Building » Marylebone – Our Lady of the Rosary

Marylebone – Our Lady of the Rosary

Old Marylebone Road, London NW1

A neo-Romanesque church with an impressively light and complex interior, created largely by arches, openings in wall planes and transverse vaults. Designed by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel shortly before his death and completed by his successor practice, the design is a modern interpretation of French transitional Romanesque precedents, and is generally considered to be one of Goodhart-Rendel’s best. The church retains many original furnishings and fittings. The neo-Georgian presbytery by the same architect is included in the listing.

The mission originated in a rented hall in Cato Street, where priests from Spanish Place said Mass, an arrangement financed by the Spanish nobleman Count de Torre Diaz. In 1849, the Count together with others bought the land in Homer Row on which a school-chapel was built in 1855 to designs by Gilbert Blount. This was dedicated by Cardinal Wiseman on 9 August 1855. The chapel was on the ground floor with two floors of schoolrooms above.

In 1861, Marylebone became a separate mission. In 1870, the church was enlarged by rebuilding the sanctuary (leaving the ‘puritanical’ nave as originally built) and re-opened on 29 June 1870. In the late 1880s, William Lamb decorated the church under the direction of the architect A. E. Purdie. In 1899, the sanctuary was decorated with three paintings over the Gothic high altar and the two side altars by N. J. Westlake (and Bentley, according to Rottmann). This was financed by a former parish priest, Canon White.

In 1929, the parish priest bought the freehold of the adjoining site for £16,100. However, the building of a new church was delayed until the late 1950s. In c.1956, Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel (1887-1959) was commissioned to design the presbytery and the new church, for which he drew inspiration from French Romanesque churches such as those at Tournus and Le Puy. (The job correspondence in the RIBA goes back to 1956. The project was continued after Goodhart-Rendel’s death by D. A. Reid and H. Lewis Curtis of the successor practice, F.G. Broadbent & Partners; according to the Catholic Building Review, Reid was the partner in charge.) Work on site started in January 1961, the foundation stone was laid on 23 September 1961, and the completed church was opened by Cardinal Heenan on 7 June 1964. The structural engineer was John Paton. The adjoining presbytery was built alongside the church. The cost of the church was £179,130.

Once the new church was complete, the old one was demolished. Early accounts of the building project mention that its site would ‘provide a much needed open space in the built up area’ (CBR.S 1965, p. 38), however, within a few years it was built over to provide a parish hall. The Rosary Hall was built by the architects Westmore & Partners in 1968-69; the contractors were Pavings & Pipelines Ltd. Over five floors, it provided a youth club in the basement, two halls, church offices and a caretaker’s flat.

The church was reordered in 2005 by Gerald Murphy. This involved a new forward altar and presidential chair (built by Martin Duncan-Jones) new sanctuary paving (James Keegan), relocation of the pulpit from the northeast nave pier to the edge of the sanctuary steps and removal of the black marble altar rails to the side chapels (information from Chris Fanning).In 2008 a small WC addition was built at the west end (architect Gerald Murphy).


The church is fairly fully described in the list description (see below). However, a few of the furnishings and fittings are not mentioned.

  • Between the east windows are fifteen tiled panels depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary (1966). They were designed by Joseph William Ledger (1926-2010) for Carter & Co. of Poole and hand-painted by Phyllis Butler before firing. (In some accounts, Ledger is erroneously given the initial ‘T.’) Ledger designed stained glass for Goodhart-Rendel for the church of St John the Evangelist at St Leonard’s-on-Sea, as well as two other tiled reredoses (St Mary the Virgin (Church of England), Isleworth (reredos of 1955), and St John Fisher (RC), Rochester (1955). 
  • Carter’s also supplied the patterned blue and grey glazed tiling for the chancel dado which includes Marian symbols and a memorial tile to Mgr Canon Wood (died November 1961).
  • The organ was built in 1865 by Bishop & Starr for the previous church. 
  • Sculptures by David Wheeler ARCA include the Sacred Heart, St Alban and St Joseph.
  • The Stations of the Cross are rectangular casts by the sisters of St Michael’s Convent, Ham Common.
  • The two south aisle chapels (dedicated to St Joseph and St Alban) and the two chapels flanking the sanctuary (dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart) have coloured marble altars and black marble rails (moved from the sanctuary). The latter two chapels have matching marble reredoses. The high altar is of grey marble. 
  • The westernmost bay of the north aisle is the baptistery with a circular stone font and wrought-iron gates with the dove symbol. 
  • The only stained glass is abstract coloured glass of a recent date in two lancets each in the south aisle chapels.

The list description also contains a typographical error: ‘D. A. Rud’ in the second line should read ‘D. A. Reid’.

List description


R.C. Church and presbytery. 1959-62. Designed by H.S. Goodhart-Rendel and completed after his death by DA Rud & H Lewis Curtis. Brown brick with red and brown diapering to tower. Low pitched slate roofs falling to eaves. Traditional plan with original altar against east wall in narrow sanctuary, dwarf transepts and passage aisles to nave. Presbytery attached to liturgical south-west. Liturgical west facade dominated by rectangular three stage tower with low saddle roof parallel to the road and blind lower flanking walls, separated by two-storey buttresses. Triple blind arches above entrance which is square-headed and has beneath segmental glazed arch which runs across all three arches. Single round headed window above in rectangular decorated surrounds. Bell stage with six segmental headed louvres separated by buttresses. Presbytery (by Reid) neo-Georgian, of three storeys, nine main bays with the centre one with two windows, one above the other including a tall window, evidently lighting a staircase. These windows are segmental headed, as are two ground floor windows and two entrance doorways. Other windows square-headed. All are Georgian-style timber sashes with vertical glazing bars. Interior of church of concrete plastered and painted. Additional altar set in forward position within the raised sanctuary, and original altar against the wall behind. Pointed barrel roof to sanctuary, and very narrow pointed lancet windows, six to east end and five to the flanks. Lower walls lined with green and blue tiles with white pattern, and upper walls stencilled in pastel green. Bold transverse arches across the nave, pointed and without capitals, and culminating in triple segmental headed arches above the main arches, at clerestorey level. Segmental headed clerestorey windows. The feet of the transverse arches are punctured for segmental headed passage aisles. The clerestorey is supported on transverse pointed barrel vaults at high level. To liturgical south side a gallery runs below this. Octagonal stone pulpit attached to north west pier of transept. Black marble altar rail. Blue, white and gold decorative tester suspended at high level above the altar. Simple timber benches. Decorative pendant lights hang from flanks of transverse arches and six-pointed metal chandelier hangs in crossing. A grand church which displays Goodhart-Rendel’s manipulation of spaces and planes to great effect. His last work and one of his best.

Listing NGR: TQ2738581592

Heritage Details

Architect: H. S. Goodhart-Rendel (completed by F. G. Broadbent & Partners)

Original Date: 1961

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II