Building » Brixton – Our Lady of the Rosary

Brixton – Our Lady of the Rosary

Brixton Road, Brixton, London SW9

A large red brick church in Early English Gothic style, originally built as an Independent chapel and acquired and restored for Catholic use after the Second World War. The three-stage tower is a landmark on the northern approach to Brixton town centre. The interior space is the best feature of the building, with its timber roofs supported on delicate cast iron columns. The removal of the galleries is regrettable,  but the interior remains a fine space, recently embellished by dramatic mural paintings in the apse.

In 1905 St Helen’s church opened in Robsart Street, Brixton. Built probably from designs by F. W. Tasker, this was one of many church building projects in the diocese supported by Miss Frances Ellis. It was a small church in the cheap stock brick Romanesque style favoured by Miss Ellis and adopted by her architects; it was extended with a Lady Chapel by J. O’Hanlon Hughes shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

The church of Our Lady of the Rosary was originally built as the Brixton Independent Church by Myers & Son (Pugin’s builders) in 1870, from designs by Arthur J. Phelps. A foundation stone by the main entrance states that the building was erected by the congregation of Claylands chapel in commemoration of the 23 years ministry of the Revd James Baldwin Brown. The church was heavily damaged during the war and subsequently put on the market. It was acquired by the diocese and repaired and adapted for Catholic use by Alleyn & Mansel. The galleries in the nave aisles were removed (apart from their structural framework) and the church hall on the south side demolished and replaced with a new hall and vestry. Alterations were also made to the forecourt area in front of the church, including the addition of a baptistery at the west end. The restored church was opened on 8 December 1953. The old church in Robsart Street became an annexe to Corpus Christi primary school.

In 1960 the former clergy house behind the church was demolished and replaced with a large new presbytery, built from designs by Justin Alleyn at a cost of about £18,000.

The church has recently (2010) been considerably embellished by mural paintings by Mauritzia Lees in the apse, in Byzantine style (information from parish architect).


The church is orientated east-west, with the altar at the west end, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

A large church in Early English Gothic style, built in 1870 as the Brixton Independent Church, from designs by A. J. Phelps (builders Myers & Son). It is built of red brick with dark blue vitrified headers in the door and window arches, lending a banded effect, stone dressings and slate roofs. On plan it consists of an aisled nave, transepts and short polygonal chancel with single storey side additions. The main entrance has a pointed arched doorway flanked by attached stone shafts with capitals. Above this are triple west windows, the central one higher, separated by similar stone shafts with capitals. At the southwest corner there is a three-stage tower of rectangular plan with stepped buttresses and topped by an embattled parapet (replacing an original brick spire). The windows throughout are lancets, paired in the lower level of the aisles, triple in the upper (former galleried) level, triple in the end walls of the transepts, and one on each of the canted sides of the apse (the centre one blocked).

The interior is tall, wide and spacious. There was originally a gallery around three sides carried on the slender clustered cast iron columns of the four-bay nave arcade, but those in the aisles were removed at the time of the post-war restoration. The west gallery remains, housing an organ in front of the west window. The arches of the nave arcades are of timber, their spandrels pierced with open sexfoils. They rise up to a timber canted barrel vaulted roof. The nave arcade continues past the transepts in the form of a triple arcade. There is a wide chancel arch with half-octagonal responds, and a short apsidal sanctuary lit by long lancet windows.  The canted internal walls of the sanctuary have been lined with plaster and rounded off to accommodate a large and dramatic cycle of wall paintings featuring scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, in Byzantine style (by Mauritzia Lees, completed in 2010). Its centrepiece is a representation of the Coronation of the Virgin, a copy of the mosaic depiction of the same subject at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome. The square altar is placed on a dais in the nave, lined up with the centre arches of the transepts, with the pine bench seating arranged around it. Other furnishings of note include a marble altar in the north transept with wooden tester (probably c1953) and a stained glass window of The Good Shepherd in the cry area in the southwest corner (by W. Aikman, 1928).  The font is of stone, octagonal, carved with waves and cockle shells of St James (of Art Deco character, possibly made at the time of the restoration or maybe brought here from elsewhere). The Stations are painted reliefs in Gothic frames, presumably brought from the church in Robsart Street.

Heritage Details

Architect: A. J. Phelps; Alleyn & Mansel

Original Date: 1870

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed