Battersea Park - Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Joseph

Battersea Park Road, London SW8

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A modest Gothic Revival church, serving a poor district. The original small church by Buckler survives as the Lady Chapel; this was considerably  enlarged ten years later by the addition of a nave and chancel by John Adams, a local architect. Adams’s additions are influenced by the plain polychrome brick Gothic style popularised by James Brooks, whose nearby church of the Ascension, Lavender Hill was begun in 1876. The interior is very plain but there are some furnishings of note, particularly the marble altars. The church, presbytery and surrounding former convent buildings, possibly by F A Walters, form a good group and make a positive contribution to the Battersea Park Conservation Area.

The Battersea Park mission was established by Canon Drinkwater of Clapham Common, to serve a mainly Irish population. Sketches for a Gothic Revival church were prepared by C A Buckler in 1867 (figure 1), a smaller, single cell version of which was opened in November 1869. Financial support came from the Duke of Norfolk and Mrs Boschetta Shea.  This building retains its original altar, designed by Buckler. It became the Lady Chapel of a considerably enlarged church in 1879, when a new nave and chancel were built from designs by John Adams, a local architect. The new high altar was the donation of Sir John Stuart Knill, whose family lived on the Walworth Road and were major donors in the Diocese (his father Mr Stuart Knill built a chantry chapel at the Cathedral), and whose niece was the third and last wife of A W Pugin.

In 1881 Canon Drinkwater was succeeded by Fr William Connolly, who extended the Mission Schools alongside the church and extended the priests house (behind the church) upwards. These buildings, arranged around a close with crow-stepped gables, may be the work of F A Walters. There are drawings by Walters dated September 1891  in  the  RIBA  Drawings  Collection  for  extensions  to  the  school,  and  for  the entrance gateway from Battersea Park Road, described as for the ‘Convent of Notre Dame Schools, Battersea’.

The church was damaged by incendiary bombs in the Second World War. Post-war alterations included a baptistery addition on the north side of the Lady Chapel and a gallery in the nave to house the reconstructed organ.

In 1974 the school moved and the building on the street frontage was turned into a parish centre. It is now derelict and awaiting redevelopment.

Reordering in the 1980s included the introduction of a forward altar designed by Jeremy  Moore,  containing  relics  of  St  Thomas  More  and  St  Oliver  Plunkett.  A window on the theme of these saints was installed in the Lady Chapel c1990.

The original church, now the Lady Chapel, was built in 1869 from designs by C A Buckler. It is a plain Gothic Revival design built in London stock brick, without stone detailing, under a slate roof. It consists of six bays, three of which are arcaded on the south side towards the nave, and has a canted east end.   Adjacent to this are the sacristy and a 20th century baptistery giving off the north side. The chapel has an arch braced roof and retains its original altar, designed by Buckler. Its carved frontal is divided into three panels flanked by red marble shafts. The panels contain pierced quatrefoils within vesicas; at the centre is a figure of the Virgin and Child, investing St Simon Stock with the scapular (according to Evinson, p. 246) and flanked by attendant angels. There is a 20th  century Gothic timber reredos and canopy behind. On the north wall is a side altar to St Joseph, with a carved frontal depicting the death of St Joseph. The chapel also contains a good modern stained glass window depicting St Thomas More, St Oliver Plunkett etc. in roundels (by Jonathan Butler, 1990) and a war memorial window (Jones and Willis, 1926). Giving off the north side at the west end is the 1950s baptistery, with iron gates and still containing its 19th century stone octagonal font, although the space is now used as a store.

 

The present nave and chancel were added in 1879, from designs by John Adams of Battersea. This addition is built of yellow stock brick with red brick dressings and sparing use of stone, e.g. in the kneelers and the copings. The roof is of tile. The style is Early English Gothic, with triple lancets at the west end and one lancet for each of the six bays on the south side. The entrance is in the westernmost bay on the south side, in a moulded red brick surround, with stepped projection and a narrow blind red brick lancet within a wider blind lancet above. The east end is canted, following the form of Buckler’s work. Inside, the nave and chancel form a single space, with pilasters marking the bay divisions, upon which sit the arch braces of the roof. Between these are plastered ceiling panels. At the west end of the nave is a modern organ gallery. The chief furnishing of note is the high altar, of 1879 and the gift of Sir John Stuart Knill. This is in two shades of marble, with a columned frontal, gradines with diaperwork and a central domed and gabled tabernacle. There are two stained glass  windows in  the  lancet  windows  of  the chancel,  depicting  Our  Lady  and  St Joseph (artist/maker not established). The plain forward altar of pink and white marble dates from a 1980s reordering, and was designed by Jeremy Moore (notes on parish file in Diocesan archive). The benches are modern.

Diocese: Southwark

Architect: C A Buckler; John Adams of Battersea

Original Date: 1869

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1879

Listed Grade: Not listed