In 1956 the City of Coventry was being rebuilt after the destruction of the Blitz. A sum of money was allocated for the building of a new church in one of the new communities on the edge of the city. Basil Spence (who had already begun work on the new Coventry Cathedral) came up with a new construction method which allowed for three churches to be built within that budget and work was started in Tile Hill, Wood End and Willenhall.
If you ever have cause to visit all three of the churches you will find that they are very much alike. They are all, quite simply, a big box. Each has that distinctive concrete and wood campanile (that's a Bell Tower to you and me) separate from the building and none of them look particularly exciting from the outside. What makes them different is light, each of the churches has a unique pattern of windows which creates a different atmosphere inside. At St Oswald's we have floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the Sanctuary, a glass arch at the west end and two rows of windows along the sides.
Spence contacted Carrol Harris Simms, a prominent American sculptor who was at a London university and apprenticed to Jacob Epstein, and commisioned a scupture of the Risen Christ which is on the outside of the east wall. A simple wooden cross adorns the west wall. Gerald Holtom (perhaps best known for creating the "peace" symbol for the CND) was commissioned to create an applique wall hanging of King Oswald and Bishop Aidan which hangs in the Sanctuary. The interior west wall was left bare.
St Oswald's (along with St John the Divine, Willenhall and St Chad's, Wood End) was completed in 1957 and dedicated on 6th June by Rt Rev Cuthbert Bardsley, Bishop of Coventry, in the presence of HRH Princess Margaret.
Subsequent PCCs have made some changes. A reredos by Sir Ninian Comper is displayed at the west end of the church, originally from All Saints Church in Warwick, it was rescued from decades in storage by former St Oswald's vicar Brian Doolan. A pair of Spence ambos have been removed and replaced with a pulpit. Extra internal up-lighting has been added. We now have the Stations of the Cross around the walls along with representations of the Seven Sacraments (all prints from the nuns of Turvey Abbey) along with icons of a variety of Saxon Saints.
The church remained relatively unchanged until 1999 when we embarked on an extensive project of building and refurbishment. The wood and glass front of the hall was replaced by a more secure wall, the entrance lobby was extended and a new Vestry/Chapel and Sacristy were added to the north side of the building. The new work was consecrated by Rt Revd Anthony Priddis (then Bishop of Warwick) in 2000.
In 2001 Holtom's wall hanging was taken down for cleaning and the interior of the church was painted (an interesting project which involved trying to get a scissor lift up the Sanctuary steps), giving us a new bright, friendly and welcoming church.
It unfortunate that the free-standing concrete bell tower is now in a sad state of disrepair. The cost of making the tower safe has been quoted at over £40,000 and a full restoration closer to £150,000 which is well beyond the resources of the PCC. The Diocesan Advisory Committee has vetoed our plans to have the beast demolished (because Spence), so we are left with no choice but to try and stump up the cash. A search down the back of the settee produced 58p and a Werther's Original so we still have quite a way to go.
In October 2014 we were granted Grade 2 Listed status by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Apart from the revelation that St Oswald's is Cultural (we're certainly not sporty) it meant that were open to new avenues of funding for the restoration of the notorious Tower. Regrettably, in 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund turned down our application for funding and we are left scratching our collective heads about what to do next.
St Oswald's Church, Jardine Crescent, Coventry CV4 9PL