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8th February 2010 / posted by Julian

Let Us Pray......



The story of the design of the chapel at St.Mary’s RC school in Hereford started some 20 years ago way back in 1988 when I arrived at the school for my first day as an ‘innocent and keen’ 11 year old.

Little did I know that fast forward 20 years, on the patch of land I looked out on from the Art and Design studio of the school, that I would have designed and built an oak framed chapel.

The design of the chapel was developed by Oakwrights’ concept designer John Williams who put forward a series of proposals to the Teachers, Governors, and pupils to express their opinions and preferences of the concept. The pupils were keen to be involved in the project throughout, and a group of 10 interested pupils visited Oakwrights to view the 3D computer model I’d created of the chapel, to see some of the elements being ‘framed up’ in our workshops and to see the size and capability of our CNC machine compared to the 1m x 1m CNC machine in the workshops at school!

The brief was for a highly energy efficient and ’future-proof’ chapel to hold services for a congregation of 40 with the flexibility to be used as an extra classroom when required.

The frame itself internally centres around 3 main bay frames formed from large sling braces, striking an arch from the wall posts to the king post and on the ridge. They work particularly well in this building as they reference the gothic arches common in sacred buildings and lead the eye upwards, which seemed suitable in a chapel! As is also true to sacred buildings the last foundation stone was blessed - in this case in ceremony by the Dean of Belmont Abbey of Hereford.

the chapel at St.Mary’s RC school in Hereford



An interest was also expressed to have a stage area at one end of the building to allow summers day classes and services to spill outside to make the most of the beautiful views over the river Lugg. This lead to the design featuring an overhanging, hammer beam canopy over one gable end, to shelter the area.

 an overhanging, hammer beam canopy over one gable end

A tricky structure to design correctly to enable the roof loads to be transferred to the ground by the frame beneath. Working closely with the Oakwrights in house Engineer at this stage ironed out the structural issues, transferring the loads back via 4 large seasoned oak braces to the glazed bay frame behind making a success of this area and a real useable feature of the building.

Being a local job, Oakwrights were employed as the principal contractor for the build and as such designed and built all the walls (pre built in our workshops) and roofs, seeing the build through to the point where the roofers could put the slates on.

Currently the chapel is glazed, plastered and floored so on schedule for the consecration of the building and first service this Easter….Hymn books at the ready!

Of course bringing a building like this to fruition is the work of many people throughout the company from sales – design – production and project management, and of course the site crew lead by Foreman Saso who made it all happen.

saso with oak cross

Thanks also go to Oakwrights’ partnered architect, Derrick Whittaker for his contribution and expertise on the oak frame building regulation drawings and of course all at the school for their vision and passion for Oak!

The result in my opinion, is greater than the sum of its parts!




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