Bosworth Road, Kensal New Town, London W10
A relatively simple Early English brick church, built on a tight budget for the Oblates of St Charles from designs by J. F. Bentley. The church has been reordered several times and has lost some key furnishings and decorative schemes in the process. Nevertheless, the building has a commanding presence in the local street scene and is of interest as an early design by a significant Catholic architect. A major scheme of refurbishment was taking place at the time of the visit.
The mission was established in 1862 by the Oblates of St Charles. Initially they rented two cottages for Mass and as a school. In 1872, a two-storey building in Bosworth Road was built by S. J. Nicholl, of which the ground floor was used as a church, with a schoolroom above. A year later this had already become too small and John Francis Bentley was asked to build a temporary iron church. In 1880, he was also asked to build a permanent church, which was to be as cheap and plain as possible, costing no more than £1200, and in the Roman style, ‘without pointed arches or stained windows’. Bentley provided, and persuaded the Oblates to accept, a design in the Early English Gothic style, costing £4-5000. The foundation stone was laid on 24 May 1881 by Cardinal Manning and the new church was opened on 13 April the following year. The builders were Stimpson & Co and the cost was £5059. According to Winefride de L’Hôpital, Bentley’s daughter and biographer, Bentley had no involvement in the fitting out of the church, apart from some temporary furnishings. Amongst these was a wooden altar in the Holy Ghost chapel at the east end of the north aisle, with a triptych designed by Bentley, painted by a Mr John Stacey of St John’s Wood. It is believed that Bentley intended a rood screen, but this came slightly later and was, along with the large reredos, designed by Fr Arnold Baker, who for thirty one years was rector of the church. The walls were decorated ‘by one of Mr George Bodley’s men, thrown out of work when he died’ (de L’Hôpital, 406). The glass in the west window was added in 1938, from designs by Hardman Studios.
Sadly, in the early 1970s Fr Baker’s chancel screen was removed and the rood cross hung on the east wall. By c.1998, the only Bentley-designed furnishing still in the church was thought to be the Sacred Heart shrine (formerly part of the Holy Ghost altar), with its painted panels by Stacey; however, Bentley’s pulpit has also recently been uncovered, having been boxed-in in situ.
Since 1978, the parish has been in the care of the Augustinian Recollect Friars.
In 2004 George Mathers created a new setting for the statue of Our Lady in the Lady Chapel, with an alabaster altar and reredos donated by the Sisters of Mercy from one of their convents (information from Chris Fanning).
In May 2011, a faculty was granted for the reordering, refurbishment and re-lighting of the church, which was underway at the time of writing (architect Jane Ferra). The scheme aims to reverse some of the detrimental changes of recent decades by reinstating some of the original features and uncovering painted-out decorative schemes. The works comprise:
The exterior is briefly described in the list entry (see below). To this might be added that the dressings are of Bath stone. Bentley’s daughter and biographer (de L’Hopital, 405) remarks that ‘the arrangement of horizontal stone banding alternating with brick courses in the uppermost stages [of the projection on the south elevation] strikes a cheerful and beautiful note in the church’s squalid environment’. It is also a sign of Bentley’s love of banded polychromy, which was to see its full realisation in the design of Westminster Cathedral.
At the time of the visit, the church was undergoing a major project of reordering, restoration and refurbishment (details above), and the interior was not accessible for inspection.
Roman Catholic, 1881. J F Bentley. Red brick, stone bands, slate roof. Early English style. Nave with tall clerestory, aisles, transept and lower choir. Entrance to west end, with 3 lancets over. Small octagonal tower with spire to south-west. South aisle to return facade virtually windowless.
Listing NGR: TQ2441382239
Architect: J. F. Bentley
Original Date: 1881
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II