07 November 2019, The Tablet

The Essex sun made Harlow look its loveliest, and in the church the glass walls glowed


The Essex sun made Harlow look its loveliest, and in the church the glass walls glowed
 

Although it was my first visit to Harlow, I could see that something was wonky about the spire of Our Lady of Fatima opposite Aldi on the corner of Mandela Avenue. It’s a tall needle spire of plywood sheathed in copper, and the ball and cross at the top lurched to one side two years ago, I learn. Guy ropes now hold the spire in place. It will cost thousands to put right.

Although the church was opened in 1960, its design, consciously part of the Liturgical Movement, had been approved in 1954. Surprisingly the architect, Gerard Goalen, is still, I am glad to say, with us, aged 101.

The sanctuary projects like an apron stage, so that the altar is central to the nave and two transepts. There used to be a tester or ritual ciborium over the altar, but I don’t know what happened to that.

The Essex sun made Harlow look its loveliest, and inside the church the walls of coloured slab-glass in the nave and transepts glowed. This was the work of Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, who had made the technique his speciality. Aged 23, he had set up a stained-glass workshop at the Devon monastery in 1933.

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