Bethnal Green - Our Lady of the Assumption

Victoria Park Square, London E2

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Designed by Edward Goldie for the Assumptionists, this is a plain but powerful Gothic design. Described in the Buildings of England volume as a ‘good urban church’, it has a lofty and bright interior with rich internal furnishings. Along with the adjoining listed priory, the church is an important focal point in the conservation area.

The Augustinians of the Assumption were invited from France by Cardinal Manning in 1901. Mass was said in three successive temporary locations before building work started on the permanent church. The foundation stone was blessed on 6 May 1911. The church was opened on 22 June 1912 by Cardinal Bourne. The architect was Edward Goldie and the builders were Messrs Goddard & Sons of Farnham & Dorking. The cost of £8,700 was financed jointly by the order and Florence Cottrell Dormer, in memory of her husband, Clement. The priory (photo bottom right), also by Goldie, was presumably built at the same time. In 1971, the space below the gallery was glazed to form a narthex.

The exterior of the building is briefly described in the list entry (see below). The interior is not described, so the following description will focus on this.

Two other omissions/errors in the list description should be noted:

  • The name of the architect, Edward Goldie, is omitted
  • The date in both entries is incorrect.

The plan of the church consists of a nave and narrower chancel. There is a small bell-cote over the sanctuary arch. There are entrances at the west (currently not used) and at the southwest, via the priory. The narthex below the gallery has a flat ceiling with exposed beams. The three stone arches to the nave are filled with a glazed timber partition. In the northwest corner of the narthex is a shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary with a carved and painted Gothic reredos with a statue of the Virgin. Beside it are statues of a female saint and St Patrick. Beside the southwest entrance is a First World War memorial, in the form of a large crucifix with a marble tablet. The disused holy water stoup at the north has a small tablet to the memory of Florence M. and Clement A. Cottrell Dormer.

The nave is five bays long and has a pointed barrel vault with transverse ribs for each bay springing from colonnettes between the windows. There are five tall three-light windows on the north side, and four on the south where the westernmost bay is blind because the pipe organ is placed against the wall. Stained glass in three of the nave windows dates from 1913 and is by Hardman: the two easternmost windows on the north side (west: Saints Peter, Joseph and Paul; east: Saints Helen, Clement and Mary Magdalen), and the easternmost window on the south side (Saints John, Augustine and Monica). The seven-light west window of 1951 is by James Clark & Eaton and depicts the Ascension flanked by Saints John Fisher, Alban, Thomas of Canterbury and Thomas More.

Below the nave windows are shallow niches framed by pointed stone arches. On the north side these contain (from the west): a statue of St Theresa, an ornate timber confessional, a verde antico marble altar with a statue of St Anthony, and at the east a corbelled pulpit of marble and stone with a timber sounding board. On the south side the corresponding niches contain (from the west): a carved timber confessional, an altar with carved reredos and a statue to St Joseph, another timber confessional, and the entrance to the sacristy.

The three finely carved Gothic confessionals - each of different design - are the work of Br Gregory Chedal AA, a skilled craftsmen working in wood and marble. He designed and made altars and benches for other Assumptionist churches such as Our Lady of Grace, Charlton, St Mary Magdalen, Brockley (Southwark) and Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew, Hitchin (qv).

On either side of the chancel arch are two side altars. To the north is the Sacred Heart altar, to the south the Lady Chapel altar. Both are, like the main altar, the work of Earp & Hobbs and all three are similar in design. Both side altars are plain and of stone, each with an elaborately carved and painted reredos. Above the central statue each has a tall, gilded canopy. The statue of the Virgin and Child is by the Art & Book Company. Beside the Lady Altar is the octagonal stone font, carved with blind tracery. The reveal of the arch behind it includes the foundation stone which also mentions Clement Cottrell Dormer.

Wrought-iron altar rails with a brass coping (by Hardman) enclose the sanctuary and the side altars, curved eastwards in front of the sanctuary steps. The two-bay sanctuary has arcades of four pointed arches on either side, leading to side aisles for the use of the Assumptionist community. The three-sided apse is not full-height and above it is a short pointed window containing a rose window. This window (1913, Hardman) depicts the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the central quatrefoil, surrounded by angels in the surrounding eight trefoils and in the two trefoils in the spandrels.

The high altar (Earp & Hobbs) has a gilded relief of the Last Supper between marble columns. Its reredos is a pierced gilded screen with Perpendicular tracery and canopies over statues of Saints Augustine and Clement and a tall canopy over the monstrance throne. On either side are curtained arches leading to the small area behind the reredos.

The Stations are conventional unframed reliefs. The carved timber benches are of an X-framed design and are probably by Br Gregory Chedal AA

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: Edward Goldie

Original Date: 1911

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II