Moorhouse Road, London W2
Building work started in 1851–52, to a Puginian Gothic design by Thomas Meyer. Work was continued by Henry Clutton when the church was taken over by the newly-formed Oblates of St Charles, whose first Superior, Mgr (later Cardinal Archbishop) Manning, was related to Clutton by marriage. The church was enlarged and furnished over three decades and more by J. F. Bentley, displaying that architect’s stylistic development. The church is flanked by the presbytery of c1870 and by two former school buildings. Although the tower was never completed, the church is an important local landmark.
The mission was started in 1849, with Mass said initially at 4 Sutherland Place. In 1851 work started on the present church, from designs by Thomas Meyer, about whom information is elusive. He is thought to have been a London architect, and also designed the Catholic church at Avon Dassett, Warwickshire. His drawings for the church at Bayswater (figure 1) indicate an assured hand, familiar with principles of Puginian Gothic design. Meyer also designed an earlier school chapel in the same street, probably on the site of the later primary school building north of the current presbytery (figure 2).) The church was initially dedicated to St Helen, in honour of Mrs Helen Hargrave, one of the two sister benefactresses. The foundation stone was laid on 2 December 1851 but work stopped once the building had reached the height of the aisle parapets due to lack of funds.
In 1856, the Oblates of St Charles were founded, with Mgr Henry Manning as their superior, and Cardinal Wiseman placed them at Bayswater. Work on the church resumed under Henry Clutton, who was related to Manning by marriage. The still-incomplete church opened for worship on 2 July 1857.
The house for the Oblate community (now the presbytery) was built in c.1870 (by Clutton or S. J. Nicholl). In 1903, a new altar designed by F.W. Tasker was installed in the St Charles chapel. In 1912, George Powell furnished the Chapel of the Holy Ghost. Two years later, a new high altar by Jones & Willis was installed, followed by a new oak pulpit by Mr Weir in 1923 (since removed). In the 1920s, work was in progress on the unfinished tower and the current top stage was probably added then (figure 3). (The spire envisaged by Meyer was never built.) In 1974, the Oblates left and the parish was handed over to the Archdiocese. In recent years, a glass narthex screen has been installed, the aisle floors repaved and disabled access improved (architect Jane Ferra); a new altar installed (Ormesby of Scarisbrick) and the interior redecorated and refurbished (IFACS), (information from Chris Fanning). The church was consecrated on 4 November 2007.
In 1869 a north aisle with eastern chapel was added from designs by J. F. Bentley, who had been articled to Clutton. (Fr H. A. Rawes, Superior of the Oblate Congregation from 1880, had given Bentley his first independent commission at St Francis, Notting Hill (qv)). This was the start of over three decades of addition and augmentation by Bentley, and is a case study of his stylistic development. The style of the north aisle is thirteenth-century French Gothic. A south aisle with Lady Chapel, added in 1872-74, displays the architect’s growing interest in Early English Gothic. Bentley also added a timber roof over the nave, chancel and aisles, and plastered the painted brick internal walls. In 1887 the north aisle was extended, in late Decorated style. Bentley also added numerous furnishings (including a rood beam, now removed) and stained glass windows.
The former baptistery at the west end of the outer north aisle has railings and gates of 1868 by Bentley. In the spandrel of the two arches is a statue of St John the Baptist.
The former mortuary chapel of the Holy Souls in the base of the tower is now partly a repository and also houses a wheelchair lift.
The split organ on the west gallery is the original organ of 1857 by William Hill & Son.
The north aisle has a marble and alabaster altar dedicated to St Joseph, complete with reredos. It was designed by Bentley in 1874 and the reredos and frontal were painted by Westlake (figure 4).
Between the two north aisles is a sculptural group of St John and the Virgin Mary sculpted by Mr Kirk, the brother of Fr Kirk OSC.
Further east in the outer north aisle is the Sacred Heart altar of marble and alabaster with mosaics of the Virgin Mary flanked by two saints.
At the east end of the outer north aisle is the St Charles Chapel, added by Bentley in 1887. The altar dates from 1903 (F. W. Tasker), with a reredos by Hardman & Powell which includes a painting of St Charles. Set into the north wall is an oak cupboard by Bentley for the chasuble of St Charles.
The chapel at the east end of the inner north aisle was originally the Chapel of St Charles and in 1887 became the Chapel of the Holy Ghost. The mosaic floor, the metal side screens and the alabaster altar with marble panels date from 1912 (George Powell). A statue of the Virgin Mary stands on the altar.
A square alabaster and marble font stands just west of the former Chapel of the Holy Ghost, of the same design as the forward altar and lectern and presumably from the same reordering scheme.
A crucifix hangs in front of the chancel arch. The sanctuary has wrought-iron communion rails, and screens to the side chapels. The forward altar and the lectern have alabaster tracery and marble columns like the font. The high altar (1914, Jones & Willis) has an alabaster reredos with depictions of the Presentation and the Finding in the Temple flanking the monstrance throne and outer panels of Saints Ambrose and Charles. The frontal depicts the Sacrifice of Melchisedech and the Supper at Emmaus.
The inner southeast chapel is dedicated to Saints Helen and Mary Magdalen (by Bentley, 1876). It has a plain altar below a recessed stone panel painted with the saints’ initials which formerly held a relic aumbry by Bentley with painted doors by Westlake. Recesses on either side were apparently designed for similar aumbries but later filled with oak and glass cupboards from St Charles College. Above the reredos is a strong moulding with four angels holding the Instruments of the Passion. The two windows above are framed by another moulding with two angels and a central crucifixion. There are two statues of St Michael and St Theresa on stone pedestals.
The Lady Chapel in the outer south aisle was furnished by Bentley in 1872–74 (photo bottom right). This included a wrought-iron grille (1876) to the side, and an altar and reredos of Carrara marble with gilded Marian monograms and fleur-de-lys. It has been restored and refurbished by IFACS, with new stencil work, under the direction of the parish priest Fr Alan Robinson, in collaboration with Chris Fanning of the Diocesan Property Office.
The south wall of the outer south aisle has four built-in confessionals.
There are several statues in the nave and aisles, including Saints Patrick, Joseph, Augustine and Francis.
Apart from the clerestory and the west windows, all windows have stained glass. The six-light east window is by Jones & Willis; seven south aisle windows have been attributed to Lavers, Barraud & Westlake (dated between 1877 and 1880); while three in the north aisle are signed by the firm (1868–70). Confirmed designs by Bentley include two two-light windows with female saints in the Lady Chapel (1871); the three-light Pentecost window in the former Holy Ghost chapel; four windows in the St Charles Chapel (c.1888–89); and a three-light window in the north aisle (1895–6). The easternmost window in the outer north aisle depicting St Vincent de Paul, the Madonna and St John the Evangelist is based on cartoons by John Hungerford Pollen for the Chapel of Studley Royal which were adapted after his death as a memorial window to Pollen (1820–1902) and made by James Powell & Sons.
Architect: Thomas Meyer; Henry Clutton; J. F. Bentley
Original Date: 1851
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II