Building » Islington – Our Lady of Częstochowa and St Casimir (Polish Church)

Islington – Our Lady of Częstochowa and St Casimir (Polish Church)

Devonia Road, London N1

A mid-nineteenth-century Gothic Revival church, built as the New Church College, the Swedenborgian national seminary and school. In 1930 it was sold and became the new home of the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales. Many of the furnishings have Polish connections, in particular a series of remarkable stained glass windows by Adam Bunsch. The gabled Kentish ragstone and ashlar frontages contrast with the stock brick terraces around, and make a bold and positive contribution to the local conservation area.

In 1894 Cardinal Vaughan set up the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales, to serve the Polish refugees who came to Britain after an unsuccessful uprising. This was initially a joint Polish and Lithuanian mission based in the East End, until a separate Lithuanian mission was established in 1899 (cf St Casimir, Lithuanian Church). In 1930, the former Swedenborgian church in Islington was bought for the Polish mission for £4,000.

Formerly known as the New Church College, this used to be the national seminary and school for the New Jerusalem Church (Swedenborgians). It had been founded as the Emmanuel College in 1845 by Henry Bateman and Roger Crompton. In 1852, building began on the current site to designs by Edward Welch. This initial block (the north wing) encompassed a basement Sunday schoolroom, a double-height mission hall, living accommodation on the top floor and a south stair tower. In 1856, a gallery was added to the mission hall, which was designed to be incorporated at a future date into a new floor.

Crompton left £10,000 for extending the building and the establishment of a school in the existing building was announced in c.1860. The chapel and the south wing were built by Finch Hill & Paraire. While the main construction work was done in 1860-62, the chapel was only considered complete with the installation of the reredos in 1879. (The list description gives a construction date of 1865-67.) The architectural firm set up by William Finch Hill (fl. 1852-72) and Edward Lewis Paraire (1826-82) largely specialised in theatres, music halls and public houses. Their initial plans had to be simplified in order to make savings. The builders were Dove Brothers


The church and its two wings are described in the list description (below). There are a few corrections and additions:

  • The windows of both wings have cusped heads.
  • The surname of Edward Lewis Paraire is misspelled.
  • There is a small stone balcony above the sacristy, which can be accessed from the north wing.
  • The original reredos (designed by Alexander Payne, made by Martyn & Emms of Cheltenham, 1879) was altered to contain a painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa by Marek Swięcicki, surrounded by votive offerings of soldiers and statesmen in thanksgiving for help during the Second World War. Below is a triptych of the Last Supper painted by Bunsch.
  • Sculpture in the church includes reliefs of St Anthony and the Sacred Heart (in the nave) and St Stanislaus Koska and St Andrew Bobola (in the side chapel).
  • The organ was built by G.M. Holdich in 1874.
  • The font is octagonal and of stone, with a timber spire cover.
  • The modern forward altar has a circular timber base carved with the Last Supper.
  • Under the west gallery are numerous memorial plaques, including those to Władysław Raczyński, the president of the Polish government in exile, and Władysław Sikorski, the general in arms.

List description


Roman Catholic Church (formerly New Church College). Originally built for the New Jerusalem church (Swedenborgians). Schoolroom, mission hall and accommodation begun 1852 to the designs of Edward Welch. Chapel and south wing begun 1865 to the designs of Finch Hill and Paraive, built by Dove brothers, completed 1867. White brick with stone facade. Gabled west front faced in Kentish rag with ashlar dressings. Gothic style pointed arch porch above recessed entrance with large perpendicular window above, flanked by staircase towers, buttressed and pinnacled. Wings faced in ashlar: three storeys plus attic and basement. 5-light mullioned windows, those to left with cusped heads. Chapel comprises tall rectangular nave with organ gallery at west end. Internally lined with limestone; open timber roof. Reredos designed by Alexander Payne and carved in Caen store by Martyn and Emms of Cheltenham, installed 1879. Vivid stained glass windows by Polish artist and soldier Prof. Adam Bunsch depicting the the struggle for Polish sovereignty, installed 1945. Painting behind the altar also by Bunsch. Stained glass in clerestory and East window 1952-3 by Stanley Higgins. Bronze bas-relief of the Stations of the Cross by J.Z. Henelt 1945. South wall pierced by arched openings giving access to low-ceilinged side chapel (originally a school room). Home of the Polish Roman Catholic Mission since 1930. (RCHM: Islington Chapels).

Listing NGR: TQ3182583398

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Welch; Finch Hill & Paraire

Original Date: 1852

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II