In 1954, the local Anglican Diocese commissioned Basil Spence to design three low-cost parish churches to serve the new residential suburbs around Coventry: St Oswald’s, Tile Hill; St John the Divine, Willenhall; and St Chad’s, Bell Green. The architect had the buildings inexpensively constructed out of lightweight, rough textured, ‘no fines’ concrete, so called because it contained no fine gravel. This came from War Damage Commission funds, which would only have paid for one similarly-sized structure in brick.
Although built to a standard design, the three churches are individually detailed. They are each characterized by a freestanding tower that clearly mark the building as a worship space; and inside textured, concrete walls enclose a tall, aisle-less nave that seats a congregation of up to 250 people. The relationship between tower, church, and hall differs from parish to parish and responds to each individual site. Likewise, the east and west ends of the churches range from being fully glazed to almost completely enclosed. These features allow for a variety of light and ambience that lends each building its own distinct character.
Spence and Partners designed most of the original furnishings, such as pulpits, altars, fonts, and pews. Just as he did at Coventry Cathedral, Spence also commissioned leading artists and designers of the day to produce a carefully integrated decorative programme for these churches.
At St Oswald’s there are small windows along the upper and lower part of the nave. Tall side windows light the altar. Behind the altar is a textile hanging with the figures of St Aidan and St Oswald by Gerald Holtom, designer of the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) emblem. A bronze sculpture of the Crucifixion on the outside of the east wall is by the Afro-American artist Carroll Simms.