St. Lawrence Church, Duke Street, Northampton

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In the mid-1870s it was recognised that there was a requirement for additional church in the expanding suburbs of Northampton; out of which, the Northampton Church Extension Society was established on 12th November 1874[1], under the auspices by Bishop Magee. In early 1875, they successfully submitted a scheme to create four new parochial districts in Northampton, with seating for 3,000[2]. Over the course of the following fifteen years[3] the Society was responsible for building four new permanent churches, costing a total of £38,000; St. Lawrence was consecrated in 1878, St. Michael’s in 1882, St. Mary’s (Far Cotton) in 1885, and St. Paul’s in 1890[4].

The process by which the Society chose Messrs. Burder and Baker’s design was described, in detail, at a meeting of the Society held on 11th January, 1876, at The Corn Exchange, Northampton[5]:

……. The plan adopted for obtaining designs from architects, under the advice of Mr. Ewan Christian, as assessor, was to invite sketches in the first instance from the profession generally. In response to this invitation, ninety-one sets of drawings were sent in, many of them possessing considerable merit. A selection of six out of the whole number was made; and the authors sent in finished drawings for second competition, small fee of ten guineas being paid to each of these gentlemen, towards his expenses. the occasion, the plans submitted by Messrs. Burder and Baker, of York-chambers, Adelphi, were, upon the whole, thought to answer best the requirements of your committee; and these were accordingly accepted. The church, which is calculated to seat 793 persons, will be a massive structure of brick. in the early English style, but possessing some special characteristics. It was strongly felt that every effort should be made to secure a building not only commodious, but with as much beauty and attractiveness as was consistent with reasonable cost. The fact of this church being placed in a comparatively poor neighbourhood seemed to give point to this consideration, and to make it specially desirable that a church intended to be essentially church of the people, should, even in its visible aspect, be worthy of the affection of those for whose use it is designed. Your committee invited tenders from several builders, including the leading firms in the town and county, and lowest received was from Mr. John Watkin, of Northampton, and was accepted. A few modifications in the plans found necessary, in deference to the Diocesan and Incorporated Church Building Societies (both of which have made liberal grants) and these brought the contract price up to £7,096. There are also the various items of heating lighting. architects’ end other charges, which will probably make the total considerably more than £8,000 …..

The objective Messrs. Burder and Baker’s design, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy, was “to produce a town church of simple detail and inexpensive materials, which shall depend for any effect it may possess upon the breadth of treatment and general massive proportions.[6] 

 

Exterior of St Lawrence’s Church, Northampton – The Builder, 20 July 1877.

 

The contractor for the work was Mr. J. Watkin, of Northampton who won the tender with the lowest submission from six submissions with £5,803 against the highest of £7,700 from Messrs. Dove Bros[7]. The clerk of the works Mr. E. Wickham[8].

 

Dove Bros.
Roberts
Weson
Thompson
Ireson
Dunkley
Cosford
Watkin
£7,700 0s 0d.
£7,220 0s 0d.
£7,105 0s 0d.
£6,722 0s 0d.
£6,474 0s 0d.
£6,412 0s 0d.
£5,973 0s 0d.
£5,803 0s 0d.

 

Interior of St Lawrence’s Church, Northampton – The Builder, 20 July 1877.

The foundation stone was laid, in late November 1876, by the Countess Spencer, the wife of the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Earl Spencer[9]. The church, which was consecrated on Thursday, 10th October, 1878, was described, in detail, in The Northampton Mercury on 12th October:

….We may state that in the new edifice accommodation has been provided for 800 persons, 600 of whom can be seated in the nave alone. Indeed the object of the architect was that the whole of the worshippers should, if possible, see and hear the preacher. Consequently, the aisles are very narrow, only about five feet wide, so that they can be used as passages, except in cases of emergency, when the advantage of moveable chairs over fixed seats is obvious. This is one of the many features which render the interior altogether unlike what we have been hitherto accustomed. It has rather the appearances of one of the continental churches, and in fact it is not unlike the Dominican Church of Ghent. Being Early English in style, the architectural details are simple, but we may say, exceedingly chaste and striking. The edifice is built of brick, both inside and out, with Bath stone dressings, which give a finish to the exterior, as in the capping if the pinnacles at the east end, the capping of the buttresses, the dripstones over the windows, the finials, and the shafts of the doorways. The roofs are tiles with a fancy ridge; at the north east corner an elegant turret rises to a height of 81 feet, being destined at some time to receive a peal of small bells for chiming. The entire length of the building, outside, is 142 feet, and the width 41 feet 4 inches. The height is 40feet to the wall plate, 52 feet to the apex of the vault, and 64 feet to the ridge. It is a barrel roof, of yellow deal, panelled, and continuous from end to end. Only the ribs are picked out with colour as yet, the remainder being left for decorative purpose. The principals rest on corbels, with shafts, Duston stone being used for the former and Bath stone for the later. The interior consists of seven bays, and the piers or buttresses of the nave, banded in Bath stone, and having caps and base of the same, are run across the aisles and pieced with arches. The length of the nave is 85 feet, and of the choir and chancel, 36feet; the latter being divided from the aisles by means of wrought iron screens. The organ is on the inside of one of them, in the north aisle, being large enough to accommodate 70 or 80 persons. It may be entered by an independent porch, and is intended to be used for week night services. The pier arches of the choir and chancel are much larger than those of the nave, and a light and elegant appearance is given to them by means of detached single shafts of Bath stone which divide them. In the east end there are two groups of three windows, and a group of three in the west, and above the narthex, which runs across and communicates with the north and south portions. There are two windows over each of the pier arches, and similarly, smaller windows in the aisles, which have low lean-to roofs, the windows being of lancet shape, characteristic of the style of architecture, and deeply splayed on the inside. The artificial lighting is effected by means of half a dozen pendants from each side of the tie rods which connect the principals of the roof; but we believe that this, like one or two other things, is only temporary. We have already said that the seating of the congregation is effected by means of chairs, and it should be added that kneelers are also supplied. The floor is formed with blocks of wood arranged in a zigzag pattern and set in concrete, but the passage, narthex, and porches are asphalted with tile borders. There is an ascent of three steps to the choir, which is formed with Godwin’s encaustic and coloured tiles. Of the former a prettily-designed footpace has been laid down with the sacrarium, which is raised above the choir, the ascent being three steps, with another step for kneeling without the low rail which separates the sacrarium from the choir. The seats in the latter are of oak, and the pulpit is of the same, panelled and carved. The reading desk and fauld-stool are of the same material, but the lectern is of wrought iron, with oak book rest. The carving was done by Smith, of Lambeth, London, who also designed the massive looking font in the narthex at the west end. The bowl is shaped out of a solid block of alabaster, angular o on the outside and resting on a central pillar of Caen stone, with small shafts of Devonshire marble at each angle. The building is well lighted. Both naturally and artificially, and can be thoroughly warmed by means of Messenger’s (Loughborough) hot water apparatus. The cost of the entire work, including the lighting, heating and boundary wall, is £7,800. ….

As mentioned above, Messenger & Co., were responsible for the heating system, which cost £172[10] and consisted of a No. 8 boiler, probably one of Thomas Messenger’s triangular boilers, 8 yards of 5in. diameter pipe, 368 yards of 4in., 79 yards of 3in and 160 yards of 2in. diameter pipe. The quote allowed for 48man-days for installation, priced at £26 8s. (fitter and labour), £1 5s., for painting the pipes and 13s. 10d. to cover carriage and cartage.

 

St Lawrence Church, Northampton – Floor Plan

The building, which is still extant, has since 1980 been used as a Polish church and the dedication was changed from St Lawrence to St Stanislaus and St Lawrence.

It is Grade II* listed and accordingly described as follows:

MATERIALS: Red brick in English bond with some freestone dressings and bands. Red tiled roofs. Cement tiled roof to narthex. Bare brick interior with more freestone detailing.

PLAN: Clerestoried nave and square ­ended chancel in one, narrow lean­ to aisles to nave, NE vestry and organ chamber, SE chapel, SW, NW and SE porches, NE tower, W end baptistery.

EXTERIOR: The style of the building throughout derives from the C13, whence the lancet windows for all but the W end which has three pairs of tall, two ­light Geometrical windows. The nave and chancel are tall and of equal height with low, lean ­to passage aisles flanking the nave. The SE chapel is also tall and contrasts markedly with the adjoining S aisle. The N elevation is punctuated at the junction of the nave and chancel by a short, four­ stage tower with an entrance on the N and a tall two­ light window over it. The square plan of the lower parts turns octagonal in the short belfry stage which has corner projections rising to pinnacles above the base of the short spire.

The buttresses of the nave all terminate in gables and their continuation across the roofs of the aisles is an indication of the fact that they are also constructed internally (see INTERIOR). The aisle buttresses, too, terminate in gables.

INTERIOR: The interior is characterised by the great width and height of the chancel and four ­bay nave which have no chancel arch separating them. At the E end the focus is the two tiers of plain triple lancets. The aisles are mere passages cut through the internal buttresses. The moulded arches of the nave are of bare brick, like nearly everything else internally. Exceptions are the freestone bases, capitals and band in between to the piers which add a significant horizontal emphasis at low level. Freestone also appears at high level in the wall­ shafts to the principal rafters and also in capitals at the springing of the clerestory windows. Below the wall­-plate there is a terracotta cornice and frieze with flower decoration. Unusually the panelled roof has no demarcation or change in construction between the nave and chancel. Each of the seven bays is separated by cusped principal rafter, the peak of the lowest cusp being created by a hammer-­beam. The roof is of very light construction which adds greatly to the sense of spaciousness: indeed, this lightweight construction requires horizontal and vertical iron ties to create stability. The Lady Chapel also has a hammer-­beam roof. On either side of the chancel there are very tall two­-bay arcades with octagonal piers. The chancel is steeply stepped up and is floored with encaustic tiles. At the W end there is a triple arcade with the central opening leading to the baptistry in the W narthex.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The choir is bounded on both N and S by most unusual and attractive coved and crested wrought ­iron screens. Another wrought ­iron screen stands on the top of a low stone wall at the entrance to the chancel and the lectern and altar rails are also good wrought iron pieces. The three ­bay timber reredos has painted figures of the ascending Christ flanked by angels: it is no doubt later than the original church. The hanging rood figures are dated 1933. The three rows of stalls with their simple bands of arcading are the major feature in the chancel.

 

References:

  1. The Northampton Mercury, 20th March, 1875.
  2. The Standard, 26th March, 1875.
  3. The Victoria History of the County of Northampton – Volume Two; Published 1906.
  4. The Society then added a further four temporary churches at St. Gabriel’s (1894), Holy Trinity and Christchurch (1898). The latter was replaced by a permanent building in 1906.
  5. The Northampton Mercury, 20th January, 1877.
  6. The Building News & Engineering Journal, 20th July, 1877.
  7. The Architect, 28th October 1876.
  8. The Building News & Engineering Journal, 20th July, 1877.
  9. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 2nd December, 1876.
  10. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/43.