Hoxton - St Monica's Priory

Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London N1

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An economically-built but distinctively-designed mission church and priory, by E. W. Pugin for the Augustinians. Pugin also built a school (demolished). The interior has an unusual timber arcade and a number of high quality historic furnishings, including the high altar and reredos of 1875 by Mayer of Munich. The buildings make a notable contribution to Hoxton Square, in the South Shoreditch Conservation Area. Recent investigations have uncovered painted polychromy in the sanctuary.

The area was served from the Kingsland mission until two Irish Augustinians arrived in August 1864, following an invitation from Cardinal Wiseman. Charles Walker, a Catholic businessman had advanced £1,609 to buy 18 Hoxton Square as a temporary priory with a makeshift chapel on the first floor.

Hoxton Square was laid out in the seventeenth century as a fashionable residential square. However, by the nineteenth century, this was a poor area with many Irish workers. The Shoreditch furniture trade increasingly turned houses into workshops and housing became scarce and overcrowded.

The foundation stone for the church was laid in the garden of 18 Hoxton Square on 20 September 1864 by the Vicar General, Dr Edward Hearn. By late March 1865, the sanctuary and five nave bays were sufficiently complete to hold a concert. The incomplete church was opened on 4 May 1865 by Bishop Grant of Southwark, with a sermon preached by Monsignor Manning. No. 17 Hoxton Square was purchased as a temporary priory while no. 18 was demolished and the church extended westwards over its site. The completed church was opened on St Monica’s Day 1866. E. W. Pugin was the architect; he had previously been commissioned by the Irish Augustinians to build the church of SS Augustine and John in Dublin (1862-75/92-5). The builder was Mr Oxborn of Clapton. According to Evinson, here was the first use in a Catholic church of passage aisles.

Subsequently, 19 Hoxton Square was bought and demolished for the new priory by E. W. Pugin (not completed until after 1870). Once this was habitable, no. 17 was demolished for a new school, also designed by E. W. Pugin (opened 1870). By 1870, the cost of the demolitions and construction of the three buildings cost about £13,376. In 1879, 16 Hoxton Square was bought and the site used to expand the school.

In 1875, the timber altar and reredos by Mayer & Co of Munich were installed. In 1880, John Young built a Lady Chapel which was blessed by Cardinal Manning in December. In 1907, E. W. Pugin’s school building was demolished and replaced by a new building which was opened on 4 July 1908 by Archbishop Bourne.

The school was sold by the Augustinians in the 1970s as it had been replaced by post-war buildings at the corner of Mundy Street and Hoxton Street. The former school was converted to a fitness studio and has now a restaurant on the ground floor with flats above. In 2011, Henley Halebrown Rorrison architects added a modern penthouse. The former boxing club and hall to the east of the priory was sold in 2004.

The west front of the church was cleaned, repaired and conserved in 2007-8.

The church and priory are owned by the Augustinians, while the primary school is owned by the Diocese.

The church faces north. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

The church is briefly described in the list entry (see below). There are only a few corrections and additions:

  • The dates of the      church’s construction are 1864-6, not 1865-6.
  • Altar and reredos  are not by E. W. Pugin but by Mayer & Co of Munich (installed 1875;  see photo top right). The reredos has canopies over the central monstrance   throne and statues of Saints Peter and Paul. Between them are paintings of  the Last Supper and St John giving Holy Communion to the Virgin Mary. Below them are small paintings of the symbols of the four Evangelists in  quatrefoils. The altar frontal has an arcade with the Agnus Dei and four      Old Testament figures. After the Second Vatican Council, the altar was  moved forward.
  • The bell in the  gable bell cote is by Murphy of Dublin (1865).
  • Both the list description and Pevsner ascribe the stained glass windows to M. E. Aldrich   Rope (1924). However, it appears they were replaced in 1951, possibly  after war damage. Robert Eberhard dates the east window and the small      panels with ecclesiastical symbols in the north and south chancel windows   to 1951 (Goddard & Gibbs), based on the BSMGP Directory of 1955. The   subject matter of the east window as described by Rottmann in c.1926 is      very close to the current window: the Virgin Mary with St Monica and St  Augustine at the centre, surrounded by saints. However, there are    significant alterations in the saints represented, for example St Thomas      More and St John Fisher (both canonised in 1935) are now included but not   on the earlier window.
  • The east window of   the Lady Chapel depicting Our Lady Immaculate, the Annunciation and  Visitation has been attributed to Mayer of Munich.
  • A further stained   glass window at the east end of the north aisle depicts the Sacred Heart.  There is decorative glass at the southeast, near the entrance to the Lady      Chapel.
  • Also by Mayer are  the Stations of the Cross, a statue of St Joseph (1880) with a carved  canopy and the Sacred Heart with a carved canopy.
  • Other sculpture includes  a statue of St Anthony (1964 by L. Widmer), St Monica (c.1973 by Mother      Concordia OSB), St Augustine (c.1970s by Mother Concordia OSB), St      Nicholas of Tolentino (1899) and St Rita.
  • The Lady Chapel has  a coloured marble floor, a panelled canted ceiling, and a stone piscina.      The marble altar is supported by marble columns and the frontal has the      BVM monogram in mosaic. The reredos includes a copy of a fresco of the Virgin Mary at the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Genazzano, Italy,      an Augustinian shrine.
  • The south aisle has a memorial tablet to Fr Michael Kelly OSA (1833-1914), who built the      church, priory and school, and other founders of the mission.

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: E. W. Pugin; John Young

Original Date: 1864

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1880

Listed Grade: Grade II