Building » Kentish Town – Our Lady Help of Christians

Kentish Town – Our Lady Help of Christians

Lady Margaret Road, London NW5

A substantial Gothic former Methodist church of the 1860s by the London architect John Tarring, architect of a number of large Nonconformist churches. The church, which has a typical galleried interior, was converted for Catholic use in 1970, after the congregation outgrew its E.W. Pugin church in Fortess Road. The Kentish ragstone elevations and spire make a prominent and positive contribution to the Kentish Town Conservation Area.

In 1846 a small temporary chapel was built in Kentish Town by the Rev. Hardinge Ivers, an Anglican convert clergyman, close to his home in Gospel Terrace. In 1849 the foundation stone was laid in Fitzroy Place (now Highgate Road) for a permanent church, designed by William Wardell. However, this church was never completed; the mission was closed after a dispute between Fr Ivers and Cardinal Wiseman.

The mission was revived in 1856, and a temporary church opened in Junction Road. This was replaced by a permanent church in Fortess Road, designed by E. W. Pugin and opened in 1859. A century later the Fortess Road building had become too small for the congregation and in the late 1960s an exchange was agreed with the Methodists who had a large church with halls in Lady Margaret Road.  This had been built in 1867 from designs by John Tarring, architect of a number of large Nonconformist churches. Under the then parish priest, Fr George Stack, the former Methodist building was refurbished and adapted for Catholic worship by the architects Burles & Newton. It was opened by Cardinal Hume in 1970. Sadly, the old church was demolished in 2001, and in 2011 there was an application to demolish E.W. Pugin’s adjoining presbytery too.


See list description below.  This describes only the exterior, while making reference to the galleried interior.

The church is in the Decorated Gothic style.  All the elaboration is concentrated on the main west front.  The side elevations are much plainer by comparison, with two tiers of windows expressing the internal galleries.

The interior is wide and spacious, clearly betraying the building’s origins as a Nonconformist preaching box, with a timber-fronted gallery on three sides carried on clustered cast iron columns. The wide open timber roof has arch-braced principals; rafters and the braces are brought down onto hammerbeams resting on an upper tier of cast iron columns. The gallery fronts have metal piercings and handrails and the gallery bench seating has been retained.  The main floor has been renewed or re-covered, with modern benches and modern sanctuary fittings on a platform in front of the organ, which is in the usual Nonconformist location in an alcove under a tall pointed arch in the east wall.  The organ was made by Forster & Andrews of Hull. Two windows to note are:

  • An abstract design in the southeast window by the Maltese artist, Carmel Cauchi, dedicated to Jim Breheny
  • A  small stained glass window of the Virgin and Child, set within the great  west window, from the Fortess Road church.

List description


Roman Catholic church, formerly Methodist. 1864-7. By J Tarring. Kentish rag random rubble with freestone dressings. Gothic style. 5-bay nave with clerestory and sanctuary. Tower with spire at north-west corner. West facade has enriched, gabled central west doorway with recessed orders; double doors, set in pointed arches, and quatrefoil tracery over. Above, a 7-light geometrical tracery window. Flanking buttresses and those to south aisle gable and tower with tall pinnacles. Spire with buttressed belfry and lucarnes above. North facade with 3 gabled and buttressed bays, each with 2 traceried windows reflecting interior galleries. 

INTERIOR: not inspected but noted to retain pine galleries on 3 sides carried by enriched cast-iron columns.

Listing NGR: TQ2923385290

Heritage Details

Architect: John Tarring

Original Date: 1864

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II