Mottingham Road, Mottingham, London SE9
A late Gothic Revival church of 1932-3 by Edward John Walters. Conservative for its date, the church retains few of its original furnishings and has recently been reordered with the addition of a new porch. The building has some townscape value.
Mottingham’s development started with the arrival of the railway station (initially called Eltham, later renamed Mottingham Station) in 1866. It further expanded with the development of the Mottingham Estate in the 1930s by the London County Council, and the post-war Coldharbour Estate by Woolwich Borough Council.
Until 1926 Mass was said by priests from Christ Church, Eltham, at an Orphanage at Mottingham, run by the Sisters of Charity. That year, the Sisters left for Gravesend, and sold their house and the chapel to a developer. Subsequently, the Christ Church Priory rented a small black hut from the Porcupine Hotel, where Mass was said on Sundays and Holy Days. In 1930 the diocese took over the care of Mottingham, and in 1931 the site fronting Mottingham Road was acquired. The church was built to designs by the architect Edward John Walters, son of the more famous architect Frederick A. Walters. The foundation stone was laid on 10 December 1932 by the Rt Rev. William Brown, Bishop of Pella.
In 1953 the presbytery was built by Walters & Kerr Bate. The same practice built the parish hall, which was opened and blessed by Archbishop Cowderoy on 31 January 1969. Most recently Austin Winkley & Associates have undertaken a reordering which included the building of a new southwest porch with disabled access. This porch was added to what was probably the original baptistery, while the previous porch at the northwest was turned into a repository, its external steps removed. The space originally dedicated to the choir, just south of the sanctuary, was turned into a Marian shrine, with a confessional behind. The sacristy’s external door became a fire exit and the entrance doors to the sacristy were pushed slightly further south, to allow for direct access to the fire exit from the body of the church. The new entrance porch was formally opened on 25 October 2009.
The church is facing northeast; however, the following description will use the conventional, liturgical orientation.
The church of Our Lady Help of Christians was built in 1932-3 from designs by Edward John Walters. The materials are rubble masonry with stone dressings, with a slate roof. The new porch is of oak-framed construction. The plan is longitudinal, of a nave with a south aisle and a shorter north aisle, a straight-ended sanctuary with side chapels, and sacristy spaces to the southeast. Opening off the westernmost bay of the nave are the former baptistery (now the main entrance with new porch) to the south, and the original entrance (now repository) to the north. (The external steps up to the latter have been removed, although the doors remain.) Off the south aisle is a shallow shrine to our Lady (formerly a built-in confessional).
The nave roof is pitched, with a lean-to aisle roof to the south (with a lean-to roof above the former confessional). The pitched roofs of the former porch, the two-bay- long north aisle and the former Baptistery are perpendicular to the main nave roof. The roof of the new entrance porch is parallel with the nave roof. Above the sanctuary arch is a Sanctus bellcote with a tall pyramidal roof.
The west facade has five lancet windows below a relieving arch, flanked by buttresses. Centrally below the window is the foundation stone. To the left (north) is the west face of the original entrance porch with one small lancet. To the right is the west elevation of the south aisle with a circular window, and the gabled front of the new porch. Inside, a white marble statue of the Madonna (originally from a parish in Dover) stands on a tall pedestal in front of the large window in the south wall. Opposite the entrance doors is the disabled toilet. The roof construction elegantly negotiates between the collar-beam roof of the original space and the roof of the new porch placed perpendicular to it. Glazed timber doors give access to the south aisle.
Beside the entrance at the west end of the nave stands the original font of quatrefoil plan on a stem with four columns. The bowl is carved with the dove of the Holy Spirit. Also at the west end is a carved statue of St Theresa, as well as a stone statue of St Thomas More on a pedestal (1933). The five-bay nave has a scissor beam roof without a clerestorey. The pointed arcade rests on pillars, some of which are of octagonal, others of circular plan. The aisle windows are pairs of lancets. The short north aisle adjoins only the two easternmost bays of the nave, accommodating the organ, and statues of St Anthony and the Sacred Heart. The latter stands beside the arch to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the northeast. The chapel has a panelled wagon roof, a stone altar, a built-in piscina, an oval east window with coloured glass and two side lancets.
The reordered sanctuary also has a panelled wagon roof. It is lit by three lancets at the east and two lancets on the side walls. Below the east windows is a plain stone reredos whose only decoration are small battlements and a wooden crucifix. The original high altar has been removed, although the steps up to it remain. In front of the reredos are three timber chairs. On either side are built-in aumbry and piscina. The remaining sanctuary furniture is modern; the altar of marble is flanked by iron candlesticks of a very similar style to the iron pulpit, lectern and the gate to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
The space to the south of the sanctuary was originally used by the choir. Separated from the sanctuary by a glazed timber screen, it now accommodates a confessional behind a recent timber partition, with a small shrine with a statue of the enthroned Madonna with Child. To the southeast are a fire exit and the sacristy spaces. A shallow niche off the south aisle used to house a confessional and is now a small shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, with statues of the Virgin and St Bernadette. The Stations are large unframed scenes carved from timber. The benches in the nave are plain and modern. None of the windows have stained glass.
Architect: E. J. Walters
Original Date: 1932
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed