The Contract for the new Church was signed on May 18th. 1928, the work was to begin on June 4th, and be completed by October 4th, 1929-16 months.
Messrs. J. Longley and Co. took possession of the site on June 4th and began cutting down trees and shrubs, and transferring the temporary church 60ft. back into the Presbytery garden. Whilst this was being done, Mass on Sundays (June 10th and 17th) and on Corpus Christi, was celebrated in the Vaughan Hall, and on weekdays in the Convent chapel. The iron church was ready for use again on Saturday 23rd.
The foundations of the new Church were completed by August 4th, and the building was roof high by Christmas. The Tower was started in February and finished in July, and the whole contract was completed by the stipulated date – October 4th, 1929.
During the whole 14 months the weather was providentially dry, and only for 4 days did the weather prevent any work. Apart from this, the work continued uninterrupted throughout. Even during the four weeks of the severe frost in February, the carpenters were able to continue their work on the roof, thus Providence again has helped us.
The building, externally, is of Bath stone in random coursed work, with roofs covered with Cornish green and brown slates. In architectural style it is of English fifteenth century, usually termed “Perpendicular”. The plans consist
of a nave and two aisles, chancel or sanctuary, Lady Chapel, Baptistry, side porch, and low western tower in which is the main entrance. There are also Priests, servers working and upper sacristies. The organ chamber was placed above the approach to the Sacristy on the left side of the sanctuary.
The total length, internally, is 97ft. 6in., and the width 42ft., whilst the height from the floor to the internal panelled ceiling is 31ft. The tower, to the top of the battlements is 50ft. high, and is surmounted by a copper covered spire, with the Cross Keys and a Weathercock (St. Peter’s emblems).
The roofs have caved and panelled ceilings with moulded ribs and cornices, all in wrought unvarnished pitch pine. The aisles are divided from the nave by stone arcades, and the windows are filled with “Cathedral” glass, except that over the High Altar, those in the Baptistry and Lady Chapel and two in each aisle which have painted glass.
The church accommodates about 300 people. The benches were given in thanksgiving to Our Lady of Lourdes for favours received by Austin Sidney and May Beech 1957.
The master carpenter, Ceorge W. Payne, took very great trouble with all the intricate structure of the roof and panelled ceilings. He was assisted by P. W. Kirby and others. The majority of the bricks were laid by Charles Hearl, while A. R. Patten carried, from beginning to end, tens of thousands of bricks, up ladders, in the hod.
- 120 tons of “Blue Circle” Cement.
- 260 tons of gravel.
- 280 tons of Sand.
- 29,000 Bricks.
- 6,400 cubic feet of Stone.
- 30 tons of 5late.
- 6 tons of Lead.
- 1,900 cubic feet of Pitch Pine.
- 1,800 feet cube of Fir (yellow deal and Columbian pine).
- 18,000 pitch pine Wood Blocks in floor.
- 1.5 miles of Electric Light Cable.
The foundations are 5ft. 9in. deep, resting on 18in, of concrete, 4ft. wide under the walls and 9ft. under the tower walls. Special supporting walls and reinforced concrete foundations are under the High Altar and Reredos, which weigh 17 tons.
THE INTERNAL FITTINGS
SANCTUARY – The High Altar, designed in keeping with the style of the Church, is executed in Seaton stone; the Mensa and surrounds to the
Gradine and Super-Altar being in black marble. The Altar frontal comprises richly carved traceries panels: the centre one depicting the Agnus Dei: the others bearing shields with monograms; whilst above, the Super-Altar has, also in traceried panels, the emblems of the Passion. The Reredos immediately behind the Altar, covers the entire east wall of the Sanctuary below the window: the centre portion forms the throne for the Tabernacle with richly carved canopy over, which is approached from behind the Altar by a short flight of stairs, and on either side are six statues of Saints under canopies, the whole being surmounted by a battlemented and enriched cornice. The statues, from left to right, are of St. Lucy, St. Owen, St. Leonard, St. Helena, St. Bernard and St. Agnes.
The screen dividing the Lady Chapel from the Sanctuary is executed in English oak and is of similar character to work in many of the old Churches in the Eastern countries.
THE LADY CHAPEL – The Lady Altar, with Reredos, is executed in Seaton stone with black marble Mensa and surrounds, similar to the High Altar. The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, under a richly carved canopy, forms the central portion of the Reredos, flanked on either side by statues of St. Anne and St. Joachim under similar canopies, crowned by an ornately carved cornice.
The Communion Rail, in wrought iron heavily gilded, is formed in three divisions with monograms and emblems of Our Lady. The floor of this Chapel is laid in marble.
THE AMBO – The ambo is in Seaton stone on a semi-octagonal base, and has been re-sited from one of the piers of the Church to its present situation in the sanctuary: the four traceried panels depict the emblems of the four Evangelists in high relief.
THE FONT – The Font is also in Seaton stone, and is octagonal in shape, the bowl being supported by Angels with traceried panels, the centre one being filled by the Baptism of Our Lord. The font has been re-sited from within the Baptistry to the entrance to the nave.
THE PASCAL CANDLE HOLDER – Given by Mrs Allan Roy (nee Peggy Nicoll (Easter 1946) in thanksgiving for the preservation and safe return of her husband from the 1939-45 War.
THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
OVER THE HIGH ALTAR – Five lights. The centre light shows Christ the King enthroned, with Our Lady and St. Joseph on either side. The left light represents St. James, and on the right is St. Catherine. It was given by Ir4r. James Roberts Briggs in memory of his parents and his wife’s parents. R.I.P.
IN THE LADY CHAPEL – Two lights. Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Wilfred. The whole Chapel was erected by Mrs. Stowell in memory of her husband, 2nd Lt. Wilfred Stowell, 2nd Leinster Regt., who was killed in action on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, March 22nd, I918. R.I.P.
THE REPOSITORY – Two lights. Our Lord being baptised by St. John, and an angel holding His robe. Erected in memory of Mrs. Emily Upperton who left Canon Longstaff a legacy of £2,102 in 1928, all of which was spent on the original Baptistry and the fabric of the Church.
THE CHOIR LOFT – Two lights presented in memory of James Robarts Briggs and Ellen Marie Briggs in 1948.
FORMER ORGAN GALLERY – Two lights under the Gallery were given in 1936 by Mr A. H. J. Miller, L.D.S., R.C.S., in memory of Father Peter Louis Martin, M.5.C., the first priest to celebrate Mass in Harpenden since the Reformation. They depict St. Peter and 5t, Aloysius Gonzaga.
THE TRANSEPTS – The subjects of all the windows (except the two under Organ Gallery) were selected by the Architect, the late Mr. F.A. Walters, F.S.A., and he also selected the subjects for the two transept windows before he died. That on the right devoted to Our Blessed Lady, and the one on the left depicts symbols of the Seven Sacraments.
THE WINDOWS IN THE NAVE ARE ALL DEDICATED TO THE ENGLISH MARTYRS
Starting from The Lady Chapel
l. Erected by Mrs. Margaret Yeo in memory of her husband, Eric Yeo, who died in 1929, One light depicts Blessed Edmund Campion in his Jesuit gown, under the Tyburn triple gallows, the Tyburn stream in the background. He holds a flaming heart, sign of his burning zeal and charity. The face is copied from the contemporary portrait at Stonyhurst College. The smaller lights above show the Tudor rose, as it was under Elizabeth he suffered, and the Jesuit device “I.H.S.”, surrounded by A.M.D.G. (To the greater glory of God). The other light shows Blessed Alban Roe in the habit of a black monk, with the rule of St. Benedict in his left hand, a knife in his right, such as was used in the mutilation of the martyrs. In the background is the St. Albans Monastery gateway. The small lights above have the Papal triple tiara and keys, and the enedictine motto “Pax”, surrounded by the crown of thorns. At the top of all an angel and text “God is wonderful in his Saints”,
2. A window given by a friend in memory of Father Longstaff’s Silver Jubilee of priesthood, 1931. The left light represents Blessed Margaret Pole, as shown in contemporary portraits, holding the banner of the Five Wounds, with the Tower of London in the background’ The three lights above show to the left, the Martyr’s palm and the axe, centre the Pole- Plantagenet Arms, right lilies. The scene below is Margaret Pole teaching Princess Mary, and the right light shows Saint Thomas More, also drawn from contemporary portraits, holding parchment with the Chancellor’s seal and the Tower in the background. In the lights above are (left) a “Moors” lead, (centre) the More Arms, (right) Palm and Chancellor mace. (He was canonised in I935, lour years after this window was erected). The scene below shows Henry Vlll walking with him in the garden of his house in Chelsea.
All the above windows were made by Mr H. Grylls of Burlinson and Grylls of London.
3. A window showing Henry Heath and John Houghton was erected in thanksgiving to Our Lady for protecting the Parish during the war 1939-1945.
4. A window showing Blessed Margaret Clitherow and Blessed Richard Langhorne erected in 1946.
5. A window erected by subscription in memory of Cardinal Bourne in 1935. In this window Blessed William Howard, Viscount Stafford, is shown in the robes of a Knight of the Bath, holding a martyr’s palm, with the traitor’s gate of the Tower in the background. The centre light above has the Howard Arms, with their supporters of a white lion and a swan. St. John Fisher is depicted in his Episcopal robes, holding the Cardinal’s hat, the martyr’s palm and the bible open at the words “l have finished the work Thou gavest me to do”.
The light above shows his coat of arms, with fish and wheat ears, on the right the axe, on the left the Bishop’s Crozier. The top light of all has the Arms of Pope Pius Xl, who canonised St. John Fisher. The four Coats of Arms on the pillars of the canopies are (left to right) those of (i) lnnocent Xl, Pope when Stafford suffered, (ii) Knight of the Bath (iii) Henry Vlll and (iv) Paul lll, Pope when St. John was martyred. The small pictures below show the late Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, praying before the altar of this Church, and Saint John Fisher with his friend, Saint Thomas More (who were canonised together on May 19th, 1935).
6. A window given anonymously in 1934, shows Blessed Cuthbert Mayne in Mass vestments with gibbet and LauncestonCastle behind him. In the lights above are (left) the Arms of Gregory Xlll, (right) the Martyr’s monogram, and above them a portcullis. ln the other light Blessed John Southworth is represented with the hurdle at his feet on which he was dragged to Tyburn. Above are his Arms (in the left light), and those of Pope lnnocent X. Above these a Tudor rose and, top of all, the Holy Ghost descending in the form of a dove.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The Stations of the Cross were designed by the Flemish Sculptor, Aloys De Beule 1861-1935.
His Stations of the Cross are all executed in composition, richly decorated in gold and colour, and are ornamental, as well as devotional.