St. Anne's, Wrexham
The church was designed in the late 1950s and built in the early 60s. This was a time of optimism after wartime sacrifice and the long period of post-war reconstruction. Its progressive octagonal plan and light and airy interior expresses the spirit of aggiornamento which heralded the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Following World War II, the Queen’s Park estate on the edge of Wrexham was developed to accommodate an expanding population. Many of the residents were ex-servicemen, others were evacuees from Liverpool who decided to stay on. They included substantial numbers of Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants, and by the early 1950s it was estimated that over 900 Catholics lived on the estate. In 1953 it was formally proposed to build a Catholic church, school, convent and presbytery on the estate and Fr James O’Donoghue was appointed as the first parish priest. He was a former Irish policeman and undertook successful fundraising in Ireland. The architects Patrick and M. White of London WC2 submitted plans in January 1958 for church, convent and presbytery, although the convent was later omitted. The church was designed as an octagon, and one of the early plans in the diocesan archive suggests that it was intended that the altar should be at the centre with the seating placed around it on all sides. The octagonal plan was retained as built, but the sanctuary was actually placed at one of the eight sides with the altar against the wall in a more conventional layout. The contractor was J. W. Bostock of Wrexham, and the church was opened on Low Sunday 1962. The construction of St Anne’s School followed in the early 1970s, as did the parish hall. In 1979 changes were made to the sanctuary by Bowen Dann Davies. These included timber panelling to the wall behind the altar and tabernacle, moving the altar forward, new freestanding altar rails, extending the platform to provide room for an ambo and repositioned font, a new cantilevered credence table and stained glass windows to each side. Further minor reordering was carried out in the late 1990s when additional stained glass was installed and step-free access into the church was introduced. In 2008 it was decided to demolish the parish hall, which had fallen into a poor state of repair, and to adapt the ground floor of the presbytery into a parish centre with meeting rooms, kitchen and other facilities.
Description The church is octagonal in plan, providing an unobstructed view of the altar from any position. It is built of red sand-faced bricks with stone dressings, metal windows containing leaded glazing and it is surmounted by a copper dome supported off the octagonal ring beam that runs around the flat roof over the aisles. Historic photographs show that originally slender circular steel columns supported the ring beam, but the majority of these appear to have been replaced by oddly shaped reinforced concrete piers. The church was built on a land fill site and required pile foundations; therefore ground subsidence might have led to the subsequent structural changes. The sanctuary remains as Bowen Dann Davies reordered it in 1979. This included moving the original green Connemara marble altar, which had been donated by the Irish Garda, forward on the dais. Glass doors with finely engraved emblems of the sacraments in octagonal frames were also introduced leading into the church from the narthex. At the same time the blank arched openings, which had originally been brick were infilled with coloured slate slips in an irregular pattern with mosaic inserts. The wooden benches are original, as is the grey-flecked granolithic paving to the floor and the statues of the sacred Heart, Our Lady and St Anthony.
Our Lady and the Welsh Martyrs, Overton
The church stands in a picturesque location on the edge of Overton village with views over the adjoining fields. It was erected in 1958 with a prefabricated structural frame, clad in brick and timber. It is a modest but attractive building with a light and airy interior. Behind the rustic altar is an interesting triptych of Our Lady Help of Christians flanked by scenes from the life of St Richard Gwyn.Prior to construction of the church at Overton, Mass was said by a travelling priest in the house of a local Catholic. Increasing numbers meant there was insufficient room in the house, and in 1953 a caravan ‘chapel’ which had been used for the diocesan travelling mission was offered to the Catholics of Overton as a semi-permanent chapel, a site for which had been found on Salop Road. Mass attendance by then had reached nearly 100 and Canon (later Mgr) Philip Webb of St Mary’s Wrexham, was put in charge. He led fundraising for a permanent church, which resulted in the current building, designed by A.G. Bullen of Weightman & Bullen. It was opened by Bishop Petit of Menevia on 5 October 1958. The church was built to seat 150 people and the cost was £5,928. It was originally designed to serve as both a place of worship and church hall. This was made possible by sliding curtains that fitted across the sanctuary opening. In the 1980s a separate hall was erected at the rear and the curtains were removed. A presbytery was added sometime after the church was built; it is now leased, and the church is served from St Anne’s, Wrexham.
DescriptionThe main body of the church has a prefabricated structure of laminated timber arched trusses on the ‘Lanner Preform’ system, which spring from the floor level and meet at the roof ridge in the manner of crucks. The walls are clad in pale coloured rustic bricks and the pitched roof is of grey concrete tiles. The sanctuary, sacristy, kitchen and entrance lobby are flat-roofed projections clad in dark stained hardwood. Large timber windows in the west and side walls provide good lighting. The focus is the small sanctuary, dominated by the rustic York stone altar. To each side are coloured limewood statues of Our Lady and St Joseph, carved in Italy, and above the tabernacle is a painted triptych of Our Lady Help of Christians with side panels showing St Richard Gwyn as a schoolteacher teaching in Overton during the penal times and his martyrdom. The triptych is by Robin McGhie (1922-2012) and is one of the best works by this artist, who made designs for furniture and textiles as well as paintings and murals for a number of Catholic churches in the North West of England and Wales. On the front facade of the church is a papal crest by the sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith, in reconstructed stone.