Building » Homerton – Immaculate Heart of St Mary and St Dominic

Homerton – Immaculate Heart of St Mary and St Dominic

Ballance Road, Homerton, London E9

A nineteenth-century church by C. A. Buckler, uncharacteristically for him in the Early Christian style. Largely rebuilt after severe bomb damage, the interior is decorated lavishly with marble and mosaic work. The church occupies a prominent corner site and the tower is a local landmark.

The mission was founded in 1873 by Fr George Akers, assistant priest at Hackney. A temporary school-chapel was opened the same year by Bishop Weathers. The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Cardinal Manning on 23 September 1875, who also opened it on 29 October 1877. The architect was Charles Alban Buckler (1824-1905) and the builder W. Kell of Windsor. The dedication suggests a Dominican association; three of Buckler’s brothers became Dominicans, and Buckler also designed the Dominican church at Haverstock Hill. The design is unusual for the architect in departing from Gothic; it was apparently inspired by Early Christian churches in Rome, including Santi Nereo e Achilleo (plan) and Santa Maria alla Navicella (west front and apses). The tower was completed in 1883. The church was consecrated on 30 June 1884.

The building was severely damaged by bombing on 9 March 1941. After negotiations with the War Damage Commission, John E. Sterrett of Sterrett & Blouet completed the rebuilding and repair work in 1957. The Commission funded the works under the ‘plain repair’ programme, and the plan form and some of the external envelope were retained. Judging by the brick work, the whole of the south aisle, part of the west gable as well as part of the presbytery had to be rebuilt. The aisle roofs were covered in tiles, instead of the original slate, and the statue on the west gable was not reinstated. New furnishings and marble and mosaic decoration were commissioned from Whitehead & Sons, London.

In c.1980 repairs were carried out to the roof and the rainwater goods, as well as other minor repairs to church and presbytery.


The church faces west. This description uses conventional liturgical orientation.

The church is built in London stock brick laid in English bond, with some decorative bands and window heads of red brick. All roofs are covered in tiles. The plan is rectangular, consisting of an aisled nave with central apse and apsidal side chapels. The west elevation has a lean-to narthex beside the northwest tower. The narthex has round-headed niches with statues of Our Lady Immaculate and St Dominic on either side of the west door; these in turn are flanked by windows. Above in the gable are three windows below a string course and a circular window. The tower has five stages below a pyramid roof. The lower three stages have single round-headed windows, while the upper two have triple arcades on set-back columns with deep capitals and with bell louvres in the openings. The south elevation has blind arches filled with small aisle windows and the south door, with larger clerestorey windows above.

Internally, the narthex has a marble-lined baptistery with a metal grille at the northwest and the gallery stair with a matching grille at the southwest. The five-bay nave has a flat ceiling and an arcade on square piers with pilasters to all four sides. The pilasters to the nave continued as strip pilasters to the ceiling beyond a string course below the clerestory windows. The lean-to aisles have transverse arches rising from pilasters on either side. The west gallery has a fluted front and is supported on two plain piers and two pilasters. The foundation stone for the rebuilding is in the north aisle.

The sanctuary and the two side chapels are enclosed by continuous altar rails. All three spaces have similar marble and mosaic decorations by Whitehead & Sons. The Lady Chapel at the northeast has a marble-faced apse, a ceiling mosaic of a dove, a marble altar and a niche with a statue of the Virgin Mary. The apse of the sanctuary is also lined with different coloured veined marbles with a mosaic vault. A canopy hangs over the silver tabernacle, whose front is decorated with four gold saints, a cross and the four symbols of the Evangelists. Behind is a crucifix. The altar has a frontal of yellow marble with the ChiRho in mosaic. The Sacred Heart chapel at the southeast has a marble-faced apse similar to that of the Lady Chapel, with a mosaic vault with a cross in a sunburst. A marble-faced altar stands in front of a statue of the Sacred Heart in a niche. In front of the altar is the timber octagonal font with a golden dove.

Set against the nave piers are unpainted timber statues by Ferdinando Stuflesser of Ortisei: St Patrick, St Joseph, St Anthony, a seated St Peter, a pieta, St Dominic and St Theresa. The Stations are brightly painted casts.

Two stained glass windows at the west end depict St Cecilia at the foot of the gallery stair, and St John the Baptist in the former baptistery (1957, Goddard & Gibbs). The fifteen windows in the clerestory and at the west end are filled with stained glass depicting the mysteries of the Rosary (1962, A.E. Buss of Goddard & Gibbs).

Heritage Details

Architect: C. A. Buckler; John E. Sterrett

Original Date: 1877

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed