Canning town - St Margaret's Chapel

Bethell Avenue, Canning Town, London E16

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An ambitious design of the inter-war years, built as a convent chapel and combining arts and crafts, basilican and Lombard Romanesque elements.  The  architect  was  W.  C.  Mangan,  a  prolific  designer  of Catholic churches. The exterior is well-detailed but unremarkable, while the interior is notable for the quality and richness of its marble finishes.

The Convent was founded in 1897 by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and substantial buildings were erected in 1902 and 1909.  A large chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was added in 1929-31, from designs by W. C. Mangan. A screen formerly divided the nuns’ choir from the public seating in the nave.

The convent was damaged in 1941, rebuilt 1946-55, but demolished in 2004, apart from Mangan’s chapel. A new and smaller convent and care home has recently been erected to the designs of Gould & Co. chartered surveyors. The remainder of the large site is currently (2011) being redeveloped with new housing.

The chapel is designed in a late Arts and Crafts version of the Lombard Romanesque style. The external walls are faced with red brick laid in Flemish bond with roof coverings of Roman tiles. The building has a basilican plan, with a nave, narrow passage aisles, transepts and apsidal sanctuary. Attached to the north aisle is one range of a former cloister passage which originally connected to the convent. The west gable wall has a single round-headed window and blind arcading at the wall- head.  The south west angle is canted and has the main entrance door under a round arch with mosaic decoration in the tympanum by Gabriel Pippett. The side elevations have semi-circular lunettes in the clerestory and alternating blind and glazed round- headed windows in the south aisle. Transepts with a single tall window and much blind arcading project slightly beyond the line of the aisles. East of the transepts is a short sanctuary with an apsidal end and semi-circular clerestory windows.

The interior is a handsome space.   Beyond the entrance vestibule with its enclosed gallery above are tall four-bay arcades of round-headed arches on marble-veneered columns with Corinthian capitals.  Above the arcades is a heavy stone cornice with a barrel-vaulted ceiling with lucarnes. The eastern arches rest on demi-columns set against the piers of the crossing which are pierced with narrow arches. The crossing itself has a simple cross-vault.  The sanctuary is richly finished, with a marble floor, ornamental marble-faced walls up to the cornice and a barrel roof with ribs picked out in gilding. The decoration was carried out by the Art Marbles, Stone & Mosaic Co. (Pevsner). The original high altar and reredos are still in place and are equally rich. There is a modern forward altar of white marble. The sanctuary is flanked by side chapels which also have marble decoration and include a free-standing altar brought here in 1996-97 from the Convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, The Boltons, Kensington SW10. The windows have clear glazing with coloured borders. Apart from the high altar and reredos, the fittings include the original benches.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: W. C. Mangan

Original Date: 1929

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed