Building » Herne Hill – St Philip and St James

Herne Hill – St Philip and St James

Poplar Walk, Herne Hill, London SE24

A modest church of the early twentieth century, one of many built in the diocese under the patronage of Miss Frances Ellis. The design is a fusion of neo-Romanesque and classical features. The church was radically reordered in the 1970s, when dalle de verre windows were introduced, from the workshop of Dom Charles Norris at Buckfast Abbey.

The church was opened in 1906, one of many in the diocese funded by Miss Frances Ellis. Miss Ellis also gave the adjoining presbytery. The name of the architect of the church has not been established, but the design bears similarities with that of F. W. Tasker’s St Gertrude at South Bermondsey (qv), not just in the choice of materials and the round window at the west end (which are features common to nearly all the Ellis churches, regardless  of  designer) but notably in the wide segmental pediment over the entrance. However, Tasker died in 1904, so this would have to be a design which was realised posthumously.

The original design allowed for an aisle to be built later (blocked semi-circular arches are visible in the flank wall at the west end). In the event, a parish hall was built here instead.

In the 1960s there were plans to demolish the church and build a new one on a site which had been acquired in Denmark Hill. These plans were abandoned in 1977, the Denmark Hill site was sold and the proceeds put towards the development of the existing church. The church was liturgically turned around by 90 degrees so that the sanctuary was placed on the (ritual) south wall. The arches in the north wall were opened and the parish hall rebuilt as an aisle, with folding screens in the arcade allowing  the two spaces to be used separately. The architect for these transformations, which took place in 1979 and cost over £68,000, was Roger Jones of Tomei & Mackley. The builders were F. and F. H. Higgs. The works included a new set of dalle de verre windows by Dom Charles Norris and his workshop at Buckfast Abbey.


A  small church in neo-Romanesque style (with some classical features),  one of many of similar character built under the patronage of Miss Frances Ellis in the opening decade of the twentieth century. As designed, the church consisted of a single cell, aisleless (although allowance was made for a future north aisle) and with no separate chancel or sanctuary. There is a single-storey sacristy at the east end. The church is built of London stock brick laid in English bond, under a slate roof. There are stone quoins at each of the corners, and a central entrance at the west end under a segmental pediment, its cornice continuing as a hood mould over small windows on either side. Above the entrance is a large round window, a hallmark of the Ellis churches. The plain wall surface of the return south elevation is relieved by four clerestory windows, three for the nave (each one paired), and one single light for what was originally the sanctuary. The same clerestory arrangement exists on the north side. Below this is the lean-to roof of the north aisle, which is a remodelling of 1979, replacing the parish hall. The entrance to the parish hall at the west end survives as the entry to the aisle, and has a segmental parapet echoing the form of the main entrance. The gabled east wall is plain, with a low sacristy abutting, also with quoins.

The interior has plastered walls painted white, with an exposed king-post roof, typical of the Ellis churches. It has been liturgically reordered so that the sanctuary is placed at the centre of the church on the south side, with a stone altar and hardwood panelled reredos behind. Interlocking but mobile seating is arranged to east and west facing towards the new sanctuary, and on the north side, the arcade has been opened and additional seating accommodation provided there. An acoustic folding screen has been introduced behind the arcade to allow the two spaces to be used separately during the week and as one on Sundays and major occasions. At the west end there is a high platform bearing the organ, by Hill, Norman and Beard and acquired in 1982.

The furnishings are modern and do not require special mention apart from the dalle de verre glass made by the workshop of Charles Norris at Buckfast Abbey. That in the west window was introduced in 1979 and is an abstract design in blues, with a cross at the centre. The windows in the seven lights of the south clerestory followed in 1981, and are representations of the Seven Sacraments.

Heritage Details

Architect: F.W. Tasker (unconfirmed); Tomei & Mackley

Original Date: 1906

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed