Clapham Park Road, Clapham, London SW4
One of the major Victorian churches of south London; a Decorated Gothic ragstone church of about 1850 by William Wardell, with major additions by J. F. Bentley and others. Little describes Wardell’s vaulted two-bay chancel as ‘masterly […] and quite worthy to rank beside Butterfield’s […] chancel at All Saints’ Margaret Street’. Bentley’s Lady Chapel is exquisite in its detailing, and his large north transept respectfully follows the detail of Wardell’s work. By contrast, Bentley’s house for the Redemptorists is a fine example of red brick Arts and Crafts Gothic, and is described by Little as ‘as good as anything he ever did’. Giles Gilbert Scott’s war memorial of 1920 adds to a group of historic buildings which is perhaps the dominant feature in the Clapham Conservation Area.
From 1847 Mass was said in a house in North Street, Clapham Old Town, known as St Anne’s, owned by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary. This had to suffice until the arrival of the Redemptorist Order in Clapham, who arrived in 1848 at the invitation of (Bishop) Wiseman, and who quickly commissioned designs from William Wardell for a spectacular new Decorated Gothic Revival church. The foundation stone was laid on 2 August 1849 and the church was opened by Cardinal Wiseman on 14 May 1851. The church was consecrated on 13 October 1852, its debt having been cleared by a large donation from (Fr) Edmund Douglas, a wealthy convert who had joined the Redemptorist congregation.
The church as we see it today was built in several stages. As designed by Wardell it consisted of an aisled nave of six bays, a square-ended vaulted chancel with side chapels, a northwest tower, broach spire and north porch. In 1886 the Lady Chapel was added on the north side of the north nave aisle, from designs by J. F. Bentley, who lived in the parish. In 1892-5 Bentley added the large double aisled north transept, respectful of Wardell’s detailing, and the new monastery accommodation for the Redemptorists, in a contrasting brick Arts and Crafts Gothic style. After completion of the transept, Bentley enlarged the west gallery to accommodate a new organ by A. Hunter, first used in 1895. The chapel of St Gerard Majella and two adjacent confessionals were added on the south side of the church in 1910, by Bentley’s son Osmond and after further land was obtained, the outer south aisle was added by Bernard Cox in 1928-9. At about the same time the organ was moved to its present location (formerly the chapel of St Alphonsus) and the organ gallery removed. A new chapel incorporating Wardell’s reredos from the former altar to St Alphonsus was built in the tower entrance area (the altar has been reused as the forward altar in the sanctuary). This chapel is now concealed by an oak confessional, by Harrison & Cox of Birmingham. Its windows (and those in the adjacent aisle) were designed by Sister Margaret Rope and date from 1930. Its statue of St Alphonsus, by Mayer, is now located in the south aisle.
The church is fully described in the list entry, below. Some features not mentioned are described above. The church occupies a prominent position in Clapham Park Road, close to the corner with Clapham Common South Side and the High Street. It occupies a large site, with Bentley’s brick Arts and Crafts monastery buildings providing a bluff external face to St Alphonsus Road, and a more intimate elevation towards the open courtyard that separates it from the ragstone counterfoil of the church. The monastery is linked to Bentley’s north transept. Scott’s War Memorial is a prominent feature of this landscaped courtyard.
Church 1849-51 by William Wardell, with fittings by J.F. Bentley from 186p; Lady Chapel, 1883-6 by J. F. Bentley, South (ritual north) Transept, 1892-4 by J.F. Bentley, St Gerard Majella Chapel 1910 by Osmund Bentley, extended as north (ritual south) aisle, 1926 by Bernard Cox. Ragstone with freestone dressings, slate roofs. Nave, sanctuary, double north aisle, south aisle S.E. tower, south transept, Lady Chapel. Church is aligned east- west with ritual east end to west. South east tower in three stages with broached steeple, attached to south aisle. Tall angle buttresses with dressed stone offsets. South entrance under canopy with crocketted finials, bearing panel with figure of Christ, and leading to rib-vaulted porch, single lights to stair above. On each face, 2-light ringing chamber openings, small belfry lights under plain canopy, similar smaller light above. Tip of spire repaired. South face, two bay paired clerestorey lights, above three bay Lady Chapel. Three bay south (ritual north) transept, with two four-light south windows. East (ritual west) front: tall narrow buttressed nave. Central entrance under cusped ogee arch, above, canopied porch with crocketted finials and seated figure in niche. Gable end cross. North and south aisles, each with single three- light window, extended to north under flat roof. To south cusped mouchette tracery, to north cusped intersecting tracery, matching northernmost window in two bay extension to north aisle. Canopies containing sculpted figures to left and right. North and west faces not visible.
Interior: six-bay arcade of quatrefoil piers, figure stops to outer order of arch mouldings. Similar chancel arch. Paired clerestorey lights under moulded arches with figure stops, continuous moulded band below. Trussed nave and aisle roofs on stone figure corbels. Carved spandrels. Chancel roof tierceron vaulted with foliate bosses. Six-light (ritual) east window with curvilinear cusped intersecting tracery. Four- bay sedilia under rich ogee arcade. Reredos in nine panels under crocketted canopies. Gilded table on annulated legs. Against chancel arch, to right pulpit, with tester; to left, font under niche bearing figure of Our Lady. Painting over chancel arch, Last Judgement, a copy, 1926, by J. Linthout of that by J. Settegast of Koblenz, 1854. South (ritual north) transept, 1892-3 by J.F. Bentley built to link church to newly built monastery. Four -bay arcade. Iron grille with foliate upper panels and pierced cresting. Small chapel with altar with carved and gilded reredos, carrying figure of Christ under canopy, flanking carved scenes; vaulted roof, the ribs picked out, frieze of crowned angels. Two -light window to left. Former baptistery at south end, also behind fine iron screen. Carved stone south doorway with flamboyant finial. Pair of panelled oak doors with upper leaded lights under ogee heads. Pair of similar doors to monastery. Onion shaped pierced gilded metal light fittings (Bentley’s light fittings for the nave said to be stored at the church.) Stained glass also by J.F. Bentley. Lady Chapel, 1883-6, by J.F. Bentley, windows repaired after war damage by Veronica Whall. Elaborate gilded wrought iron grille. Every surface richly ornamented: painted or stencilled walls ceilings and windows. Marble altar, with painted panel below, and richly gilded and painted reredos. Tiled floor. Silver hanging lamp. North (ritual south) aisle. Former chapel, now organ chamber. Pair of panelled oak doors under single flat moulded stone hood. Chapel of St Gerard Majella, 1910 by Osmund Bentley: rib vaulted ceiling with foliate bosses. Tiled floor individual tiles inscribed G and M. Reredos with tall central panel and figures beneath canopy, flanking angels. Four-light window depicting life of St Gerard Majella. Aisle extension, 1926 by Bernard Cox: heavy bossed ceiling with angel corbels.
Cherry and Pevsner, Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1983, p.381-2 J.F. Bentley, The Victorian Society and Westminster Cathedral, catalogue of an exhibition of the works of J.F. Bentley, 1976.
Listing NGR: TQ2949075270
Late C19 by Bentley in Arts and Crafts Gothic style. L-shaped building with shorter arm linked to Church of St Mary, longer arm along south side of courtyard and fronting on to St Alphonsus Road with a western extension. Courtyard front of 3 storeys in red brick with stone dressings. High pitched slated roof with hipped, gabled dormers. At south corner a battered bell turret with low cupola. Second floor elliptical arcading divided by lesenes on corbels. First floor windows in pointed arches with feet. Paired ground floor windows with flattened ogee heads under pointed relieving arches with bands of brick and stone in tympana. Large 4-centred entrance arch with stone hoodmould. Similar design to short arm but with first and second floors reversed and ground floor recessed behind Tudor arched cloister. Slightly concave outer front varied and irregular. Eastern section of 5 narrow bays with broad dividing upper buttresses and corbelled arcading below eaves; then higher 4 and 3 bay sections; and a western 2-storey 2-bay end. Fenestration varied though using similar designs to courtyard front. Two large windows in third section suggest a chapel.
Listing NGR: TQ2948875230
War memorial. 1919-20 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Limestone. Tall cross with short arms, bearing figure of Christ beneath pierced canopy. Set on plinth with offset base, with chamfered parapet extending to each side. Face of parapet inscribed but very worn.
Cherry and Pevsner, Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1983, p. 382
Listing NGR: TQ2950875258
Architect: W. Wardell; J. F. Bentley; Osmond Bentley; Bernard Cox
Original Date: 1849
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II*