Building » Ilford – St Peter and St Paul

Ilford – St Peter and St Paul

High Road, Ilford, Essex IG1

A large church of 1898-9 with a stone front and northwest tower. The aisles and the tower were added later. The aisle windows are filled with stained glass by Mayer of Munich and others. 

The mission was founded in 1895 when a temporary iron chapel was opened in Bogey’s Alley. This was due to the efforts of the Rev. Arthur Stapylton Barnes, an Anglican clergyman who converted to Catholicism. The temporary chapel was served by Fr Bede Wrigley OFM of Bethnal Green. In 1896 Fr (later Canon) Patrick Palmer became the mission priest and undertook the building of the church on a plot in the High Road. Cardinal Vaughan laid the foundation stone on 14 May 1898 and opened the church on 15 June the following year. The architect was Robert Leabon Curtis and the  builders Messrs Gregar &  Sons  of  Stratford. One of  the assistants, and later successor, to R.L. Curtis was Thomas Henry Birchall Scott, later surveyor to the dioceses of Westminster and Brentwood. Scott’s biographical file at the RIBA includes this church amongst his work; Scott may have been job architect, or this may relate to the later additions (side aisles and chapels of 1904-12 and the tower of 1906-07).

A liturgical reordering took place in 1987 when the high altar of 1914, the chancel murals of 1921 and the oak stalls of 1926 were all removed. The church was consecrated by Bishop McMahon in 1996. In 2001 a bell cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was installed in the tower.


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

The church’s west front and tower are built in Portland stone dressed with Kentish ragstone from the Medway Valley. The remaining elevations are in stock brick laid in Flemish bond, with decorative red brick bands. The pitched roof is clad with clay tiles. The west gable is surmounted with a cross, with a further cross topping the ridge at the apse.

The plan is longitudinal with a nave, apsidal sanctuary, side aisles and northwest tower. The central part of the west front has a large Perp window of five lights above two panels of blind tracery lancets: one below the cill, another at ground- floor level where three lancets are windows. There is further blind panelling in the apex of the gable, above three ventilation openings. Pierced tracery screens link the gable to a pinnacled buttress to the south and the tower. The entrances in the south aisle and the tower have symmetrical carved doorways with modern stone statues of Saints Peter and Paul in niches above. Just to the north of the south entrance is a short polygonal stair turret, above which a pinnacled buttress continues upward. The tower with angle buttresses has four levels: the ground floor has the entrance and the foundation stone at the west, with a shallow polygonal apse at the north face. The second stage on the west elevation has three pointed windows with transoms. Above this is a window-less stage with a Portland stone diamond pattern. The top stage has a three-light transomed window with bell louvres. The tower is topped by a pierced battlemented parapet between four pinnacles, with gargoyles at the corners.

On the south elevation, the stone extends on to the second aisle bay from the west where the windows are straight-headed. Beyond, each bay has two pointed aisle windows per bay and segmental windows of five lights in the clerestory. The location of the chancel arch is marked on the south elevation by a pinnacled buttress extending above the roof line. The apse has an external arcaded ambulatory, enabling access between the two sacristies on either side and the presbytery. The three central sides of the five-sided apse are blind with large crosses modelled in brick.

A two-light window in the southwest porch contains stained glass with St Teresa’s vision of Christ. Nearby is a freestanding marble stoup topped by an angel, erected in memory of Fr Peter J. Brady, an assistant priest who died in 1947. Screens with two arches each lead from the porch into the main narthex and from there into the tower. The former baptistery at the northwest (later the repository, since 1993 the Adoration chapel) has three stained glass windows including the baptism of Christ. The west window is filled with stained glass scenes of Saints Peter and Paul (in memory of Michael Molony, d. 1924).

The nave has six bays, of which the westernmost is occupied by the gallery with a divided pipe organ. The nave has a panelled wagon roof while the aisles have lean-to roofs with transverse stone arches. The pointed nave arcade rests on octagonal columns with capitals, the latter two of grey stone. The north aisle has a First World War memorial in the form of a large crucifix with two brass panels. The seven stained glass windows in the north aisle depict (from the west): Doubting Thomas, the Assumption, the martyrdom of St Peter (1919), St Catherine, Christ and the Disciples (1919), the death of St Joseph, and Christ saving St Peter from drowning (1918). Stained glass artists include Mayer of Munich, A.A. Orr and Jones and Willis (more information at Beside the entrance to the sacristy at the northeast is a shallow niche, formerly a confessional, now a shrine to the Sacred Heart. The Lady Chapel has statues of the Virgin & Child and St Joseph.

On either side of the chancel arch are empty canopied niches. The arch is supported by short colonnettes of grey stone with angel corbels. The sanctuary is two windows deep with a five-sided canted apse. The two straight bays have full-height grey stone colonnettes supporting the arch braces of the roof. The matching stone furnishings date from the reordering. On the east wall hangs a large timber crucifix, between two stained glass windows in the outer apse bays depicting the Annunciation and Nativity (left), and the Resurrection and the Crucifixion (right), 1904, possibly by Mayer. Around the east wall is a curved timber bench. Small statues of Saints Peter and Paul which used to be on the high altar are now placed inside two niches, below the two windows. Beside the octagonal stone font to the south of the sanctuary stands a large and elaborate paschal candle stand of brass (recently restored). The southeast chapel has the tabernacle on a stone pedestal matching the sanctuary furnishings. The chapel probably used to be the Lady Chapel as the single south window has stained glass of Our Lady of the Rosary (1908, by Mayer). The windows in the south aisle are: St Teresa (c.1895), Suffer the Little Children (1908), the Agony in the Garden (1999), St Mary Magdalen (1908, Mayer), St Thomas More and St John Fisher, The Last Supper (1908, Mayer), Risen Christ (Goddard & Gibbs), Immaculate Conception (1908, Mayer), and St Martin with the beggar (1945). Near the west end of the south aisle is a confessional beside a statue of St Anthony. The Stations are pointed timber relief panels. The floor is the original woodblock floor with slate-covered heating channels.

Entry amended by AHP 03.04.2023

Heritage Details

Architect: R. L. Curtis

Original Date: 1898

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed