Building » Haverstock Hill – St Dominic

Haverstock Hill – St Dominic

Southampton Road, London NW5

A very large and fine Gothic church, one of the first in England to be built by the revived Dominican Order. Its design by Charles Buckler follows continental Gothic models and incorporates earlier work by Gilbert Blount.  The immensely long nave has fourteen side chapels which, with the window over the high altar, symbolise the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary; this plan is unique in England. The chapels were furnished by private donors and retain their original late nineteenth-century fittings. The shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes was added in 1912-14, from designs by N.H.J. Westlake.

In 1861 the Dominicans were invited by Cardinal Wiseman to take over the Kentish Town mission, and purchased a three acre site here in 1862.  Designs for a church and priory were prepared by Gilbert Blount and the priory was built in 1863-67.  The foundation stone of the church was laid on 6 August 1863 but by Blount’s death in 1876 only part of sanctuary and the Lady Chapel had been begun.

In 1873 the Dominican community were approached by Thomas Walmesley of Bretlands, Tunbridge Wells, who wished to build a church in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes (where the apparitions had taken place from 1858).  The fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary would be reflected in its design, prepared by Charles Buckler, which was for a large brick church based on continental models, incorporating the stonework of Blount’s unfinished east end. It had fourteen side chapels, with the fifteenth mystery, the Coronation of the Virgin, depicted in stained glass over the high altar. Work began on the completion of the church in 1878 and was completed in 1883, at a cost of about £40,000.

In 1912, the Belton family gave £300 for a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in the Crucifixion Chapel (for which the family had paid in the 1880s). N. H. J. Westlake was commissioned to decorate the chapel, and the work was completed in 1914.The chapel was restored in c2002 by IFACS.

Post-Vatican II reordering involved the truncating of the choir stalls, changes to the sanctuary levels and new sanctuary furnishings.

The Dominicans are still located in the priory, and there is a community of Dominican Sisters nearby in Constantine Road. The priory is also the residence of the Provincial of the Dominican friars in England and Scotland.


The church is described in the list entry, below. Other points not mentioned:

  • The fitting out of the shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes dates from 1912-14, by Westlake.
  • Apparently Buckler disassociated himself from the installation of the iron tribune gallery, an economy measure which departed from the original design.
  • In addition to the stained glass by Gibbs and Howard mentioned in the list entry (roundel in the sanctuary), there is other glass of the 1880s by Hardman in the apse and sanctuary, and by Hardman, Lavers & Westlake, J.N. Pearce and J. Beck and Co. in the aisles. There is later glass (1920s) in the north  aisle by, amongst others, Geoffrey Webb.
  • There are two pipe organs. That at the west end is by Henry Willis and was made for the opening of the church in 1883. The Bryceson organ in the Lady Chapel came from the Anglican church at Old Cleeve, Somerset and was installed in 2007.

List descriptions



Dominican priory church. 1874-83. By Charles A Buckler. Multi-colour stock brick with stone dressings. Slated roof with Lombard type frieze at eaves level. 

STYLE: Early English. 

PLAN: nave of 8 bays with clerestory; aisles with lean-to roofs and projecting gabled chapels separated by buttresses; transepts; polygonal apse. 

EXTERIOR: west front central gabled and buttressed entrance bay with pointed arched entrance of recessed orders having quatrefoil medallion with relief of Holy Family in tympanum; double wooden doors. Entrance flanked by blind traceried windows. 4-light traceried east window flanked by blind Y tracery windows; Lombard type frieze at apex base; apex with rose window and trefoil reliefs at angles. Eastern aisle windows of 2-light traceried centres flanked by blind pointed windows; buttresses flank moulded aisle entrances; seated statues of evangelists in niches above doors. Aisle and clerestory windows of plate tracery. 

INTERIOR: lofty with quadripartite timber vault. Piers with stiff-leaf capitals and steep pointed arches; clerestory with cast-iron gallery intended originally for cleaning and lighting. Designed as a shrine in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, each of the 15 mysteries has its own chapel; 7 on either side of the nave with the high altar and sanctuary as the 15th dedicated to the Coronation of the Virgin. Transepts with chapels; that of St Dominic with reredos painted by Philip Westlake, others with richly carved stone reredoses. Stations of the Cross painted in Late Gothic style by NHJ Westlake, 1887. The Chapel of the Annunciation was the gift of Buckler who is depicted in the window. The High Altar was also designed by Buckler with central tabernacle, pinnacled Gothic tower and surmounted by a gilded imperial diadem. To either side, mosaics by Salviati. Some good stained glass by Gibbs and Howard, 1880. The planning, embodying a universal prayer in the structure of the buildings, is unique in England. 

HISTORICAL NOTE: one of the first buildings in England built by the revived Dominican Order, which bought the site in 1862.

Listing NGR: TQ2786485151



Dominican priory. c1863-83. By Gilbert Blount, WK Broder and Charles A Buckler; built by J Langdon. Multi-colour stock brick with stone dressings. Slated mansard roof with dormers to west range; slated gabled roof to south range. 2 irregular ranges forming a 3-sided courtyard with the south aisle of the Roman Catholic Priory Church of St Dominic (qv). West range with central pointed arch entrance having gabled slated porch; ground floor 2-light traceried windows; 1st floor with single light casements. To right, 2 gabled bays with similar windows. South range buttressed with asymmetrically attached campanile having a spire and lancets articulating stairs. 2-light traceried ground floor windows, 1st floor 2-light plate tracery gables. 

INTERIOR: not inspected but noted to retain a refectory, common rooms and chapter house opening off the cloister ambulatory with plate tracery windows; dormitory cubicles over.

Listing NGR: TQ2784985125

Heritage Details

Architect: Gilbert Blount; Charles Buckler

Original Date: 1863

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*