Duncan Terrace, Islington, London N1
A neo-Romanesque brick church built in the 1840s to designs by J. J. Scoles. Originally intended to be symmetrical, the twin west towers were finished later as a picturesquely asymmetrical composition. The chief furnishings are in the side chapels, including paintings and frescoes by Edward Armitage RA amongst others. The church is flanked by contemporary London stock brick terraces, which include the presbytery and convent. It is a significant landmark in the local conservation area.
The mission was founded from Moorfields and a plot in Duncan Terrace acquired, which was just being developed. In 1839 a school chapel by J. J. Scoles was erected. This was quickly insufficient and the foundation stone for the present church – also by J. J. Scoles – was blessed by Bishop Griffiths on 27 September 1841. He opened the church on 26 June 1843. The builder was Mr Tiernan of Somers Town. The plan is derived from that pioneered by the Church of the Gesù, Rome. Pugin castigated the Romanesque Revival building as ‘the most original combination of modern deformity that has been executed for some time past’. In response, the design was defended by Joseph Hansom in The Builder. The west gallery was constructed to Scoles’s design and the organ installed in 1861. When the church was opened in 1843, the twin towers, which Scoles had intended to be symmetrical, were still unfinished. (One of them was sufficiently finished to hold a bell by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, cast and blessed in 1843.) Following a decision by Canon Oakeley, they were finished in 1877 (Evinson: 1870) by F. W. Tasker, with towers and spires differing from each other and from Scoles’s original design. The church was consecrated on 26 June 1873. The intended rebuilding of the presbytery in a matching style was never carried out.
In 1884, the narthex was glazed to the nave. Furnishings and decorative schemes were largely added piecemeal, as and when funds became available. For example, the Transfiguration fresco in the apse vault was executed shortly after the opening by S. Aglio (‘renewed’ in 1963). The Blessed Sacrament Chapel (now the Sacred Heart Chapel) was originally painted in 1855 by H. T. Bulmer. In 1859, Edward Armitage RA painted a fresco in the St Francis Chapel which he later repainted on canvas. He also painted a fresco of Christ and the Apostles in the apse in 1861-62 (since painted out). In 1872, an altar and tabernacle designed by Goldie & Child and made by Thomas Earp was installed. The Stations were bought in 1884. St Francis Chapel was furnished in 1882 to designs by the architect J. J. Connelly. Between the 1890s and the 1910s, the former wall-mounted pulpit at the northeast was replaced by a freestanding pulpit.
In c.1901, F. W. Tasker replaced the original tie-beam roof with a hammerbeam one. During the post-war years, the formerly lead-covered spires were re-covered in copper. In 1963-64, the organ was rebuilt by Walkers. In 1969, Scott & Jaques prepared survey drawings of the church and the then existing crypt for an unknown purpose. Perhaps they were involved in early plans for the excavation of the crypt which was undertaken in 1977-78 by Joan Davis. In 1973, the church was reordered and the current forward altar installed.
In 2004-06 the interior of the nave and sanctuary was redecorated, rewired and a new lighting scheme installed (Lighting Interiors). The parish now plans as a second phase to restore the side chapels and their frequently overpainted decorative schemes. Two chapels, the Lady Chapel and St Francis Chapel, have already been restored by IFACS and were blessed by Bishop Alan Hopes in 2010.
The church faces west. The following remarks follow conventional liturgical orientation (unlike the list description).
The list description (below) describes the church building but none of the furnishings and fittings. It also needs to be updated in respect of the now copper-covered spires.
Roman Catholic church. 1841-43 by Joseph John Scoles, the towers slightly later, with a new roof of c.1901, and the interior re-ordered in 1964 and 1973. Red brick set in Flemish bond to Duncan Terrace, yellow brick behind, stone dressings, roof of Welsh slate and lead. Nave, apsidal chancel, and side chapels in the place of aisles, all under a single roof. Neo-Romanesque in style. Principal gabled front to the east, flanked by towers. Central, round-arched, portal with two Caernarvon-arched doorways; three round-arched windows at gallery level with sill- and springing-bands; wheel window in the gable. The south tower is divided into three stages, the first and second flanked by engaged columns; the first stage has a single round-arched portal with Caernarvon-arched doorway; the second stage has two round-arched windows one above the other; the third, belfry stage stands detached above the body of the building, with round-arched openings flanked by brick pilasters, and eaves cornice of oversailing brick, to each side; pyramidal roof of lead. The north tower follows the same design except that it is higher, having a short third stage of blank brick arcading, and then a fourth, belfry stage with two round-arched openings and eaves cornice in the form of machicolated brickwork; broach spire of lead. The simple interior continues the Neo-Romanesque theme with round arches with engaged columns and stiff-leaf capitals between the nave and side chapels, and between the nave and the apsidal chancel, and a similar arcade to the clerestory; later roof of hammer beam construction. (Historians’ file, English Heritage London Division).
Listing NGR: TQ3164983385
Presbytery (39 Duncan Terrace)
Terraced houses. c.1841. Built by William Watkins. Yellow brick set in Flemish bond, stucco, roof obscured by parapet. Four storeys over basement, two windows each. The houses form a symmetrical group with the two end houses slightly recessed. Basement and ground floor stuccoed, the ground floor decorated with banded rustication. Steps up to round-arched entrance, the doorcase having reeded pilasters (except to no 39), cornice with fanlight, and decorative glazing to nos 34-35, 37 and 39; panelled doors of original design except to no 39. First- and second-floor windows flat-arched with gauged brick heads, continuous bracketed balcony with iron railings to first floor and window guards to second floor; cornice with blocking course at sill level of third-floor windows which are round-arched with gauged brick heads; parapet. Sashes of original design, with arched glazing bars to ground floor, except to nos 34 (third floor), 37 (ground floor), 38 (third floor) and 39. No 36 rebuilt. Cast-iron railings to area. (Historians’ file, English Heritage London Division).
Listing NGR: TQ3165383358
Convent (40 Duncan Terrace)
Terraced houses. c.1841. Yellow brick set in Flemish bond, stucco, roof obscured by parapet. Four storeys over basement, two windows each. The houses form a symmetrical group, with the end houses slightly recessed. Basement and ground floor stuccoed, the ground floor decorated with banded rustication. Round-arched entrance with pilaster jambs, cornice and fanlight. Ground-floor window round-arched; first- and second-floor windows flat-arched with gauged brick heads; continuous bracketed balcony with iron railings to first floor, window guards to second floor. Moulded stucco cornice with blocking course at the sill level of the third floor windows which are round-arched with gauged brick heads; parapet. Sashes of original design, with radiating glazing bars to ground floor, except for nos 40 (first floor) and 44 (ground floor). Cast-iron railings to area.
Listing NGR: TQ3166683405
Architect: J. J. Scoles; F. W. Tasker
Original Date: 1841
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II