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:
Formerly known as: Northampton Tabernacle. Formerly known as: Rosoman Street Mission. Non-conformist chapel, now Roman Catholic church. 1835. By John Blyth for Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. Gold stock bricks set in English bond with stucco ground-floor, dressings and rusticated quoins; roof obscured by high stucco cornice. Rectangular plan with symmetrical facade to Amwell Street; forms part of contemporary terrace. Neo-classical style. Two storeys; 3-window range with projecting central bay. Steps rise to 3 ground-floor deeply-recessed entrances, all architraved and keystoned with pairs of panelled C20 doors. Ground-floor central bay of grander proportions and composed of blind Ionic irregular tetrastyle pilastrade. Frieze above main entrance faintly inscribed ‘NORTHAMPTON TABERNACLE ‘. Door to centre flanked by 16-paned fixed sashes; outer bays with 18-paned rectangular overlights to doors. 1st floor stucco storey band with corbels to outer bays; central bay storey division articulated by cornice of ground-floor tetrastyle. Large architraved Venetian window to central bay with irregular multi-paned glazing, a high keystone and balustraded base; flanking round-arched sashes to outer bays of similar design with balustraded bases. Stucco cornice and parapet with heightened blocking course to centre inscribed ‘ERECTED 1835.’
INTERIOR: Plain Neo-classical interior, but partially remodelled C20. Original full-height blind arcading carried on Corinthian pilasters to ‘ritual’ East end. Plain plaster side walls with C19 dado; modillioned cornice, original flat ceiling with square coffering, gilded rosettes and 3 elaborately patterned cast iron ceiling roses to centre. Fine C19 gallery to rear and sides of chapel supported on slender cast-iron Ionic columns and balustraded with cast-iron panels of gilded Gothic-style tracery. Limited fenestration to side-walls. Shallow vestibule created by c1972 glazed partition gives access to rear of chapel and to flanking gallery staircases.
History: Built as Northampton Tabernacle for Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion; from 1847 leased to Roman Catholics. Also formerly known as Rosoman Street Mission before it became the Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. (Report prepared by Philip Temple for English Heritage: Islington Chapels: London: 1989-1989: 1-3/AMWELL STREET).
Listing NGR: TQ3128482606
Article Reference – Author: Philip Temple – Title: Islington Chapels London – Date: 1989 – Journal Title: Survey of Nonconformist Churches and Chapels in Greater London
Presbytery (5 Amwell Street)
Probably 3, now 2 terraced houses. 1828-1829, altered late C19 or C20. William Chadwell Mylne, Surveyor for the New River Estate. Multi-coloured stock brick set in Flemish bond, banded stucco ground-floor to no. 5, and painted reveals throughout; roofs obscured, party-wall brick stacks. Side-hall entrance plan to no. 5; no. 3 with late C19 carriage entrance to left but plan unknown. Three storeys with basement; 4 windows each to no. 3 and 2 windows to no. 5. Steps rise to round-arched entrance (no. 5, small round-arched entrance to right of main entrance): doorway with attached Doric columns carrying corniced-head, fanlight (no. 3 patterned) and panelled door. 2/2 round-arched sashes to ground-floors. Gauged-brick flat arches with 6/6 sashes to upper floors, some pivot windows. 1st floor stucco sill band to no. 5. Some rebuilding to upper floors; plain brick parapet with stone coping. Attached cast-iron railings with urn finials.
Listing NGR: TQ3129082594
Architect: John Blythe
Original Date: 1835
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II