Spence in Sheffield: St Catherine of Siena, Richmond

St Catherine of Siena Parish Church, Richmond, Sheffield

St Catherine of Siena Parish Church, Richmond, Sheffield

On the strength of his commission for St Paul’s, Wordsworth Avenue, Basil Spence was invited to design a parish church with an attached church hall for the parish of St Catherine of Siena, serving the eastern estates of Richmond and Woodthorpe.

This building was also financed by the compensation payments for bombed inner-city churches – of St Philip, Shalesmoor (1828, demolished 1952) and Christ Church, Attercliffe, (1826, demolished 1953).

The foundation stone was laid on April 11th 1959 and the church was consecrated by Bishop Leslie Hunter on December 5th the same year.

Like St Paul’s, Wordsworth Avenue, St Catherine’s is marked by a tower consisting of two brick pillars, surmounted by a cross, linked by a glazed sacristy corridor to a plain cavity-wall brick nave.

At St Catherine, however, the tower slabs are concave and the nave is lit by narrow slit windows and ends in a windowless semi-circular apse.

The roof consists of laminated timber beams, separated from the walls by a glazed clerestory and a concealed window that lights the sanctuary providing an atmosphere of well-lit privacy.

Basil Spence’s perspective of the proposed design, dated April 1957, shows the original intention to orientate the church north-south with the tower to the east.  The sequence of drawings indicates that in March or April 1958 the decision was taken to realign the church geographically, as well as liturgically, east-west, with the tower to the south.

A glazed screen at the back of the nave, with the organ mounted above the doorway, separates the nave from the community areas which are integral to the design and follow a pattern that Spence had set in designing three churches for the Diocese of Coventry in 1954.

Ronald Pope’s sculpture of St Catherine holding the burning heart before the crucified Christ was placed on the eastern face of the bell-tower and dedicated by Bishop Francis John Taylor on February 13th 1966.

The church was listed Grade II in 1997 for its “strongly sculptural design with a powerful presence”.

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