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Page last updated at 08:41 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 09:41 UK
Modern church with many surprises
Stained glass window
The large stained glass windows give a traditional scene in a modern setting

Despite the concrete facade, there's more to the church of St Martin of Tours in Basildon than meets the eye.

It was one of the first buildings to go up in the centre of the new town during the early 1960s and is typical of the kind of buildings of its era.

Above the south door porch is a unique fibreglass sculpture of Christ.

Inside, the building features a corridor of stained glass windows that create a rainbow of colour and an organ with more than 5000 pipes.

The church nestles in the heart of Basildon town centre, in between the Towngate Theatre and Marks & Spencer.

The fibre glass sculpture of the figure of Christ, with his hands outstretched towards the town, and what looks like spears and arrows coming out of his body, was made by sculptor TB Huxley-Jones in 1968.

Local historian Vin Harrop said it sparked controversy at the time: "People felt the fibre glass material somehow 'cheapened' Christ.

"Everybody's seen a figure of Christ in a bronze, but fibre glass - NO! People have got used to it now though, and they're very proud of it. It's unique to Basildon."

The south door itself looks out onto St Martin's Square, where there are a series of scented gardens, all at wheelchair height, and benches and fountains where people can sit and reflect.

Fibreglass statue of Christ
The fibreglass statue of Christ was controversial part of the building

Rainbow of colour

When you step inside the doors of St Martin of Tours it can quite literally take your breath away.

Many people describe the interior as like that of a mini-Cathedral, with large stained glass windows and an impressive organ that has more than 5000 pipes, which stretch from one side of the church to the other.

As Vin explains, the organ has a story all of its own.

"[It arrived from the] redundant church of St Erkenwald in Southend at the request of the then Bishop of Chelmsford, after he decided it needed a new home," he said.

"It looks to some people as though it's been shoehorned in, but has the most beautiful sound."


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