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Church of St George with Garden Walls, Steps and Three Concrete Benches, Letchworth Garden City

Description: Church of St George with Garden Walls, Steps and Three Concrete Benches

Grade: II
Date Listed: 23 April 2015
Building ID: 1423037

OS Grid Reference: TL2221533558
OS Grid Coordinates: 522215, 233558
Latitude/Longitude: 51.9870, -0.2216

Locality: Letchworth Garden City
Local Authority: North Hertfordshire
County: Hertfordshire
Postcode: SG6 1BY

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Listing Text


Anglican church, built 1962-3, designed by Peter Bosanquet, with two flights of steps and three benches to south-west corner.

Reason for Listing

The Church of St George, Letchworth Garden City, built 1962-3, designed by Peter Bosanquet, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: for its striking architectural form, expressed through a diverse range of materials to provide an innovative building of real quality both in composition and detailing. Considered to be Peter Bosanquet’s most innovative and successful design;* Historic interest: as an early response to the ideas of the Liturgical Movement, which became a dominant force in post-war church planning from the 1960s onwards;* Interior: for its interesting plan form, simple but innovative fixtures, and fittings, which are of good quality both in terms of their design and materials, including the impressive fibreglass sculpture of Christ by Harry R Phillips;* Intactness: the building is virtually unaltered; the near complete survival of the liturgical furniture, fixtures and fittings, designed by the architect, is particularly interesting.


Letchworth, the first Garden City was founded in 1903, built on the farmland of the constituent villages of Norton, Willian and Letchworth. As the north of the city developed, plans were drawn up for a large Gothic style church and connected hall at the corner of Norton Way North and Common View. Due to the outbreak of the First World War the construction of the church was put on hold and only the hall was built at this time. The hall was opened in 1915, and functioned as a place of worship for five decades. After the Second World War the Grange Estate was developed and a new church was urgently required for the growing population. From 1955 onwards funds were raised by local residents towards the construction of a church, which was completed by J T Openshaw Ltd of Letchworth at a cost of £46,000. The foundation stone of the Church of St George was laid by the Bishop of Bedford in April 1963, and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of St Albans in July 1964. The Church of St George was designed by Peter Bosanquet (1918-2005) of Brett, Boyd and Bosanquet architects, who also designed: the Church of St John the Evangelist in Hatfield, (built 1958-60, listed at Grade II); the Church of St Matthew in Wigmore (built 1965); a parish centre in Newton Farm, Hereford, (built 1966-7); and the Church of Christ the King and associated parish hall in Sonning Common, Reading (built 1966-7). Bosanquet designed much of the interior furniture and fittings of the Church of St George, including the churchwardens’ wands, the candle holders for the main altar, the Paschal candle holder and the hymn board, which were all crafted at nearby Norton School (since closed). The architect also designed the pews, which were crafted from African utile wood, and apparently fashioned from one tree. The fibreglass sculpture of Christ over the altar was designed by Harry R Phillips of Leeds (1911-1976) and was intended to express the drama of the Resurrection and the Ascension. Phillips was a sculptor and teacher, who acted as Senior Assistant (Sculpture), then Head of the School of Sculpture and Pottery at Leeds College of Art. The two-manual pipe organ was designed by Degans and Rippin of Hammersmith. The church roof is supported on a tapered pillar surrounded by a black annular font, beneath which is a Roman tile from the Abbey Church of St Albans, the cathedral church of the diocese in which Norton parish is situated.  In the early C20 two related religious movements had a profound influence on church design across all denominations: Ecumenicism and the Liturgical Movement. The Liturgical Movement had its origins in progressive Catholic theological circles in pre-First World War Northern Europe. A return to Biblical sources and a deepening understanding of the worship of the Early Church promoted a new concept of liturgy, in which laity and clergy joined in active participation, with the Eucharist at the heart of a corporate act of worship. These ideas became widely disseminated in Europe during the inter-war period, and modernist architectural styles and new materials were employed in response to these new theological ideas. Church building in 1930s England generally remained conservative, although a number of architects experimented with a forward altar as a means of bringing the Eucharist closer to the congregation. Following the Second World War, bomb damage and suburban growth generated a great demand for new churches throughout Europe. These new churches experimented with form, employing variations of the Greek cross plan, T-plan, square plan, circular plan and octagonal plan, with circulation space around a centrally-placed altar. The limitations of a circular or octagonal plan led to considerable popularity of fan-shaped seating arrangements, as well as the design of striking hyperbolic paraboloid roofs. The form of the Church of St George embraces the experimenting spirit of the Liturgical Movement in the post-war period. It is unconventional in its form, with an arrow-shaped plan and fan-shaped seating arrangement focusing on a forward altar and communion rail at the north-east end. The channel of light over the altar dramatically illuminates a statue of Christ resurrected and ascending to heaven. The influence of the Liturgical Movement can also be seen in the positioning of the baptismal font and choir behind the congregation in the south-west corner of the church.


Church of England church, steps and benches, built 1962-3, to the designs of Peter Bosanquet.MATERIALS: Red brick walls to exterior laid in stretcher bond, timber-shuttered concrete walls to spire and a plain tiled roof. Breeze block walls to the interior with acoustic tiles and timber panelling to the ceiling. Clear plate-glass windows, a cast-concrete altar and clergy seats occupy the interior, and cast-concrete benches to the exterior. PLAN: Arrow-head plan, incorporating a triangular-plan spire to the north-east corner and a kite-plan roof. The church stands on a sloping corner plot and consists of a lower ground floor to the south-west corner rising to an upper ground floor behind.EXTERIOR: The Church of St George comprises a two-storey building with a triangular-plan concrete spire rising to 40m in height. The kite-plan roof consists of two triangular planes, with the north-west and south-east planes converging at a central ridge which runs on a south-west to north-east axis. The roof has a plain tile covering, with oversailing eaves, and a bronze bell to the soffit of the north-east corner. The exterior walls are constructed of red brick laid in stretcher bond. The south and west elevations have a red brick plinth under vertical metal-framed windows, the windows increasing in height towards the south-west corner elevation. The south-west end of the south and west elevations have full-height vertical windows to the narthex on the lower ground floor, and to the choir on the upper ground floor. The south-west corner elevation has a double-leaf glazed door to the lower ground floor porch, and full-height vertical strip windows to the choir on the upper ground floor. The north elevation has three rectangular stained glass windows, each having a cast-concrete box frame. The windows are positioned either side of a square-headed timber-battened door with a plain glass sidelight, which grants access to the north porch. The north and north-east elevations are separated by a timber-shuttered concrete spire, which rises to 40m in height. The spire is triangular in plan, and is flanked to either side by a rectangular stained glass window. The north-east elevation has six irregularly-placed rectangular stained-glass windows, each set in a concrete box frame, and a square-headed timber-battened door, which grants access to the Lady Chapel.

INTERIOR: The church is entered via the porch and narthex on the lower ground floor level. A flight of steps on each of the south and west walls of the narthex grant access to the nave at upper ground floor level. The open-plan nave is aligned along the diagonal north-east to south-west axis with a stepped chancel to the north-east corner, a choir to the south-west and a porch, toilet, vestry, flower room and office to the north-west. There is a storage room to the north-east corner and a Lady Chapel to the east corner. The nave occupies the open-plan space of the upper ground floor, with a central aisle leading from the choir and baptismal font in the south-west corner to the altar in the north-east corner. The reinforced concrete structure is exposed, supported by a tapered pillar near the south-west corner, around which sits an annular baptismal font. Acoustic tiles line the ceiling over the central nave and altar and rectangular timber panels line the ceiling over the south and west ends of the nave. The walls of the nave are constructed with untreated breeze blocks, and the interior of the spire has shuttered concrete walls. The nave is naturally lit by metal-framed strip windows on the south and west walls, and a triangular channel of natural light illuminates the interior of the spire and altar. Artificial lighting is provided by cylindrical lamps hanging from the ceiling, and C21 LED spot lighting. The pews are arranged in four main sections in the nave, with a central aisle and two side aisles, angled to face the altar in a fan-like arrangement. The fixed pews each comprise a plain metal frame, with a plain utile seat and back board. The chancel comprises a polygonal platform of four steps, constructed with concrete slabs, and the lowest step bears a metal-framed communion rail. The top step has a cast-concrete forward altar, which is T-shaped in elevation. The rear wall of the chancel contains three cast-concrete cantilevered clergy seats, the back supports of which are cast into the wall structure. Over the altar, a metal Latin cross is fitted to the interior of the spire, and bears a life-size fibreglass sculpture of Christ ascending to heaven, designed by Harry R Phillips of Leeds (1911-1976). To the west of the altar is a utile pulpit on a breeze block base. The south-west corner of the nave (over the narthex) is occupied by an elevated choir, which contains a two-manual pipe organ designed by Degans and Rippin of Hammersmith. The organ is flanked on either side by two rows of angled pews with music rests. The choir shares a polygonal platform with the baptismal font, which takes the form of a black concrete annular ring around the tapered pillar. Under the baptismal font is a mosaic base, into which the foundation stone is set. The foundation stone is inscribed: ‘IN THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST / THIS FOUNDATION STONE WAS LAID / BY THE BISHOP OF BEDFORD / 27 APRIL 1963’. The base also contains a Roman tile from St Albans Abbey, the cathedral church of the diocese. In the north-west corner of the nave is a single-storey porch, toilet, vestry, flower room and office, with vertical utile panelling to the nave. The north-east corner of the nave contains a single-storey storage room, also with vertical utile panelling to the nave. The south-east corner is occupied by a Lady Chapel, which has a timber panelled ceiling, breeze block walls, a carpeted floor, stained glass windows, hanging cylindrical lamps, and a cast-concrete altar to the north wall on a paved platform.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES There are three cast-concrete benches positioned to the south, south-west and west of the south porch at the corner of Norton Way North and Common View. A flight of seven steps flank each of the south and west elevations, providing access from the south porch to the car park to the east of the church. The steps are constructed of brick with concrete paving, and a timber handrail to the south and west elevations of the church.

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