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Warwickshire, Coventry, Woodend, Hillmorton Road, St Chad's Church

Church (20th Century)

Site Name Warwickshire, Coventry, Woodend, Hillmorton Road, St Chad's Church

Classification Church (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Bell Green, St Chad's Church

Canmore ID 284700

Site Number SP38SE 1

NGR SP 3650 8238

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/284700

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Not Applicable
  • Parish Not Applicable
  • Former Region Not Applicable
  • Former District Not Applicable
  • Former County Not Applicable

Sir Basil Spence

Building Notes

In 1954 Bishop Gorton commissioned Basil Spence to design three low-cost parish churches to serve new housing areas around Coventry, each seating 250 people. These were St Chad's, Bell Green; St Oswald's, Tile Hill; and St John the Divine at Willenhall. In the interest of economy the churches were all built by George Wimpeys and Company. They were consecrated mid-July 1957 by Gorton's successor, Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley. Spence was already engaged in designing Coventry Cathedral when he received these commissions.

On each site a similar church, bell tower, hall and vicarage are laid out in varying ways. The church walls are made of lightweight, rough textured, 'no fines' concrete, so called because it contained no fine gravel. Concrete frames divide the length of the nave into ten sections. Different patterns of green, blue and red are painted on the ceilings of each church. Basil Spence and Partners also designed most of the original furnishings, including pulpits, altars, fonts, and pews. Decorating the concrete bell towers are sheets of enamelled steel in lattice frames. The vicarages were built in brick between 1961-62.

St Chad's is unique among the three churches in being orientated towards the north and glazed at both ends. There are smaller windows along the upper and lower part of the nave walls. A hanging crucifix was designed by the sculptor Eric Gill and made by boys at Blundell's School, where Gorton had been headmaster. Ralph Beyer, decorator of the nave walls of Coventry Cathedral, carved the foundation stone lettering and font.

Archive Details and Summary

The Sir Basil Spence Archive holds 19 manuscript folders, 198 drawings, and 34 photographs relating to the three Coventry parish churches. The drawings show all stages of design from site plans and first sketches to measured details, many of which were to be applied to all three churches. Photographs document the sites before and after construction.

Correspondence in the Archive shows that Spence was keen to complete the work with a small budget because estimates for the cathedral were under close public scrutiny at the time. Building with 'no fines' concrete was cheap and quick, and the builders were familiar with using it on the local housing. All three churches were built from War Damage Commission funds which would only have paid for one similar sized church in brick. There is little representation of the keen local newspaper coverage of construction, and there are no photographs of the vicarages.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.

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