Press Release: New Parish Centre for Our Lady of Lourdes

The following is a press release from my Parish about our new Parish Centre which will be opened by Bishop Thomas McMahon on Sunday:

The Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes Leigh-on-Sea is opening its new Parish Centre at 1pm on Sunday 9th February 2014.

In 2004 it was decided that the old Parish Hall, erected in 1900, had ceased to provide for the needs of a modern Parish. A committee was formed to brief the Architect, Anthony Delarue to create a new building.

The new Centre is set back from Marguerite Drive behind a formal garden and car-park. The style of the building follows that of the church, designed by the Parish Priest Canon Gilbert in 1923. It adapts the gothic detailing to reflect the secular use of the new structure. It is more classical, with large ‘thermal’ windows and gables derived from Roman Baths, reflecting the building’s recreational function.

Everyone was agreed that the new building should continue the rubble stonework of the church, and this it does along the street front. The new stone comes from Yorkshire, a good match to the church, built of stone brought as ballast in ships from the Low Countries. The rear and garden fronts change to red brick, to reflect the houses opposite in Cliffsea Grove, which gives a much more domestic character seen from the gardens. The Parish Garden, secluded and laid out around an historic Lebanon cedar, opens off the lower Hall, the Saint Clement Room, to provide a large outdoor space for summer events.

The new cloister walkway at the front, linking to the church, encloses a small courtyard set aside for the burial of ashes of Parishioners, in consecrated ground.

Canon Gilbert was a fine connoisseur of art, and had ornamented his new church with works of art; this is extended to the new building, especially in the external decorative flintwork. The west gable is ornamented with “AM” for “Ave Maria” beneath a cross; and the porch with a large fleur-de-lys, the symbol of Our Lady. Antique wine bottles are set into the porch, a playful reference to the building's purpose. A new mosaic of Our Lady ornaments the entrance hall.

The building has been designed to the most modern standards. The heating of the building is provided by underfloor heating, powered by renewal energy air-source heat pumps, which take the warmth from the outside air. Both internally and externally maintenance costs are kept to a minimum. High quality and durable natural materials require minimal and infrequent attention.

The contractor was Haynes and Smith Ltd of Basildon. The budget just over £900,000.

The building has been designed to provide for the many varied local groups who will use it, with IT facilities, catering arrangements, and much storage. It is hoped that the new Halls will give many decades of service to the people of Leigh-on-Sea.

I have been privileged enough to have a little bit of a nose about inside and I have to say that this building is truly impressive. It has been realised due to the hard work and dedication of our Parish Priest and Dean of Southend-on-Sea, Father Kevin Hale. He has worked tirelessly at this project and it sings of his attention to detail and excellent taste.

The people of the Parish have struggled to some extent without a Parish Centre since the old one was demolished, some might go as far as to say Parish life away from Mass has come to a practical standstill. There have been some events however, hosted at our Primary School thanks to the kindness of our Head Teacher Mrs. Sullivan. However, with the new building, we have plans for lots of groups and activities which will add tremendous vibrancy to the life of the parish. Any project like this is a real trial and the Parish owes Father Kevin a great debt of gratitude for pulling this off.

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