Camberwell New Road, Camberwell, London SE5
A post-war church brick church, in its character bearing some resemblance to the Art Deco churches of Cachemaille-Day and the industrial buildings of Giles Gilbert Scott. The striking staggered plan form was driven by a functional need to reduce noise from the adjacent railway line. The church is little altered and retains a complete set of internal furnishings of high quality. It replaced a nineteenth-century church destroyed in 1941 by enemy action. The church lies within the Camberwell New Road Conservation Area, but makes a relatively modest contribution to the local scene, being set well back from the main road and bounded on one side by the high viaduct of a railway line.
A Camberwell mission was established in 1860 and Mass said at various locations until the present site by the railway line was acquired. The first church here was opened in 1872 by Bishop Dannell; it lay parallel to the railway and was in the early Gothic style, from designs by C.A. Buckler. In 1891 it was enlarged at the west end by F. A. Walters (Walters’ drawings are deposited in the RIBA Drawings Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, file no. PA 1167/3, 1-10).
The Buckler/Walters church was destroyed by enemy action on 8-9 October 1941. It was rebuilt in 1952-53 in a completely different style, and was turned around by 90 degrees with its bluff rear wall towards the railway line, to minimise noise from that source. The architect was D. Plaskett Marshall.
The church was built in 1952-53 from designs by D. Plaskett Marshall. It is built of red brick with sparing use of Portland stone on parapet copings etc, and is a stripped moderne design of industrial character, more 1930s in feel than 1950s. The previous church had lain parallel with a high railway viaduct and bridge; in order to reduce noise from the railway, the new church was turned around 90 degrees, with a blank (ritual) west and a staggered plan that reduces in height and width towards the sanctuary; an unusual plan produced in response to site conditions.
As stated, the west wall is plain; the brickwork is relieved only by full height buttress- fins, somewhat in the manner of Cachemaille-Day. The main entrance is on the north side under a double height projecting porch with three doors and corresponding large windows above. There is a secondary entrance from Knatchbull Road at the southwest corner, alongside a tall asymmetrically-placed tower of industrial character. The staggered form of the plan is evident in the photo top right; each bay has a large steel framed multi-pane clerestory window.
The entrance doors on the north side lead into a narthex area and on into the main space, which is divided into five compartments running from east to west. The internal walls are faced in bare red brick and the flooring is of flagstones. The roof appears to be of reinforced concrete; the members are painted and the ‘purlins’ lead the eye towards the east end. The staggered bays are divided by piers which taper inwards and rise up to canted brick divisions in the roof space. At the lower level, there are four square piers to each bay, separating the main spaces from the side aisles and chapels, each clad in green Irish marble. Above these, the large, steel- framed multi-paned windows contain opaque glass.
The first compartment from the west is the largest, and holds a wide gallery with a boarded timber front housing a large organ by Rushworth & Dreaper, rebuilt in 1962 and refurbished in 1993. Below this is a marble octagonal font, with octagonal timber cover, formerly in the baptistery and now placed centrally under the gallery. Behind this, the seating under the gallery is raked. The original baptistery lies on the north side, by the entrance narthex; it is separated from the western compartment by iron gates and contains three stained glass windows.
Around the nave, Stations of the Cross are placed over the arcades. They are large rectangular pieces, in opus sectile on a gold mosaic background, by Burns Oates. The aisles terminate at the east end with chapels of Our Lady and St Joseph. They also contain shrines to the Sacred Heart, St Anthony and St Teresa of Lisieux. The sanctuary is raised and also has narrow aisles, leading off to the sacristies. It retains its original altar, tabernacle plinth and communion rails, all of green Irish marble. At the east end is a tall, tapering maple reredos, with a large crucifix attached and canopy above.
List description (the church was listed in 2015, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church, built in 1952-8 from designs by D Plaskett Marshall in a moderne style, reminiscent of the inter-war churches of Cachemaille-Day.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Camberwell is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural and planning interest: the church is an intelligent response to an awkward site with interesting massing, and also originality in the handling of the internal arrangement; * Quality of materials and detailing: the external brickwork is of a good quality and the interior, with its sparing use of green Irish marble and monolithic maple reredos contrasting with bare brick walls, is a striking worship space; * Architect: Donald Plaskett Marshall designed several churches in and around London, most of them straightforward, modern, brick-faced designs for suburban congregations; his Camberwell church is more unusual, successfully adapting the vocabulary used by other architects of the interwar period.
History: A mission was established at Camberwell in 1860 and Mass said at various locations until the present site by an elevated railway line was acquired. The first permanent church was opened here in 1872. It lay parallel to the railway and was built to the designs of C A Buckler in the early Gothic style. In 1891 the church was enlarged at the west end by F A Walters (Walters’ drawings are deposited in the RIBA Drawings Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, file no. PA 1167/3, 1-10). The Buckler/Walters church was destroyed by enemy action on 8-9 October 1941. It was rebuilt in 1952-8 on the same site but in a completely different style, and was turned around by 90 degrees with a blind west wall towards the railway line, to minimise noise from that source. The architect was D Plaskett Marshall. The site also includes a presbytery contemporary with the church, a later parish centre and the extensive modern buildings of Sacred Heart School.
Details: The church was built in 1952-8 from designs by D Plaskett Marshall in a moderne style, reminiscent of the inter-war churches of Cachemaille-Day. The church is not oriented correctly but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east. MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond, with sparing use of Portland stone on parapet copings etc. and with flat roofs. PLAN: an unusual staggered plan that reduces in both height and width in four main stages towards the sanctuary from the blind west wall facing the railway.
EXTERIOR: the west wall of the nave is windowless and slightly bowed, the brickwork relieved only by full height buttress-fins and a ribbed brick parapet. On the north side is a double-height projecting porch with three doors and corresponding large windows all under a canopy. On the south side fronting Knatchbull Road is a smaller porch for a secondary entrance, alongside a tall asymmetrically-placed brick tower with plain corner buttresses and brick louvres to the bell stage. The staggered form of the plan is evident in the side elevations which are each of four stepped bays with a large steel-framed multi-pane rectangular clerestory window in each bay. The east end wall is blind.
INTERIOR: the entrance doors on either side lead into spacious lobbies with the stairs to the west gallery. The main nave space is divided into four wide bays running from east to west. The internal walls are of brown facing bricks and the flooring is of concrete flagstones. The staggered bays are divided by brick piers which taper inwards and rise up to canted brick divisions in the roof space. The nave roof appears to be of reinforced concrete with prominent purlins in each bay. The westernmost bay of the nave holds a wide organ gallery with a boarded front. In the three eastern bays there are four square piers to each bay at lower level, (later) clad in green Connemara marble and separating the main spaces from side aisles and chapels. The aisles terminate at the east end with chapels of Our Lady and St Joseph. They also contain shrines to the Sacred Heart, St Anthony and St Teresa of Lisieux. The sanctuary is raised and also has narrow aisles, leading off to the sacristies. Its altar, ambo and tabernacle plinth (all post-Vatican II changes) and communion rails are of green Connemara marble, the communion rails are set in Belgian black marble. The limestone and granite sanctuary floor was installed in 2004. At the east end is the original tall, tapering maple reredos, set in a shallow niche, with a large crucifix attached and canopy above. The original baptistery lies on the north side, by the entrance narthex; it is separated from the western compartment by iron gates. The octagonal marble font, with its timber cover was moved (along with its stained glass windows depicting the Baptism of Christ, now backlit) to a central position at the west end in the 1990s. Other fittings include the Stations of the Cross placed above the side aisles. These are large rectangular pieces, in opus sectile on a gold mosaic background, by Burns Oates. The large, steel-framed multi-paned windows contain opaque plain glass unusually set in copper rather than lead subdivisions. The organ is by Rushworth & Dreaper, rebuilt in 1962 and refurbished in 1993. The timber bench seating in the church is original.
Burke, C.: History of the Camberwell Catholic Mission 1860-1910, 1910 Catholic Building Review, Southern edition, 1959, pp 88-91 Cherry, B. and Pevsner, N.: The Buildings of England, London 2: South, Penguin, 1983 Evinson, D.: Catholic Churches of London, Sheffield Academic Press, 1998, 206-7 Kelly, BW, Historical Notes on English Catholic Missions, 1907, p. 114 Architectural History Practice. Taking Stock (Diocese of Southwark) Sacred Heart Camberwell, September 2011 Catholic Herald, 25 April 1952; 10 April 1953; 12 December 1958 Institute of Registered Architects Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, Summer 1956, 15, 17; vol. 14, no. 2, Summer 1959, 29–36
Architect: D. Plaskett Marshall
Original Date: 1952
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II