Catholic church featured on cover on Chemical Brothers album gets a Grade II* listing

An Essex church pictured on the front cover of an album by a leading electronic music duo is being upgraded to a Grade II* listing.

Harlow’s Roman Catholic Church of our Lady of Fatima features on the 1998 Chemical Brothers mix compilation album Brothers Gonna Work It Out.

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons formed The Chemical Brothers in Manchester in 1989 and rapidly became pioneers (along with the Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, The Crystal Method, and other acts) in bringing the big beat genre to the forefront of UK pop culture.

Historic England said the 1960-built church had a “modern style, striking spire and glorious glass panels”.

It was already listed at Grade II in 2000 and had become Grade II* [star] to “reflect its historic and architectural significance”.

The church was designed in the 1950s by Gerard Goalen, who was working with architect Frederick Gibberd designing factories for Harlow’s industrial estates.

Mr Gibberd went on to design the famous Catholic Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, which was said to have been inspired by the Harlow church.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, said: “This stunning church was created as part of the new town of Harlow, offering a brighter and better future in the post-war years, and has been at the heart of the community ever since.”

He added that “it has proved an inspiration in contemporary church design and is loved by people who take comfort in its calming, beautiful presence every day”.

One of the features of the church is its specialist “dalle de verre” glass panels, created by one of the most prominent glass artists of the 20th Century, Benedictine Monk Dom Charles Norris.

Historic England said the glass panels covered about 60% of the walls, “bathing the church in glorious colour and light”.

Rt Revd Alan Williams, Catholic bishop of Brentwood, said: “Our Lady of Fatima Church in Harlow is an important church architecturally, not just in the diocese but nationally. It was one of the first of its kind and unique for its stained glass.”

Clare Price, Head of Casework at C20 Society commented: “As a pioneer of a unified scheme of dalle-de-verre glass and modern design, C20 Society is delighted that Our Lady of Fatima has received the Grade II* listing it rightly deserves. The effect on walking into the church is uplifting, the feeling of entering a shifting kaleidoscope of colour coupled with the radical new liturgical arrangement of the interior must surely have made many a new town worshipper gasp in astonishment. It has lost nothing of its impact in the intervening years, the interior being of such stunning jewel-like quality that it was chosen as the front cover illustration for our book 100 Churches 100 Years, while the exterior was even featured on the cover of a Chemical brothers album!”

Story by William Kelly, The Catholic Network