Harlow, Essex

St. Paul's Church, Harlow, Essex

Like almost everything in the “new town” of Harlow, St. Paul’s Church is the brainchild of St. Frank Gibberd. In this instance it was opened for worship in 1959 and was one of the first buildings in Harlow New Town to be completed.

Gibberd decided that it was necessary to build the Church in a different material to all the surrounding buildings, which are all concrete – as is most of Harlow New Town Centre. So the Church was built with brick, although it has some concrete sections. It was given a copper spire which was, for some time, the tallest structure in Harlow, although now it feels swamped by all the newer buildings around it.

Like many brand news churches of the period, St. Paul’s is modernist in its design with elements of the brutalist architecture that would follow in the 1960s. The interior of the church is even more redolent of the 1950s and has been kept largely as design by R.W. Hurst when the church was first opened.

St. Paul’s cost £40,000 to build and was described at the time of its opening as “the finest church to be built in Essex since the war”. Some of that impact has been lost with the encroach of shopping centres and other structures which give the whole area a rather run-down feel. Depending on your opinion of this style of church architecture St. Paul’s is either a premier example of the modern approach – or an ugly lumpen building matched only by the dreary concrete around it.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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