Building » Catford – Holy Cross

Catford – Holy Cross

Sangley Road, Catford, London SE6

A small, plain Romanesque revival church by F.W. Tasker, very similar to his slightly earlier church of St Gertrude at South Bermondsey, and one of many churches built in the diocese in the early twentieth century under the patronage of the Catholic convert Miss Frances Ellis. Furnishings of note include a number of statues by Mayer of Munich. The church lies on the edge of, and makes a positive contribution to, the Culverley Green Conservation Area.

The church is one of the so-called ‘Ellis boxes’, small, simple churches built in the early 1900s under the financial patronage of Miss Frances Ellis (1846–1930), an heiress who converted to Catholicism in 1901. The foundation stone was laid in 1903 and the church was completed in the following year. Described by The Tablet as a ‘plain and unpretentious structure’, it was opened by Bishop Amigo on 14 September 1904. The architect was Francis William Tasker. The parish was founded from Lewisham and continued to be served from there until the first parish priest, Rev. Edward Escarguel, was installed at Catford on 7 January 1905.

Initially, the church was bare, apart from an altar, and furnishings were donated piecemeal over the following years. They included a pulpit (since removed) of 1905, carved by J. Whiting in the Early English style from Farleigh Down stone. In 1924, the east end was extended to form a new sanctuary, a sacristy was added and a loft with an organ was installed. In the 1930s, major roof repairs were undertaken and the Lady Chapel was controversially painted blue and gold. During the Second World War, the church suffered some damage which was temporarily repaired, while the then parish priest had all the statues repainted at the same time. After the war, a proper campaign of repair and restoration followed, which included the repointing of the brickwork and the removal of some shrines which were too heavy for the walls. In 1949, plans for a new porch replacing a smaller one were prepared, which was complete in 1950. The cost was £1,100, which included work to the front approach.

The church was finally consecrated on 6 July 1960. In the three years leading up to this occasion, alterations were made to the interior and the sanctuary was reordered under the direction of the architect F. G. Broadbent. A new high altar of Nabresina stone executed by Fennings was installed, together with a canopy and reredos by Jacksons. In 1991, a major refurbishing and reordering of the sanctuary took place which probably included the removal of the canopy and high altar. For the parish anniversary in 2004, the chapels were refurbished.

In 1975, the adjacent school was opened and in 2002 the parish was able to open its parish community centre, Hartley Hall (designed by David Haswell), made possible by a bequest by parishioner Mary Hartley.

Over the years, the interior has seen many changes, such as the insertion of a rose window at the west (which originally was a plain circular window with mullions and transoms), stained glass, wall paintings at the north and south, and several shrines and statues.


The church is built in stock brick with Portland stone window lintels and slate roofs, with a porch of 1949-1950 of Fletton brick with stone detailing. Originally, the plan form was a  Greek  cross,  whose (liturgical)  east  arm  was  extended  in 1924.  Low chapels are situated in the re-entrant angles. The west front is relatively plain with a simple cornice in brick and a large rose window with stone tracery.

The interior has been altered over the years and few original furnishings remain. The main space is ceiled with a groin vault of timber. It has plain pilasters and a continuous cornice which only disappears at the west end. The wooden pews are modern. The corner chapels are as follows: Sacred Heart Chapel in the northeast corner (1959), Lady Chapel (1905) in the southeast corner and Lourdes Shrine (1928) in the southwest corner. (The corresponding space in the northwest corner contains a notice board and a door.) The Sacred Heart Shrine contains a sculpture by Mayer. The top-lit Lady Chapel contains a Madonna and Child also by Mayer, as well as an altar of stone and rouge royal marble by J. Whiting. The south side of the Lady Chapel has three arches, two of which feature Marian initials, and the centre one holds a tablet with the names of past parish priests.

The north and south walls of the nave feature aedicule shrines with sculptures of St Agnes and St Patrick by Mayer. The Stations of the Cross are framed canvases positioned along the outer walls. Above the cornice on the north and south walls are large murals of the Adoration (north side) and the Last Supper (south side). The frieze below the cornice is painted white and red, leaving only a small area of a previous scheme exposed: on the east side of the re-entrant angle above the Sacred Heart Chapel is the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XV (1914–1922).

Above the chancel arch is a rood screen with carved figures flanking the crucifix. The sanctuary is of three bays, with a kingpost roof on large corbels. The organ is on the north  side, lit by windows opposite. On the east side is a circular  stained-glass window of four angels adoring the Sacrament. Of the sanctuary arrangements for the consecration only the crucifix remains. On either side, shallow projections with blind arches have been added. The marble sanctuary furniture is all modern.

Heritage Details

Architect: Francis William Tasker

Original Date: 1903

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed