© Mr Walter Chinn
CHURCH OF OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS, EAST MEADWAY (south east side)
BIRMINGHAM, BIRMINGHAM, WEST MIDLANDS
Mr Walter Chinn
26 September 2006
18 February 1999
Date of last amendment:
18 February 1999
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SP 18 NE BIRMINGHAM EAST MEADWAY
(south east side), Tile Cross
9/10194 Church of Our Lady Help
Roman Catholic Church. 1966-7 by Richard Gilbert Scott of Giles Scott, Son and Partner. Reinforced concrete &ame infilled with Flemish bond brickwork; copper-coated felt roof covering. 'T'-shaped plan with octagonal baptistry and Lady Chapel in the angles; central entrance porch and vestries to rear. Exterior has low brick walls and exposed concrete beams, oversailed by jagged-edge porch and dominated by soaring, ribbed roof Bell-topped roofs to baptistry and Lady Chapel. Coloured glass in narrow bands and in angles of church, baptistry and Lady Chapel. The external sign, 'Church of Our Lady Help of Christians' is shown on Scott's original plans. Timber double doors, their planking set at complementary angles. Interior dated 1966 on foundation stone. Forward altar in the crossing under the open roof, whose ribs dominate the high space. The angled frame adds to the soaring quality, with carefully exposed aggregate in panels. The areas between the three main curtains of roofing, and clerestory glazing filled with panels of coloured glass by John Chrestien, a friend of Scott's who had studied in Paris and lived in India; his glass also fills the baptistry and Lady Chapel, and much of it is symbolic of the Christian victory over the Mohammedan Turks at the Battle of Lepanton in 1571 in whose memory Pope Pius V established the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians. Bench seating and frontals. Marble sanctuary and altar, with timber altar rails, and with marble steps to reading desk and reserved sacrament, behind which is a crucifix (there are further crosses in the stained glass panels to either side). In baptistry is a marble font placed ~ the centre of the octagon, with decorative floor surround; the Lady Chapel has marble altar of similar design to the main altar, marble surround, and marble reredos with image of Our Lady. Gilded mullion screen divides the chapel from the body of the church. Richard Gilbert Scott joined his father in partnership in 1953. This was his second church, and the first he built entirely to his own designs and to a central plan; he inherited the commission from his uncle, the church architect Adrian Gilbert Scott, who died in 1962. Our Lady Help of Christians demonstrates many of the ideas enshrined in 'De Sacra Liturgical of1963 and the Roman Catholics pronouncements on forward altars and centralised planning made in September 1964, but it is no mere auditorium for worship; every element is carefully conceived, demonstrating an integration of architecture, engineering and stained glass art. Mr Scott says his aim was to imbue the church with the sense of 'Gothic' found in his father's works, but using a modern idiom. The three-sided plan was rapidly found to be more practical than the early circular plans adopted, for example, at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and at St Mary, Leyland, Preston, designed in 1960 and 1959 respectively. Our Lady Help of Christians is novel in combining a more rational, 'T'- shaped plan in a small church with a considerable sense of bravura and celebration. Sources: Original plans held at the RIBA Drawings Collection Information from the architect.