Polish Church 2 - St Andrew Bobola

Leysfield Road, London W12

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A mid-Victorian Gothic Revival church, originally built for a Presbyterian congregation. On passing to Polish Catholic usage in 1961 it was extended and ‘daringly modernised’ (Cherry), with characteristic fittings of the time. The church makes an important contribution to the local conservation area.

Originally built as St Andrew’s Presbyterian church, from designs by Edmund Woodthorpe, the foundation stone was laid on 30 March 1870. After the Presbyterians moved out, the building lay unused for a long while and its condition deteriorated. It was finally taken over by the Polish Catholic community at a cost of £10,000, repaired, extended and refitted, and reopened for worship on 8 December 1961. The church was re-dedicated to St Andrew Bobola, the seventeenth-century Polish Jesuit martyr.

 

The church is oriented to the west; directions given in this report are liturgical.

 

The church is built of ragstone and its form reflects its Nonconformist origins, there being no separate chancel. The body thus consists of a single, wide, five-bay space under a tall slated roof (probably synthetic slates). The east bay has transept-like gables but these ‘transepts’ do not project beyond the line of the side walls and purely serve to emphasise the east end. At the west end there is a four-stage tower, which formed the original main entrance. The detailing of the building is a loose interpretation of thirteenth-century Gothic with pairs of lancets forming the main windows (but triple in the ‘transepts’). The tower has pairs of lancets in its second stage, two-light Geometrical windows in the third stage, and two-pairs of shafted lancets in each face of the top stage: it terminates in tall corner pinnacles. At the east end is a large oculus window. On the south side is an extension of 1961 which provides a porch leading to an aisle with chapels and a baptistery.

The wide interior is dominated by an impressive, heavily timbered hammerbeam roof, with arch-braces below a scissor truss. Over the ‘crossing’ at the east end, the roof timbers form a quadripartite arrangement. Whitened plaster covers the walls. The new aisle is low and is separated from the nave by square piers formed below the lancet windows. At the west end is a gallery which appears to have been refronted and its supports cased in c.1961 (it houses an organ).

 

Fixtures and fittings. Conversion to Polish Catholic usage brought with it a thoroughgoing refitting in which all the designs are by Klecki. The principal features are:

  • The   arch in the east wall is filled with semi-abstract panels, made of bronzed      cast cement (ciment fondu) depicting the martyrdom of St Andrew      Bobola with angular detail, is very typical of work of c.1960. The      panels are signed T.A. Zielinski and A.P. Klecki, 1961. In front of it is      a large, suspended figure of Christ: the figure is of aluminium on steel      and carries a bronze crown. Either side of the arch are statues of St      Andrew Bobola and St Maximilian Kolbe.
  • Stations   of the Cross. Bronzed cast cement panels signed A.P. Klecki, 1962. The      figures are attenuated and contorted, and are, again, typical of their      time.
  • Stained   glass. Nearly all the windows have bright stained glass with abstract and      semi-abstract designs. North, west to east: 1989, signed J[anina]      Baranowska; 1987, also by Baranowska; 1984, designed by Klecki, made by      Hooker Glass; 1978, unsigned; designed by Klecki, made by H.W. & B.D.      Luxford. South, west to east: not stained; ‘London 1987’; designed by      Klecki, made by the Glass Foundation; ‘London 1986’; Goddard & Gibbs,      n.d.
  • At   the east end of the aisle a beautifully presented display from 1963 behind      plain glass of medals and votive objects surrounding a panel of Our Lady      of Kozielsiej, which is said to have been carved in a concentration camp.
  • The   main wall of the aisle is filled with memorial panels, some of them of      distinction.

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: Edmund Woodthorpe; Alexsander P. Klecki

Original Date: 1870

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1961

Listed Grade: Not listed