In a county best known for its neolithic monoliths, a modern Wiltshire landmark has been recognised with listed status. The Church of St Peter, built to serve the expanding population of Chippenham in 1967-1968, has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of C20 Society and Historic England.
The church contains the most extensive, rich and varied collection of Frank Roper MBE’s ecclesiastical work known in England. This includes sculpture, screens, light fittings, door furniture, and etched glass. It also contains stained glass made in collaboration with Roper’s wife and fellow artist, Nora Roper.
Frank Roper MBE is recognised for pioneering a new form of aluminium casting using polystyrene, which became a more affordable way to produce fittings than could be achieved in the use of more traditional metals. His large screens, full of elegant forms, complement the robust concrete frames in which they stand within this church. Built to the designs of architect Kenneth Nealon, the church is stylistically rooted in the 1960s and is notable for its thoughtful use of converging geometric forms and scale and use of a simple selection of materials.
The architectural form provides a series of striking spaces, including a dramatic main space with an exposed concrete roof structure and full-height vertical strip windows. The ethereal windows depict St Peter in his three guises and are characteristic of Roper’s vivid, Realist form of illustration; the small diagram of the church itself is a playful detail. Roper’s output was prolific, and his talent and sensitivity in religious portrayals earned him some large and important commissions for a number of cathedrals
Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century Society commented:
‘We’re delighted to see this wonderful Wiltshire church nationally recognised and protected. With its striking double-height hexagonal nave and geometric details, along with exquisite decorative elements by artists Frank and Nora Roper, it’s a fine example of Britain’s modern heritage. We hope St Peter will continue to be at the heart of the Chippenham community for generations to come.’