St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church Leicester
We had a delicious lunch hosted by Elisabeth and David in their lovely new home. Elisabeth’s homemade desserts were wonderful. It turned in to a relaxed social occasion with members, new and old, getting to know one another.
We moved on to St Joseph’s church where we were allowed to roam freely. Members were surprised by a lack of speaker or of information about the building. This was my fault entirely as I thought I had shared a link from Historic England in my promotional literature. To remedy my error I will include here most of the information from their website on St Joseph’s:
“The Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph, Leicester, 1967-8 by Thomas E Wilson is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
1.Architectural interest: its striking architectural form is expressed through a diverse range of materials to provide a building of real quality in its materials, composition and detailing.
2.Interior: it has an interesting plan and its fixtures, fittings and embellishments are of good quality both in terms of their design and materials, with the impressive stained glass windows by Harry Cardross adding to the building’s interest.
3.Degree of survival: the building, including its internal fixtures, fittings and embellishments, has survived virtually intact.
4.Historic interest: it is a good example of a post-war Roman Catholic church where design and plan form express the liturgical developments that took place after the Second Vatican Council held in 1962-5.
Other information which might be of interest:
MATERIALS and PLAN: the body of the church is a circular 'drum', 80ft in diameter, constructed of reinforced concrete, faced with Stamford stone buff brick. A slim 80ft bell tower faced with golden quartzite sits on the Uppingham Road side flanked by the main entrances, which are incorporated into a glazed timber enclosure with swept copper–covered roofs. The floor of the church is Claytile and Granwood paving.
The structural frame and staircases are constructed in reinforced concrete. The balcony is reinforced concrete cantilever main beams with subsidiary steel beams and timber joists. The main columns form a circle of about 68ft in diameter; reinforced concrete columns linked to the main frame are built into the cavity wall, the overall diameter being 80ft. Ancillary accommodation, to the rear, but attached to the main body of the church, is in brickwork with handmade brown-grey facings. The tower is built independently of the main building to avoid any transfer of weight to the main structure.
EXTERIOR: the approach to the church is completely paved providing a large gathering area with tapering, stone-paved approaches leading to each primary entrance. The stone paved areas also guide the individual to the two side entrances. At first floor level of the church a series of slit windows, graduating in length, are positioned on both sides of the circular form. Smaller rectangular windows encircle the ‘drum’ at ground floor level starting either side of the glazed timber enclosure. A clerestory is set back behind a plain parapet beneath a shallow-pitched roof. The bell tower stands central to the sweeping copper-covered roofs beneath which are the timber and glazed entrances. Simple sculptures depicting the disciples adorn vertical timber mullions either side of the bell tower. The tower stands 80ft high, equal to the diameter of the main body of the church.
INTERIOR: the church is entered through the timber and glazed enclosure on either side of the bell tower. Through the main entrance, a curved, glazed screen under a gallery forms a narthex, with seating originally designed for parents with small children. A small square baptistery space, with a simple, circular stone font is positioned on axis with the tower and the high altar. The walls are of bare-faced brick with the concrete frame exposed; an inner ring of concrete columns bush hammered with a finish of local aggregate, supports the roof. The roof itself comprises varnished diagonal pine boarding between laminated beams, the structure provides a concentric, star formation radiating from a central acrylic dome which provides additional light to the centre of the church. The gallery front remains as originally designed with vertical oak slats on a wrought iron frame to enable contouring. On axis with the sanctuary, tower and baptistery and positioned on the gallery is an impressive modern organ with a traditional case built to high specifications and in keeping with the church architecture.
The sanctuary is positioned on the circumference of the building, raised on two polished stone steps. At the rear of the sanctuary is a low stone wall topped by a screen of timber verticals. The wall itself is part of the original design but was reduced in height slightly when the timber screen was added. On the rear wall above the sanctuary the organ pipes flank a crucifix sculpture, the ensemble being highlighted in daylight hours by three vertical light tubes positioned externally between the parapet and the clerestory. Original timber seating radiates from the altar with gallery accommodation above allowing the congregation to be as near to the altar as possible. Beyond the seating the stained glass added in 2002 gives the impression of the sun rising behind the font, radiating across the full width of the stair well, providing dramatic light to the staircases. The sweeping and curved staircases comprise reinforced concrete with simple brass handrails, the whole emphasised by the corresponding, rising and sweeping of the roof line (externally expressed with a copper covering).
A concrete beam in the wall, fixed at balcony level, is recessed to allow stone facing as a string course which continues around the rear sanctuary wall. Seven Stations of the Cross, depicted as copper or brass relief plaques, are positioned on this either side of the nave, illuminated by copper wall lights beneath.”
Infill House, 138A South Knighton Road
We found that we had too much time to look round St Joseph’s. I was considering the possibility of rearranging group times for our next visit when Elisabeth and David very kindly invited us all back to their house for coffee so that we could help again with the cake that was left. The first group were then able to walk to the In-fill house quite easily.
The owners moved in during December 2015 and although there remains some work outstanding it is already a charming, established home. The site is wedge-shaped, the house replacing an earlier garage. Interestingly, the owners convinced their neighbours of the benefits of having the new build attached to their end-of-terrace house, leaving the original owner’s house separated by a narrow passage. This makes good visual sense on the street-scape.
The internal design of the two-bedroom, three storey dwelling ingeniously optimises the efficient use of the available space. On entering, you are greeted by a handsome, well lit and well crafted staircase with a toilet discreetly placed beside. As you move into the main living space the area looks much bigger than could have been expected by looking at the house from outside. Paul Jozsa, the architect, generously gave his time to explain the thinking behind the design. The kitchen sits like an aquamarine jewel beyond. It can be hidden by a clever system of sliding doors. In the living area extensive storage is provided by a simple, unobtrusive wall of cupboards.
Upstairs, clever use of space and windows has produced some bijou office spaces between the front wall and the stairs and two bedrooms over two floors with en-suite bathrooms.
Various items of sustainable technology have been invisibly incorporated, including PV solar panels, an air-source heat pump, a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system, and a recycling system for rainwater.
We all left delighted by what we had seen.