Building » Hornchurch – St Mary Mother of God

Hornchurch – St Mary Mother of God

Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch RM12

A 1930s Gothic Revival church which has been extensively reordered. The church commemorates the 1500th anniversary of the confirmation of the Marian title ‘Mother of God’ in 431. The current furnishings of sanctuary and chapels largely date from the reordering of 2008.

The Mass centre was established in October 1931 with a resident priest, Canon (later Monsignor Provost) Jules van Meenen from Bruges, later to become Pronotary Apostolic. A temporary church opened in December 1931 and the parish was erected in April 1932. The present church was built in 1931-33 to a design by David Henry Burles of Burles, Harris & Collings of Southend-on-Sea. The site cost £3,750 and the erection of the church £8,000, The dedication was chosen in 1931, the 1500th anniversary of the First Council of Ephesus, which confirmed the Virgin Mary’s title of ‘Mother of God’ . The church was opened on 25 March 1933 and consecrated on 27 June the same year. Most of the original furnishings have been removed in the frequent reorderings undertaken since Vatican II (1973, 1987, 1994, 2004, 2008 and 2011). Within the last 10 years, the Jules van Meenen Room was added at the northeast, replacing a pipe shed for the former organ.


The church is actually facing south. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation.

The church is built in red brick laid in Flemish bond with stone dressings, tiled details and a slate roof. The plan is longitudinal, consisting of an aisled nave with a southwest tower, and a slightly narrower chancel with side chapels. The gabled west front has a three-light Perp window with a niche holding a statue of the Virgin and Child in the central light. The gabled porch slightly projects forward. Its recessed stone tympanum has an inscription recording the dedication of the church to Mary Mother of God in 1931. On either side of the doorway are pairs of cusped windows. To the north, the west front is flanked by a clasping buttress, to the south by the tower. Above an entrance in the base of the tower is a single cusped window, with a pair of windows with bell louvres above. The bell was cast by Mears & Stainbank in 1932 and was installed by Messrs Myall Bros. of Southend-on-Sea. The clasping buttress at the southwest corner turns into a polygonal turret at the level of the tower’s battlements. (Originally, the tower was intended to be 9 metres (30 feet) higher.)

The narthex has a plaque to the Rt Rev Mgr Provost Jules van Meenen, a plaster rocaille with the Virgin and Child, the gallery stairs at the southwest and the polygonal former baptistery (now repository) at the northwest. The nave is five bays long, with an open kingpost and collar roof. The pointed arcade has chamfered arches on octagonal columns without capitals. Each bay has three aisle windows and two clerestory windows. The gallery has a timber front and holds a digital organ. The current interior arrangements largely date from the 2008 reordering.

The north aisle windows have stained glass in each central light, depicting (from the west): the Sacred Heart, the Holy Family (c.1970), and St Joseph. The south aisle has a stained glass depiction of the Resurrection (c.1968) in all three lights of the middle window, and St Patrick in the central light of the easternmost window. In front of the clear west window in the south aisle is a statue of St Anthony. At the east end of the north aisle is a confessional and the entrance to the Jules van Meenen Room. In the corresponding location in the south aisle are a further confessional and the entrance to the sacristy. The Lady Chapel at the northeast (originally the Sacred Heart chapel) has two pairs of windows with small roundels with religious symbols to the north, and a three-light east window with abstract yellow and purple glass. A statue of Our Lady and the Child stands on a polished stone pedestal. The two-bay sanctuary has a kingpost roof which is panelled above the collar beam. The polished stone floor with curved steps extends beyond the chancel arch into the nave. At the north corner of the steps is the stone lectern encased by metal railings. The stone altar is surrounded by a row of timber chairs ranged in a curve. The traceried stone reredos on the blind east wall has two statues of angels flanking the Virgin Mary with the Child. Below the angels are small roundels inscribed ‘Ephesus AD431’ and ‘Roma AD1931’. Below the central statue stands a metal crucifix. The sanctuary windows have stained glass of Saints Matthew, Mark, Paul, Peter (north); and Saints Mary, Joseph, Luke and John (south). The font of 2008 stands under the southeastern arcade arch. Of polished black stone, it has a circular bowl on an octagonal stem, surrounded by a black stone floor with the inscription ‘I will be your God/ you will be my people’. The Blessed Sacrament chapel at the southeast (originally St Joseph’s chapel) has a three-light stained glass window depicting doves and the Eucharist. (As the dedication of the side chapels has changed several times, it is not clear if this is the stained glass window by Goddard & Gibbs of 1980 in the south chapel mentioned by Foster or if it has been replaced since.) The tabernacle is set directly into the wall below the window, with a richly decorated metal door with the Pelican in her Piety and the Agnus Dei surrounded by wheat and vines. On either wall are collegiate-style timber choir benches. In front of the tabernacle is a coloured marble floor. Beside the sacristy door is a large crucifix. The Stations of the Cross are fine timber reliefs. Timber benches.

Heritage Details

Architect: Burles, Harris & Collings

Original Date: 1931

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed