In 1930 the Diocese of Westminster bought the old house at 130 St Margaret’s Road and Mass was said in the front room. Six years later, on 8th April 1936, the Parish of St Margaret of Scotland was formally created and in 1937 a prefabricated hut was erected in the front garden, affectionately known as the ‘cardboard Cathedral’, in which Mass was said for the next 32 years.
After many years of fundraising and planning ahead for the construction of a new Church, the old house was demolished and architect Austin Winkley appointed to design the new building in accordance with the detailed specification drawn up and approved by the Parish Council.
The new building including the church was completed in 1969 is called the Complex (Latin: ‘complecti’: to encompass or embrace) as it is used for all the activities in which a Christian community engages and as such, may be considered as one of the first fruits of the Second Vatican Council. Where a conscious effort has been made in the design of the building to break down barriers between the sacred and the secular – where religion is life. Thirty years later, in recognition of its innovatory design and layout, English Heritage approved the Parish Complex as a Grade II listed building.
A newcomer entering the church may be surprised at the raked seating and the carpeted floor. From a practical point of view the carpet reduces noise and is easy to maintain; it also gives a sense of home – of being the community’s living room. The raked seating-in-the-round improves visibility and encourages the feeling of being part of the celebration, rather than just ‘at it’.
On the left had side as you enter the church is a long wooden partition. At the touch of a button this partition rolls back to open up the Hall and provide extra space when the Church is crowded. Alternatively, at the end of Mass the community can, in a few steps, take the celebration of the sacred into the celebration of the secular with friends over a cup of coffee.
Tuning towards the altar, one is struck by the cross hanging over it. The cross was designed by Stephen Sykes (who designed the Gethsemane Chapel in the new Coventry Cathedral) depicts Christ robed as priest-King. It was commissioned by the community as a memorial to Fr Sidney Dommersen who was the priest responsible for the building of the Parish Complex.
The Chapel which is always open for private prayer and meditation is on the right hand side of the main entrance. Weekday Mass is usually celebrated in the Chapel and the confessional stands in one corner.
The Library which overlooks the Hall is on the first floor and is used for many things, including serious reading, small meetings and a crẽche during a family Mass. The Hall with its kitchen and bar is used for a wide range of activities, ranging from children’s meetings and birthday parties through to Parish celebrations and Bible study classes.