Forest Gate - St Anthony of Padua

St Antony’s Road, Forest Gate, London E7

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A large and handsome church of the 1880s by the Pugin firm, forming part of a former Franciscan Friary complex.  The interior is somewhat less richly fitted than it was before the re-ordering of the later 1960s but is still an impressive architectural space.

A  Mass  centre  was  opened  by  Franciscans  from  Stratford  in  1873-74  with  a temporary chapel. A long two-storey range of Friary buildings by Pugin & Pugin was begun in 1884, extended in 1887 and again in 1908.  The parish was served by the Franciscan Friars Minor until 2001 when they were replaced by diocesan clergy. The north and west ranges of the former friary have now been converted to serve as sheltered housing for the elderly.  The western parts of the present church were built in 1887 and the church was completed in April 1891, apart from a projected northeast tower. The builder was Messrs. James Morter of Stratford and the Clerk of Works Brother Patrick Dalton OFM (who also designed and built the baptistery). The cost of the church was just over £10,000, of which £2,000 was raised by subscription and the remainder through benefactions from Countess Tasker and others. R. W. Boulton of Cheltenham made the pulpit and several altars from P. P. Pugin’s designs, but only the St Antony and Sacred Heart altars remain.

There was some minor bomb damage in 1942 but the church was restored in 1950. There was a liturgical re-ordering in 1967-68 by Campling & Iliffe (cost £35,000), when the original canopied high altar and reredos were removed, and a major renovation in the early 1990s.

This  is  a  large  church  (222  ft  long  x  76  ft  wide)  in  an  austere  Early  English Geometrical Gothic. The walls are faced with buff stock brick with Portland stone dressings and black brick trim, the roofs are covered with Welsh slate.  The plan of the church comprises a tall nave with west porch, north and south aisles, south outer aisle, south west baptistery, south east apsidal-ended Lady Chapel and chancel. The west gable wall is filled by a large six-light pointed window with elaborate tracery. Below the window is a lean-to narthex with a tall central gabled porch.  The nave is eight bays long with a tall clerestory with uncusped three-light windows, shorter three-light windows in the lean-to inner aisles and blind lancet openings in the flat- roofed outer south aisle which contains the confessionals. The aisled chancel is three bays long, with two-light traceried windows in the clerestory.  On the south side of the chancel is the apsidal-ended Lady Chapel. Attached to the east end of the chancel is the former retrochoir (now converted to serve as a parish centre, with an inserted mezzanine floor).

Internally, the tall nave has a western organ gallery and seven-bay north and south arcades with moulded pointed  arches on octagonal capitals  with cylindrical Bath stone  columns with  moulded  bases.  The  floor  was  originally  parquet but  is  now mostly composite (imitation marble). The steep-pitched open timber roof has cross- braced timber principals brought down onto timber wall-posts between the clerestory windows. The aisles have lean-to timber roofs. The north aisle has blind segment- headed recesses in each bay with triple quatrefoil windows above.  In the south aisle the segment-headed openings lead to a passage serving the confessionals. At the west end of this aisle is the original baptistery.

The chancel arch has clustered shafts. On each side of the chancel are three bay arcades, the arches narrower than those of the nave and with the two eastern arches filled in. In the east wall is a blind pointed arch flanked by lower segment-headed openings to the former retrochoir. Above is a large rose window filled with stained glass. On the south side of the choir is a side chapel with the Lady Chapel beyond.

The fittings include much good stained glass by the Hardman firm and others including the east rose window, five windows in the south aisle (1902-03) depicting the Passion of Christ and the south aisle west window (1933). The north aisle has nine  quatrefoils  of  Franciscan  saints  flanked  by  angels,  installed  in  1922  as  a memorial to the dead of the First World War. The Portland stone altar dates from the1960s. The Lady altar by Boulton survives, although repositioned from the originalLady Chapel (now Blessed Sacrament Chapel). The oak nave benches are original. Against the northwest wall is a carved oak Crucifixion erected in memory of victimsof the 1918-19 influenza epidemic. The organ is by H. S. Vincent & Co. of Sunderland,installed in 1909 and rebuilt with the console moved to its present location at the front of the gallery in about 1959. It was renovated by Bishop & Son in 2005.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Pugin and Pugin

Original Date: 1884

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II