with design ideas which would be used at Coventry Cathedral; * Technical innovation: the building is one of the first to use the 'no-fines' method of concrete construction on a larger scale, which had previously been used by Wimpey for house building; * Intact survival: although the church hall and link building have been altered, the church and bell tower remain in a very largely complete and original state with many internal fittings which were designed by Spence.
In 1954 Bishop Gorton of Coventry, who was a strong supporter of the appointment of Basil Spence as architect for his new cathedral, also commissioned three new churches from the architect for outlying areas of the city. To pay for these Gorton used the money which the diocese had received from the War Damages Commission as compensation for the bombing of one inner-city church. Spence wrote to the bishop offering to provide a ‘simple, direct, topical and traditional solution which should be serviceable to the church yet inexpensive’. £50,000 had to be made to stretch to all three churches, each of which would also have a community hall and a bell tower. The three churches, St Chad, Wood End; St Oswald Tile Hill and St John the Divine, Willenhall, were built in 1954-1957, and in each case a vicarage, designed by Spence, was later added to the grouping. The tight budget called for stringency. Discussions about materials were started at an early stage in the design process with the contractors, Wimpey’s. Although the individual designs differed in their details and the siting of the different elements, all three churches shared a rectangular, basilican plan and the same system of construction. The basic structure was a concrete portal frame, set at intervals of ten feet. Walls were formed from a lightweight concrete called ‘No-fines’ which Wimpey was also using for new housing in the areas surrounding the churches. Shuttering for both the portal frame and walls, was transported between the sites and the pre-cast window frames, which appear at two levels in the side walls, were set into the shuttering before pouring. An external coating of spar dash render was applied to the walls. St Chad's Wood End is believed to be the first of the three churches designed by Spence to have been consecrated.
A church and bell tower, designed by Basil Spence and built by Wimpey between 1954 and 1957. MATERIALS The church has a concrete portal frame with panels of ‘no-fines’ concrete and spar dash render to the exterior with a shallow-pitched, aluminium roof. The bell tower is of re-enforced concrete and cedarwood.
PLAN The building is oriented north-south, with the ritual eastern end at the north. Normal compass directions are used throughout this description. The church has an open, basilican plan and measures 90 x 30 feet. Steps rise to the sanctuary. The church shares a linking lobby building at its south-western corner with the community hall which extends to the south. The bell tower is set to the east of the church. A covered, processional way, which has piloti supporting a concrete roof, leads from the south-eastern door to the base of the tower.
CHURCH EXTERIOR: the northern and southern (ritual east and west) gable end walls are fully glazed, but the original infill of ribbed glass has been replaced by sheets of opaque glass fibre. There are eight bays to the flanks, with two tiers of windows which have clear glazing and are set to the centre of each bay. The division between individual bays is marked by a shallow, canted vertical joint. There is a fascia board, above the eaves, which surrounds the building. The flank windows have projecting, concrete surrounds and are set in the lower wall and at the top, forming a clerestory. These windows were held in place while the 'no-fines' concrete was poured around them. At the south end the lobby adjoins on the west side and there is a double doorway with canopy to the east. Both the north and south ends have a prominent cross of steel beams, superimposed to the centre of the window. INTERIOR: window surrounds to the flanks project, as outside. The ceiling has thin, timber joists laid between the concrete portal frames. Between these are set filler boards of light blue, with occasional, green or bright red panels, making an abstract pattern. Original fixtures designed by the architect include the choir stalls with their ribbed fronts and storage for music and the pulpit and lectern. Both the altar and the altar rails with their attached kneelers have inlayed strips of lighter wood to their uprights. At the east end, a piscina with copper bowl is set in the walling on the east side. Benches to the body of the church were also made to Spence's designs of laminated Makore wood. At the ritual west end a circular font of Hollington stone is placed in front of the centre of the window and has an inscription carved by Ralph Beyer which reads 'RECEIVE YE THE HOLY SPIRIT +'. The inset copper bowl has a wooden cover with a finial representing the Holy Ghost designed in metal by Spence. The foundation stone is set in the flooring at the centre of the nave, and now covered by carpeting. Two consecration stones are also set in the walling; that at the south end is of stone used for the new cathedral, and that in the sanctuary is of stone from the old cathedral. Both have an inscribed pattern of the cross. Heating dials for the thermostats are set into the column uprights of the portal frame and skittle-shaped light fittings are also original. A hanging cross was made to the design of Eric Gill for Bishop Gorton by pupils at Blundell's School, where he had been the headmaster, and he gave it to the parishioners of St Chad's.
BELL TOWER The tower has four stages, of ascending height, with corner posts and lintels of re-enforced concrete. The two upper stages are bare, but the lowest stage forms part of the covered, processional way to the east of the church, and the stage immediately above this has screens to its sides of cedarwood posts which have enamelled metal plates set at angles between these uprights. Platforms at the different levels have holes and iron hoops to allow for ladders and bell ropes. The ceiling of the topmost stage has a cross, made of concrete beams, flanked by bolts to anchor a central bell. Persuant to s1 (5) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the church hall, to the south of the church, and the linking lobby building, connected to the west flank of the church, are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.