Westferry Road, London E14
A modern brick complex on a T-plan, combining church, presbytery and parish room. It contains some historic furnishings from the predecessor church by William Wardell, as well as pews from A. G. Scott’s church at Poplar.
The current church is the third serving the Isle of Dogs. In 1846, St Edward’s chapel opened in Moiety Road, built by John H. Fisher & Son of Stratford to designs of William Wilkinson Wardell (1823-99). The aisleless nave functioned as a schoolroom during the week, with a sliding screen separating the sanctuary. This was served from the Poplar mission. While the chapel was still standing until the 1880s, it was superseded in 1874 by St Edmund’s church.
In 1871, Archbishop Manning and others took out a ninety nine-year lease for the site in Westferry Road at an annual rent of £30. The school and clergy house were built first. A foundation stone was laid on 3 June 1872, but work on the church began only in September 1873, to designs by F. W. Tasker. St Edmund’s church opened on 19 August 1874. The builders were James Linzell & Son of Tottenham. The plan of Tasker’s Early English style church showed a nave with lean-to aisles, an apsidal chancel with side chapel and a timber fleche (later removed). Due to money-saving measures, only the nave piers were placed on deep foundations, creating structural problems from the start. Piling and underpinning was necessary in 1879 and 1883. The structural problems continued into the later twentieth century when they threw the future of the building into question.
The church was eventually demolished and replaced by the current building by David Aitken, built in 1999-2000. The foundation stone, re-using material from the original foundation stone, was blessed by Cardinal Hume on 23 April 1999, a week after announcing his terminal illness; this was the last foundation stone the Cardinal laid (information from Chris Fanning). The new building originally comprised the presbytery, the church and a hall, and a weekday chapel. In order to enlarge the church, the hall – formerly separated by a folding screen – became a permanent part of the church. The original weekday chapel is now the small parish room. In 2008 planning permission was granted for a single-storey side extension to the parish room.
The three arms of the T-plan building are used as follows: The presbytery is to the north, the parish room (former weekday chapel) and the narthex to the south, and the church to the west. The following description uses conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was at the east end.
The plan of the church is longitudinal with a triangular sanctuary and a small projecting reconciliation room to the south. The church has a yellow and red brick exterior, laid in stretcher bond and soldier courses. The narrow windows have opaque glass, with decorative leaded lights in the sanctuary. The presbytery has a tiled pyramidal roof, while the other two arms of the building have pitched roofs. Above the sanctuary the roof sweeps up into a tower-like feature. On the sanctuary wall facing the road is a statue of the church’s patron saint.
The narthex has the old and new foundation stones, as well as the sacristy and lavatories. The inside of the church is faced with yellow brick with decorative patterns of black brick, all in stretcher bond with soldier courses. The ceiling is panelled. At the west end are a storage room and a kitchen. Above are three glass brick windows, with pale orange glass bricks forming the letters Alpha and Omega. The font is from the predecessor church, of an octagonal stone bowl with a short marble column, and stands in the central aisle. There are statues of St Edmund and the Sacred Heart along the north side wall, with Our Lady with the Christ Child and St Joseph as carpenter on the south wall, presumably all from the old church. The reconciliation room has a modern painting of Christ seated in a mandorla. Most of the sanctuary furnishings came from the old church, augmented by items collected by a previous parish priest. It has a modern marble lectern and a modern iron candle stand. The main altar is made from marble from the high altar of the previous church (as was the altar of the weekday chapel). The figure on the hanging crucifix also came from the old church and was mounted on a new cross. The tabernacle (added by Fr Peter Harris) is very elaborate, gilded and pinnacled. The Stations of the Cross are square paintings on cork, somewhat in the manner of Eric Gill (1956, by Sister W.W. of Stanbrook Abbey). Most of the olive-coloured pews are on loan from SS Mary and Joseph, Poplar (qv). Their design has been attributed to Adrian Gilbert Scott, architect of the church at Poplar.
Architect: David Aitken
Original Date: 1999
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed