In the latest edition (2007) of Pevsner's "The Buildings of England - Essex", the church merits a short, dry entry:
"OUR LADY OF COMPASSION (RC.); Castle Street. Converted in 1906 from a C16 barn. Short brick tower with pyramidal spire, porch and cloister by Hibbs & Walsh Associates, 2004-5, with reordered sanctuary by Antony Delarue Associates."
There is of course much more to the church than this...
Following the successful completion of the church restoration of 2004/5, Fr. John Garrett provided the following note giving thanksgiving for the restoration and some detail concerning the church furnishings:
"As a community of faith I am sure that you will join me in thanking God for our restored parish church and the re-ordering of our sanctuary. The glory of colour and gold which surrounds our sanctuary is a reminder to us of the great glory and splendour of our God. The sacrament tower draws our eye to its scale and form, a worthy house for the Blessed Sacrament especially in this year of dedication by the Pope, to the Eucharist in our churches. The very beautiful simplicity of the altar stands out from the luxury of the sacrament tower and reredos."
Altar; is made from Clipham and Portland stone in beautiful simplicity. The opening at the front is the place where the Relics were placed when the altar was consecrated by the bishop. The Relics are of St John Vianney (the "Curé d'Ars" who is the patron of all diocesan clergy) and St Pius X (19th century Pope who reformed the clergy and made eucharistic reception easier for people, especially the young). This is framed by a brass grill.
Sacrament Tower; this is rich in both colour and shape. The tower is made from lime wood, in the form of a "house" for the Lord in the Sacrament. It is coloured and gilded with gold leaf to reflect its worthiness. On top of the tower is an ancient symbol of the Eucharist, the pelican. There is a legend that the pelican will, in times of famine, tear her own breast to feed her chicks with her own blood. You can just see the little heads of the chicks.
Cross; this is a great treasure of the church. The Corpus (figure of Jesus) is 14th century with some of its original paint, especially the blood, still visible. The cross is modern but painted and fashioned in the medieval style in sympathy with the rest of the sanctuary.
Font; is dated 1850 (mid-Victorian) and made of Caen stone with ogee arches against the stem, and cinquefoil arches round the bowl containing un-carved shields. Each panel surrounded with a border of fleurons (angels). This came from the redundant church of St Peter, Birch (near Colchester). It is the first sacramental image we see on entering the church, and is the place for the first sacrament, baptism. The riddle posts were restored and painted by Howell & Bellion. From the font the new stone floor leads to the altar - the great symbol of the Lord.
Eagle Lectern; is made from English oak and again probably mid-Victorian from the midlands. The eagle is found in many medieval churches, it speaks of the Gospel, in the form of St John, soaring towards heaven and symbolises the Logos, the Word of God, Jesus the redeemer.
Reredos; which is constructed from a the wooden framework of an early 19th century altarpiece, donated by the Anglican Diocese of Norwich, forms a visual link between the new stone altar, and the symbolic heavens of the blue sky painted ceiling.
Six gilded gothic columns rise up, enclosing stencil-patterned coloured panels. The crowns on the columns refer to the kinship of Christ who is present daily on the altar. The whole panel frames the central action of the Sacred Liturgy.
Window; portrays the Holy Spirit descending and linking the graces of the Spirit to the altar of sacrifice.
The shrine to Our Lady; The shrine to Our Lady in the little chapel at the back of the church was obtained from the Servite House in Oxford at the time of its closure.
The porch and corridor; The stained glass in the window on the Castle Street side of the porch, shows Our Lady and the Holy Child. In the corridor looking out over the garden are a Pietà carved in wood, from the Servite House in Oxford, a blue glass roundel depicting the Annunciation and an early Victorian stained glass panel of the Crucifixion.
On the south wall of the sacristy there is a fine painting by F.R. Gadsby done on paper dating from 1922, in the manner of Burne Jones and probably intended to be a memorial to the dead of the First World War.
October '07 saw the arrival of a new addition to the church - painting of "The Crucifixion" by Edward Frampton. It is on long term loan from Professor Paul Joannides of the History of Art Department, Cambridge University. Edward Frampton (1872-1923) studied in France and Italy and was a distinguished landscape and religious painter.