Chiswick High Road, London W4
A fine, landmark building on Chiswick High Road, by a well-known and significant Catholic architect, John Kelly. The bell tower was built later, to an amended design by Giles Gilbert Scott. The church has a very good interior, well-proportioned and retaining many original fittings. It makes a prominent and positive contribution to the Turnham Green conservation area.
The present church is on the site of an earlier one built in 1864 for a small local congregation. Its site was enlarged by land donated by the Duke of Devonshire, (whose residence was at Chiswick House was nearby) in response to the need for a larger building to serve the growing Catholic community. It was opened in 1886 by Cardinal Manning. The northeast tower was added in 1930 from designs by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and was a First World War memorial. Damage was sustained in the Second World War and the church was repaired and internally remodelled by D. Plaskett Marshall in 1953.
The church is oriented south, so all directions given in this description are liturgical.
The church is a striking red brick building consisting of a northeast tower, nave, sanctuary, north and south aisles, St Edward’s Chapel north of the sanctuary, Lady Chapel (south), the former Blessed Sacrament Chapel (south of the latter, now a meeting room), porch and repository (north). For full details about the building and its fittings and furnishings, reference should be made to the very detailed list entry below.
Roman Catholic church in the Italian Renaissance style. John Kelly of Kelly & Birchall, architect. Opened in 1886.
MATERIALS: Built of very fine quality dark red brickwork in English bond and terracotta including extensive use of moulded and rubbed brick. The later tower is in a quite different shade – brown. The main roof is of pantiles incorporating ventilators; the aisle roofs are invisible behind cornice parapet.
PLAN: on a corner site and fronting Chiswick High Road; thus it is orientated N/S, at right angles to traditional liturgical orientation (the latter will be used in description). Basilica plan, rectangular, no apse but with side wall stepped ; comprising aisled nave and chancel with terminating altars, vestibules at liturgical W and N, NE bell-tower, former sacristy to the SE.
EXTERIOR: All elevations are ornamented with Renaissance detail in moulded and rubbed brick and terracotta, especially rich to W, plainer at E. A notable feature is the blind lower window range, clearly designed as such, with moulded surrounds and the panels of a lighter hue with very fine pale joints. All windows are rectangular with finely moulded surrounds (cornices to narrow windows); the glazing is plain rectangular quarries. Fine W front of 2 storeys has a symmetrical continuous 5-bay lower storey entrance frontage: three bays to the nave breaking forward very slightly (narrower bays flanking doorway) and one to each aisle. Each bay has one blind window and the bays are articulated by paired shallow pilasters with Corinthian capitals which are joined by a frieze with festoon swags linked by winged cherub-heads; above is a deep plain coved entablature, extending at the same level round the whole exterior. At centre is the main doorway with deep segmental pediment containing terracotta moulded symbols of the papal crown and keys of St Peter, separate from the moulded architrave: the double panelled doors are set back. Above is the 3-bay W front to the nave clerestory with similar ornament; the central window is flanked by narrow empty round-arched niches of matching depths, with brackets, pilasters, cornices. Similar upper entablature/cornice with shallow pediment incorporating an oculus. Moulded plinth. N side has 7 clerestory bays separated by single pilasters, the deep coved eaves entablature/cornice continuous with front. The N aisle elevation is stepped forward in 4 sections, allowing for an internal altar recess, a side entrance and altar and the base of the bell-tower. E elevation is quite plain except for the two deep cornices and an oculus in pediment. S elevation is similar to N with a narrower SW doorway: moulded surround, cornice, set back double panelled doors, but at E has a small separately roofed single storey attached chapel, the former sacristy, entered externally from passage along S side and internally from S aisle. The 3-storey bell-tower has a deep plinth with cornice incorporated into that of the main building, a tall shaft with corner pilasters, slit staircase lights, cross-framed windows towards top and an open belfry with wide round-headed arches to each face, pyramidal roof. At base is a pedimented plaque with inscription in English and Latin: ‘The Catholic pastors and people of Chiswick laboured to build this tower to the glory of God and in honourable memory of all brave and faithful men who died for the country during the Great War especially those who were members of this parish or boys in its schools.’
INTERIOR: Plastered, painted – contrasting whites for the walls, red for the ceiling – and with gilded or gold painted ornament. Nave and chancel are a single unit, with the same coffered ceiling, separated by a high round arch, its keystone at ceiling level and rising from the elaborate entablature/cornice which separates the storeys. Supporting the entablature/cornice along its full lateral length are the Corinthian columns of the side aisles (4 columns each side to nave, 2 bays to chancel), antae to the chancel arch and clustered pilasters at E end, all with gilded capitals, panelled soffits. In the chancel the entablature has a narrow shallow-relief frieze with neo-classical motifs. The E end has a shallow central projecting bay forming a reredos with a tall marble round-arched panel breaking through the cornice with an open segmental pediment hood, a rather unusual arrangement: flanking gilded panels. The chancel has coloured marble furnishings: altar, plinth below reredos, pulpit, low altar rail with red marble vase balusters; black and white marble floor. The clerestory windows are separated by pilasters with gilded Corinthian capitals which extend round the windowless E end. The Chancel is separated from the E aisles by wooden screens with big square fluted columns with Corinthian capitals, continuous cornice and panelled plinth. Each aisle terminates in an altar of coloured marble with wooden reredos, relatively plain. Painted statues flank chancel arch. The bays of the windowless aisle walls are defined by pilasters. W gallery with organ, C20 case in classical style. Good quality woodwork comprising panelled gallery front incorporating clock, 4 tapered wooden columns, central panelled double entrance door and a series of panelled confessionals along W wall. Pew backs also are panelled. Panelled pulpit at N. Parquet floor to nave and aisles. Pendant lighting from iron coronae. Marble altar of coloured marble in recess on N side, possibly that referred to in account of 1926 (see below). Along the side walls is a set of framed copies of 14 paintings of the Stations of the Cross, from C16 originals in Antwerp, their installation pre-dating the C20 refurbishment. The former sacristy has been converted to a chapel. Some changes have taken place since 1926: the organ was formerly adjacent to chancel; the chancel formerly had a domed tabernacle with canopy; the wooden chancel screens incorporated decorative ironwork; a copy of a Murillo painting formed the reredos with another painted altarpiece to side altar, and the coffered ceiling was paler in hue. Most of the existing furnishings, except perhaps the side altar, seem to date from later C20.
HISTORY: The present church is on the site of an earlier church built 1864 for a small local congregation. Its site was enlarged by land donated by Duke of Devonshire, whose residence of Chiswick House was nearby, in response to the need for a larger building to serve the growing Catholic community. The present church opened in 1886 by Cardinal Manning and reflects the revived interest in the Roman outward forms of Catholicism. The original exterior design – illustrated in The Architect of 1887 -is somewhat more elaborate than that constructed, with figurative sculpture shown in the niches and pediments and some enrichment to the blind window panels, and a tall bell-tower with cupola at NE. The intention was to add these features as funds allowed. Messrs Priestly and Gurney of Hammersmith were the contractors for the works. The bricks were supplied by Messrs Lawrence of Bracknell and the rubbed brick capitals were carved by Joseph Cribb. Following the First World War the campanile was built to an amended design by Sir Giles G. Scott in 1930 to commemorate parishioners killed in the First World War. A Second World War air-raid of 1944 caused substantial damage: the E wall (liturgical N) took the full force of the explosion and needed substantial repair. The interior also was damaged and repaired and remodelled in 1953 by D. Plaskett Marshall. The original altar was the gift of the Oratorian Fathers of South Kensington. A photograph of 1928 shows the building closely surrounded by swept iron railings and an elaborate iron gate to the main entrance; current railings are unadorned replacements. John Kelly, the church architect, was born in Scarborough and had at one time a practice in Leeds; he also worked with G.E. Street and J.D. Sedding and later practised in London. He built a number of Roman Catholic churches including St Patrick’s Soho Square, St Agatha’s Kings Road and was one of the unsuccessful competitors for the Brompton Oratory. The presbytery adjacent, separately listed, is a pair of Georgian houses acquired in 1931.
References: Groarki M.D., Parish History, Our Lady of Grace and St Edward, 1966; Pevsner N., Buildings of England, London NW, 1999, pp 394; Rottman A., London Catholic Churches, 1926 pp 126-129; Wickstone N, ed, Commemorative Brochure, 1980.
National Grid Reference: TQ 20816 78460
Architect: John Kelly of Kelly & Birchall; Giles Gilbert Scott; D. Plaskett Marshall
Original Date: 1886
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II