Harrow Road - Our Lady of Lourdes and St Vincent de Paul

Harrow Road, London W9

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A plain modern church, built as part of an integrated complex of social centre and presbytery. The rather forbidding exterior belies a reposeful interior, enhanced by recent furnishings. The church replaced a late nineteenth-century chapel and incorporates some furnishings from that building.

In 1859, St Vincent’s Home for orphaned and destitute boys opened in Hammersmith, as part of the Crusade of Rescue (now Catholic Children’s Society). In 1876, this was placed under care of the Rev. (later Canon) Lord Archibald Douglas, the third son of the seventh Marquess of Queensberry. He moved the home to new premises in the Harrow Road. In 1879, the foundation stone for a French Gothic Transitional-style chapel was laid, which was opened in 1882. (Initially the chapel was dedicated to Our Lady but the dedication was later changed to include the patron saint of the Home.) The architect was John George Hall of Hammersmith. Rottmann describes it in c.1926 as having stained glass by Lavers, Westlake and Barraud, as well as murals in the sanctuary. By this time it was far too small for the congregation, but rebuilding had to wait until 1970, when the old buildings were demolished. Services were held temporarily in a prefabricated church while the new complex was under construction. Work on the new buildings started in May 1973, the foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Heenan on 3 November 1973 and the first Mass in the unfinished church was held on 13 May 1975. The architect was Clive Broad and the builders were Truett & Steel. In order to finance the rebuilding, the parish sold some of the land, which required a very compact building, closely integrating church, presbytery and social centre. In c.2003, A. Conell oversaw a general refurbishment, which included the provision of a light shaft. The former hall became a narthex with repository and new glazed entrance screen facing the courtyard, creating a new main entrance to the church.

The church was built from white concrete blocks, with concrete and steel beams. The plan of the church was originally oblong, with the altar in the centre of the long east wall. To the west were two spaces, of which the centre one could be used as an extension to the church or to the hall in the westernmost space.

The exterior of the complex consist of blocks of various heights, which are the only distinction between the different functions. The church is the tallest element, framed to the south by the two-storey presbytery, to the east by a single-storey block, and to the west by the former hall. The walls are largely blind. The church is lit by clerestory windows and a concealed rooflight in a tower over the sanctuary. The roofs are flat. A former canopied entrance to Harrow Road has been blocked up, while another (whose steps remain) is permanently boarded shut.

The glazed narthex (the former hall) leads into the nave. The interior of the church is differentiated by ceiling heights. The high nave is flanked by lower aisles. The clerestory windows are higher than the nave ceiling, to which they are connected by fin-like panels. The ceiling light above the sanctuary has a triangular opening, almost like a baldacchino of light. The aisles receive no natural light.

The font at the west, the tabernacle stand in the northeast chapel, the altar and a lectern are all part of a set of sanctuary furnishings made from a pale polished stone. The abstract reredos described by Evinson in the 1990s has been replaced by an icon-style painting of the crucifixion by Stephen Foster. A second lectern and the presidential chair are of timber, also to designs by Foster. At the west end of the north aisle is a statue of the Virgin and Child (by Michael Clarke), made from Clipsham stone. Set into the north wall is a marble war memorial plaque to the boy scouts of the parish. Behind the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a gilded relief panel depicting the Agnus Dei and sheaves of wheat (Stephen Foster). At the east end of the south aisle is the Lady Chapel with statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette. At the west end of the south aisle is a reconciliation room behind an etched glass door depicting the Holy Spirit (designed by Stephen Foster). The carved timber Stations may be those from the old church and are now mounted in front of paler timber panels.

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: Clive Broad

Original Date: 1973

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed