Fulham Road, London SW10
A large Early English Gothic design by J. A. Hansom for the Servite Friars, with a modest street presence and a tall, stately interior. Hansom and his son J. S. Hansom designed the entrance tower and corridor which lead into the church, as well as the adjacent priory. J. S. Hansom designed several furnishings as well as extensions to the church, including the Lady Chapel. The fine high altar reredos did not survive the 1970s reordering.
In 1864, two Servites, Frs Bosio and Morini, came to Chelsea and lived in a house in Guthrie Street (also known as Stewart’s Grove). In 1867, a new mission territory was created out of part of the London Oratory’s original territory and given to the care of the Servites. The friars moved to 78 Park Walk, where services were held in a chapel on the ground floor. Their next home was in Victoria (later Netherton) Grove. This site, however, was acquired by the guardians of St George’s Poor Law Union for their new infirmary (as it adjoined their workhouse), but only after a lawsuit which awarded compensation to the friars. The Servite parish then moved to the current site on the other side of Fulham Road. A small temporary church was erected in the front garden while the permanent church was constructed behind the house (figure 1). The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Manning on 19 June 1874 and he opened (by then as Cardinal) the church on 19 September 1875. The architect was Joseph Aloysius Hansom and the builders George Grimwood & Sons.
In 1879-80 J. A. Hansom & Son designed and built the street frontage of the priory and a tower over the entrance which led to the church. The cost was £1,620 and the builder was Frank Wilkins. As J. A. Hansom had retired from the practice in 1879, it is likely that these were executed by his son, Joseph Stanislaus Hansom (1845–1931). J. S. Hansom also designed the pulpit and reredos which was carved by Richard Boulton (figure 2; both 1882–83). In 1890, J. S. Hansom added the Lady Chapel at a cost of £1,115 (photo bottom left). He also designed the three-bay narthex at the liturgical west end of the church in 1894. In 1925, the baptistery was added at the west of the narthex.
The church was consecrated on 4 November 1953. In 1962, the street frontage of the priory was repaired by Archard & Partners, who also installed new windows. The tower over the entrance had by then apparently become dangerous and it was reduced in height and the top storey partly rebuilt, with a much more simplified outline compared to its original Gothic corner finials. The church entrance and the colonnade entrance were also ‘re-modelled and greatly improved’ as part of these works.
In the mid-1970s (Buildings of England: 1974, Evinson: 1976), the sanctuary was reordered, involving the dismantling of what Rottmann in the 1920s called ‘one of the finest Gothic High Altars in London’. The elaborate reredos was entirely removed, the altar moved forward and the tabernacle placed in the Lady Chapel.
Since 2006, the church has undergone a major renovation. The first phase (c.£150,000) focused on the colonnade leading into the church, providing a new roof with six skylights, the removal and repair of all windows. The second phase (c.£60,000) provided new WCs and developed the east corridor into a parish facility. The third phase (c.£400,000) started in September 2010 and included the cleaning and repair of the interior and exterior of the church, a new lighting scheme, boiler and sound system, the cleaning and repair of all the pews and the refurbishment of the sacristies.
In 2012, the sanctuary floor was replaced (by Gormley Marble) during a wholesale refurbishment carried out under the direction of Chris Fanning, Diocesan Surveyor, who has family ties with the parish (information from C. Fanning). The front block and tower of the priory are currently on a long lease to the NHS for use as a mental health day unit.
The following description follows conventional liturgical orientation.
The church was built in 1874–75 to designs by J. A. Hansom. It was extended in 1879–80, 1890, 1894 and 1925. The church is built in brick with stone dressings (Ham Hill stone on the exterior, Corsham Down stone on the interior). It has a slate pitched roof, continuous over the nave and chancel. The plan is longitudinal, consisting of a nave with lean-to aisles, an apsidal sanctuary and a flush south transept.
The only elevations visible from the street are the tower of five stages and the adjoining front block of the priory. The tower has an archway at the ground floor framed by canopied statues of Saints Peter and Paul (by the Italian sculptor Joseph Biglioski). In front of a window of four lancets is a statue of the Christ the Redeemer. The next stage has five stepped lancets, of which the two outermost are blind. This is followed by two small lancets and a canopied statue at the corner. The belfry stage has two louvred lancets between clasping buttresses which rise above the parapet as finials capped by stone gablets.
The tower vestibule has a memorial to the Servite friars who died between 1879 and 1995. From the tower vestibule, a ten-bay colonnaded corridor leads into the narthex. At the west end of the corridor is a lunette window with stained glass of the Annunciation; at its east end is a quatrefoil with the Deposition. The three-bay narthex has quadripartite vaults and shouldered transverse arches (typical for J. S. Hansom) on clustered pillars. At the west is the baptistery of 1925, entirely clad in dark green marble and lit by a skylight with cruciform coloured glass set into a gold mosaic ceiling (photo top right). The hexagonal font of bronze was designed by Miss Barker and Miss Brown. Three circular bronze plaques are set into the floor, depicting three fishes, Moses in the bulrushes and the Crossing of the Red Sea. The three walls have larger bronze plaques of the Virgin of the Mantle, the Entombment, and the Virgin and Child flanked by Melchisedech and King David.
The narthex has a Via Matrix, seven painted relief panels depicting the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, a particular devotion of the Servites. To the north are bronze statues of a seated St Peter and the Redeemer (both of 1872, by Mayer of Munich), as well as a statue of St Anthony on a carved Gothic stone pedestal, and a bronze and green marble First World War memorial plaque depicting Our Lady of Consolation. On the south side of the narthex is a statue of St Theresa and a large white marble pieta by Joseph William Swynnerton (a memorial to Fr Antonine Apollini, d.1900) in front of a marble panelled wall. Nearby is a painting of the Holy Face by John Shirley-Fox (after Lorenzo di Credi) in a frame of gilt and alabaster. The arched frame, decoration and marble steps were designed by Leonard Stokes.
The six-bay nave has a pointed barrel vault. The pointed nave arcade has columns of Freeman’s Cornish granite with four attached colonnettes whose colour alternates between red and dark grey. There are two clerestory windows per bay, with stained glass of saints in every other window. Above the three arches to the narthex in the west wall is a row of six windows with stained glass of Servite saints, and a stepped five-light window above depicting the Te Deum. The window was installed in 1888 to commemorate the canonisation of the seven founders of the Servites in 1887.
The north aisle has three chapels or shrines between three confessionals, all set into low recesses below three-light windows. The first from the west has a shallow stone altar and statues of St Philip Benizi, St Juliana and St Peregrine in niches. The central chapel is dedicated to St Mary Magdalen and has a white marble relief of the saint set into the central arch of a blind arcade with a yellow marble background. The altar has a similar arcade in white and yellow marbles. This chapel was designed and carved by J. W. Swynnerton in c.1894. The third chapel in the north aisle was formerly the Sacred Heart chapel (1889) but currently the central niche is empty. Only the sexfoil in the gable of the recess has a carving of the Sacred Heart and the crown of thorns. The back wall of the recess and the altar are carved, painted and gilded.
The Lady Chapel (now also Blessed Sacrament Chapel) was added at the northeast in 1890 by J. S. Hansom (photo bottom left). Like the church, the chapel is also in the Early English style but here the ornamentation is much more concentrated. It has a short north aisle with shouldered arches carved with dense foliage, a clerestory behind rere-arches, and a stone screen to the sanctuary. Beyond a small ‘chancel arch’ the chapel proper has a dado of alabaster, brass and metal rails and a timber ceiling with a carved inscription of the Ave Maria. The altar and reredos are of Caen stone and carvings include: six panels which together with the altar frontal (carved with the Deposition) depict the Seven Sorrows; statues of the seven Holy Founders and St Philip; and a painted statue of Our Lady of Dolours in a central gabled niche. The alabaster tabernacle by Hardman (1882–83) is the original tabernacle from the high altar. (Rottmann mentions an alabaster tabernacle in the Lady Chapel in the 1920s.)
Following the 1970s reordering the sanctuary appears very empty. Around the walls of the three-sided apse are the original carved oak choir stalls for the Servite friars which were formerly behind the high altar. The original altar of alabaster and marble (formerly part of the high altar designed by J. S. Hansom in 1882–83) was moved forward. The current sanctuary floor is of white and dark marble squares. The apse has three three-light stained glass windows (made by Clayton & Bell), depicting the Last Supper, the Crucifixion (1877, designed by W. Tipping of Edith Grove) and the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Suspended from the chancel arch is a hanging crucifix.
In the south transept is the first-floor organ chamber (with an organ by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer of 1968) above the sacristy. The southeast chapel is dedicated to the Seven Holy Founders (formerly the Holy Family chapel). It is screened to the sanctuary by a tall scissor arch, similar to that in Wells Cathedral (photo bottom right). It has a carved and gilded reredos with three relief panels (by Guido Guidi) which depict the Servite founders. It is flanked by a fresco – which continues on the south wall – dated 1885 (by Fr Pyritheus Simoni OSM), depicting further Servite saints and scenes from the life of St Philip. On a pedestal in front is a statue of Our Lady of Europe.
The south aisle has four chapels set in taller recesses than those on the north side. The first from the east is dedicated to the Seven Holy Founders, containing a timber altar and reredos depicting the seven saints and the scenes of their deaths on either side of the Virgin Mary (1875, painted by Fr Simoni OSM). The next chapel has a statue of Our Lady of Dolours but no altar. The next bay is the St Joseph’s Chapel, with a timber altar and reredos – the latter painted by L. Galli of Florence (also attributed to Guido Guidi) with scenes from the life of St Joseph. The central niche used to hold a wooden gilt statue of the saint by Antonio Buletti (supplied by Mayer of Munich), which was not present at the time of the visit. The last chapel in the south aisle is the Calvary Chapel (designed by J. S. Hansom, 1895) with alabaster-lined walls with a narrow pointed dado arcade with blue onyx columns. The alabaster altar has a recessed shouldered arch in the frontal which holds a pietà. Above the altar is a Calvary group which was supplied, like the pietà, by Mayer of Munich.
The Stations are painted timber reliefs in gabled frames. The church has numerous stained glass windows, mainly depicting saints. Most of those in the aisles and clerestory have been attributed to Ion Pace who is known to have designed at least one south aisle window in 1894. At the west end of the south aisle is a window commemorating Cardinal Manning, depicting Saints Anthony, Charles and Peregrine.
Architect: J. A. Hansom
Original Date: 1874
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed