Ham - St Thomas Aquinas

Ham Common, Ham, Richmond, London TW10

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A former Anglican parish school of the 1870s, converted to Catholic use in  the  1960s  by  F.  G.  Broadbent  and  Justin  Hastings.  The  external design is an attractive gabled composition which makes a positive contribution to the Ham Common conservation area. The church is included in the Council’s local list.

The first mission in Ham was attached to a private Catholic girls’ school which moved to Beaufort House in Ham Street in about 1855. The temporary mission chapel, St Mary’s, was in the school grounds but with a separate entrance for the public. It was closed in 1870 when the school moved to Notting Hill. Another Mass centre was based in Ham House, in the private chapel of Lady Huntingtower, which local Catholics could attend as well.

In 1953 a temporary chapel was opened in Ham Street. After several years of fundraising and searching for a site for a new church, the former parish school on Ham Common was acquired in 1968. The school had been built in 1876-77 as St Andrew’s National School, replacing two former Georgian almshouses with a schoolroom   above.   Houses   on   the   opposite   side   of   the   street    provided accommodation for teachers. The school was extended around 1900.

In July 1966 planning permission was granted for the conversion of the former school for Catholic use. The conversion was undertaken in 1967-68 by F. G. Broadbent and, after Broadbent’s death, by Justin Hastings. Among other alterations, the original internal timber and glass partitions were removed (where surviving). The former corridor at the liturgical south side was converted to a sacristy. Between sanctuary and hall, a folding screen was installed to create extra seating capacity, and an organ gallery was installed. A canopy was suspended above the altar which later fell down and was never replaced. The church opened on 26 November 1968. The site and the conversion cost £37,000. In 1969 a crucifix was erected outside.

In 1985 Ham became an independent parish and the upper part of the parish hall was converted to a priest’s flat, for which two dormer windows were introduced into the roof slope. The church was consecrated on 28 January 1987 by Archbishop Bowen. In 1991 a stained glass window designed by Paul Quayle, a former parishioner, was unveiled.

The church is facing southeast. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation. 

The church was built as St Andrew’s National School in 1876-77. In 1967-68 it was converted to a Catholic chapel with attached hall by F. G. Broadbent and Justin Hastings. In 1985 the upper part of the parish hall was converted to a priest’s flat by Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & New.

The church is a brick building with a tiled roof. The plan is longitudinal with two ‘transepts’, the easternmost of which accommodates the hall and the priest’s flat above. The west front has the main doorway below three shortened stepped lancet windows and a gable cross. The ‘transept’ gables all have three stepped lancets. The main roof has a small lead-covered fleche. The east-facing slopes of the ‘transept’ roof have modern dormers and skylights. There are numerous entrance doors and side porches on both north and south sides. Several internal and external windows have been bricked off.

Below the organ gallery at the west is a narthex with a repository at the southwest and the gallery stair at the northwest. The repository is a converted porch with a stained glass window of 1990 by Paul Quayle in the former door opening. It depicts Marian symbols from the Litany of Loreto.

The nave has five windows on the north side and three niches in blocked former windows on the south side. The niches hold statues of St Thomas Aquinas, the Virgin and Child and the Sacred Heart. At the east end of the nave, the upper part of the arch is filled in with a brick wall with a blocked circular window, possibly an original end wall before the ‘transepts’ were added.

The sanctuary is in part of the westernmost of the two ‘transepts’. It is lit by a small skylight. It has a stone altar and tabernacle stand, a crucifix, a statue of St Mary with the Child, timber altar rails, a lectern and chair. The sanctuary has folding doors to the east (behind textile hangings) and glazed screens to the children’s chapel (the former Lady Chapel) at the north, and to the small space at the south (formerly the children’s chapel). An additional porch at the northwest leads into the children’s chapel; it has another crucifix inside the internal lobby. The children’s chapel has the tabernacle from the 1953 temporary chapel. The small space at the south has a statue of St Joseph with the Christ Child, and the door to the sacristy which runs along the south side of the nave.

Diocese: Southwark

Architect: Unknown

Original Date: 1876

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: Later additions

Listed Grade: Not listed