Building » Clerkenwell – St Peter and St Paul

Clerkenwell – St Peter and St Paul

Amwell Street, Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, London EC1

An Italianate former Nonconformist church, built for the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. Acquired just over ten years after its completion, it may be the earliest example of a Protestant church taken over for use by the Roman Catholic Church. The church retains its internal gallery, but has few furnishings of particular note. Externally, its frontage gives straight onto the pavement and is flanked by contemporary terraced houses (including the presbytery), making a handsome contribution to the conservation area.

The mission was founded in 1842 when Fr John Hearn founded a school from Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Bishop Griffiths appointed two Spanish priests to the new mission who used a room in a disused workhouse in Saffron Hill as chapel.

The present church was built in 1835 for the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. The leasehold of the building was bought from the Court of Chancery in 1847 for £2,300. Half of the money was put up by Bishop Griffiths. This was an early example, perhaps the first, of a Protestant church being converted for Roman Catholic use. The first Mass was said on 13 June 1847, when the Right Reverend Dr Morris, Bishop of Troy, preached. In 1856, the current Gothic fronts were installed on the original gallery, as part of a ‘Gothicisation’ which included a new altar and altar rails (since removed). By 1929, the freehold of the church, the presbytery (photo top right) and the schools had been acquired from the Marquess of Northumberland for £8,000. Since 1952, the church has been a centre of the Pallottine Fathers. In 1959-62, it was proposed to redevelop the site; however, the plans remained unexecuted. In 1972, the glazed narthex partition was installed and possibly the two timber confessionals at the west end. In 1984-85 new sanctuary furnishings were installed.

Soon after the acquisition of the church, a school was established behind the church. Its buildings were altered and extended numerous times. In 1978, the school moved to new buildings in Compton Street and since then the building has been partly rented out and partly used for church events.

The church faces southwest. The following remarks refer to the liturgical orientation. The list entry (below) includes a comprehensive description which only requires a few corrections and additions:

  • The steps to the   southwest entrance have been replaced by a ramp.

  • The former   inscription to the frieze above the main entrance has now been replaced      with ‘S.S. PETER & PAUL’S CATHOLIC CHURCH’.

  • The sanctuary   furniture is of oak with relief carvings and was made by Ormsby of      Scarisbrick Ltd to designs by J.J. Ormsby (installed 1984-85).

  • There are four   stained glass windows depicting Saints Martin de Porres, Teresa, Anthony      and Vincent Pallotti (signed ‘C.E. fecit’).

  • The Stations are framed   oil paintings on canvas, attributed to Mayer of Munich.

Heritage Details

Architect: John Blythe

Original Date: 1835

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II