Building » Earlsfield – St Gregory

Earlsfield – St Gregory

Garratt Lane, London SW18

A post-war design replacing an early twentieth century church which had been remodelled in early Christian style by Fr Benedict Williamson. The present church is of some interest for its liturgical plan, being T-shaped with diagonal chapels in the angles between the nave and transepts. However, the architectural design is dull and conventional and was compromised from the start by post-war building restrictions. The conversion of the nave to a parish hall and other internal alterations has further reduced the modest qualities of the interior, although there are some furnishings of note.

A plain church in Romanesque style was built on the present site in 1904, one of many built in the diocese in the opening decade of the twentieth  century through the patronage of Miss Frances Ellis. From 1909-15 the architect-priest Fr Benedict Williamson was in charge of the mission, and he remodelled and enlarged the church in a primitive style, blending Early Christian and Egyptian motifs. Explaining Fr Williamson’s design, The Tablet wrote ‘During his stay in Rome for his ecclesiastical studies, he became saturated with the Roman spirit, and took the Roman basilicas as his model’ (quoted in Evinson, 248). Sadly, Fr Williamson’s church and the adjoining presbytery and club building were destroyed in air raids in 1944. According to the parish website, all that remains of the old church is the sign in the entrance arch on Garratt Lane. Rebuilding started with the presbytery, completed in 1952, followed by the church, which was opened by Bishop Cowderoy on 30 September, 1957. The architect for the rebuilding was Lawrence H. Shattock, KSG, FRIBA, of London. The church was built on a vacant portion of the site between the old church and Garratt Lane, screened from the road by a row of shops which then belonged to the diocese. The intention was that these shops would be demolished as and when the space was required to extend the nave of the church (this was typical of the optimism of the time; in the event the shops have survived and rather than being enlarged, the church has been truncated by the conversion of most of the nave into a parish hall).

The church was designed to seat 450. Because of the limited compensation being offered by the War Damage Commission, its height had to be reduced by about eight feet from that originally designed, at the expense of the impact of the design, both inside and out. According to the account in the Catholic Building Review, it ‘was designed with a view to overcoming the major defects so often found in many of the older churches, namely lack of sufficient entrances, restricted view of the High Altar, and the very limited length of communion rails, which are now being found so inadequate to meet the new liturgy of Holy Week’.

The rebuilt church was T-shaped on plan, with a long nave and transepts, and with the communion rails around three sides of the sanctuary. The two side chapels were placed not in the traditional position on either side of the sanctuary, but in the angles of the nave and transepts, at 45 degree angles to both. Doors were placed at the west end at in both the transepts.

More recently, most of the nave has been screened off church to form a separate narthex or parish hall, creating a smaller worship area consisting of the transepts and one bay of the nave. The communion rails have also been removed.


The church was built in 1957 from designs by Lawrence R Shattock, KSG FRIBA. It is a long, low design with some Gothic-derived detail in the windows, built of a pale yellow brick with reconstituted stone dressings and copper roofs. The main worship space is T-shaped on plan, consisting of a nave and square-ended sanctuary, with north and south transepts. Chapels are built into the angles of the nave and transepts, at 45 degree angles to each. To the east, contemporary attached two-storey sacristies and beyond these the (slightly earlier) presbytery.

The west front has paired doors under a segmental archway, with a flat-topped seven-light window above, of loosely Perp design. There are piers at the corner surmounted by hipped tile caps, and a central pediment or gable end. This entrance gives access to the original nave, which is now a parish hall, and has been extended with a utilitarian modern addition giving off the north side of the west front. The entrance to the present worship area is via the porch in the south transept, the façade of which is similar to the west front.  Between these the five bays of the nave are externally marked by flat pilasters, with one four-light clerestory window to each bay (one light in the western bay over the gallery). The windows have been given external polycarbonate protection. In the angles between the nave and the transepts, the chapels are lower and have single light windows. To the east, the sacristies are of two storeys, well-lit by two three-light windows on each floor. Beyond is the large presbytery, built in 1952; this is built of matching brick with a tile roof, and is of two storeys and five bays, with a hip at the east end and a gable at the west.

The interior has white plastered walls and low suspended ceilings throughout. The nave is now a parish hall and has been cleared of its original furnishings. The original gallery survives at the west end. It is separated from the worship area by screen doors, which can be opened on major occasions when the additional space is needed.  The seating of the main worship area (photo lower left) consists of the original benches, arranged in three sides around the sanctuary. The sanctuary furnishings date from 1982 (Peyton & Sons of Earlsfield) and are a marble suite of altar, ambo and font. Behind the altar is a large, shallow recess with segmental top, with blue and gold mosaic star patterns. Fixed against this is a statue of the risen Christ. Similar decoration adorns the side chapels, blue mosaic and a marble altar in the Lady Chapel to the north, and red mosaic and a smaller marble altar in the Sacred Heart chapel (now enclosed to become the crying chapel) to the south. The chapels also contain modern semi-abstract stained glass of c1990, two in the Lady Chapel by Anthony J. Naylor (not Taylor, the name given in Evinson, 249), the  others  possibly  by  Reyntiens  (stylistic  attribution  given  in  the  stained  glass records website). The glass in the Sacred Heart chapel is by Martin Farrely. The only other furnishings of note are two wooden statues, of St Gregory and St  Joseph, against the south wall of the south transept; these are not signed.

Heritage Details

Architect: L. H. Shattock

Original Date: 1957

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed