Building » Notting Hill – St Francis of Assisi

Notting Hill – St Francis of Assisi

Pottery Lane, Notting Hill, London W11

A French Gothic Revival design by Henry Clutton, for the Oblates of St Charles. Shortly after its completion in 1860, Clutton’s young assistant, John Bentley, was asked to extend the church and supervise its internal decoration and furnishings. Bentley designed numerous fittings, stained glass, metalwork and textiles, and was the first to be baptised in the font he designed. The church was his first independent Catholic commission. He also designed the adjoining presbytery and school, which together with the church make a notable contribution to the local conservation area.

The mission was founded by the Oblates of St Charles whose member, Fr Henry Rawes, built the church at his own expense in 1859–60. It was opened on 2 February 1860. The architect was Henry Clutton and the work was supervised by his assistant, the young John Bentley. The contractors were Jackson & Shaw. As assistant, Bentley designed several small furnishings including an offertory box, an oak chancel seat and a corbel for a statue of St Francis.

In 1861, the church already proved to be too small and Fr Rawes asked Bentley to design additions on an adjoining piece of land. Bentley added the presbytery, school, the baptistery and the southwest porch, and also supervised the interior decoration and designed many furnishings. Bentley converted to Catholicism in 1862 and was apparently the first person to be baptised in the font he designed (on 16 April 1862); he took his middle name, Francis, from the dedication of the church. The side altar to St John was designed in March 1861 and is the first collaboration of N. H. J. Westlake and his friend Bentley (the photo bottom right shows the altar frontal). In 1863, Bentley designed the Lady Chapel altar, the high altar and reredos, reliquaries and a confessional. In 1864, unfinished stonework in the porch was carved, the chancel further enriched with marble and the sanctuary completed with painted decorations by Westlake (mostly painted out since). In 1865, Bentley donated the font cover, as a thanksgiving for his conversion. Also in the 1860s, Bentley designed numerous furnishings, including a jewelled monstrance (now in the Birmingham Art Gallery), an iron offering stand, a processional cross, a music stand, candlesticks, vestments and frontals. Between 1865 and 1870, Westlake painted the Stations of the Cross. In 1870, Bentley designed a canopied niche for a statue of Our Lady (by Theodore Phyffers). Bentley and Westlake designed the stained glass windows which were made by Lavers & Barraud (after 1868 Lavers, Barraud & Westlake). In 1872–73, Westlake further decorated the sanctuary (of which two angels survive on the sanctuary ceiling).

In 1882, church and presbytery were altered when a tribune was constructed over the baptistery at the west end of the north aisle and an additional room constructed in the presbytery.

After Bentley’s death, his son Osmond continued the work, notably completing the baptistery in 1907 (with carving by Hardman) and 1910, when he added grilles and doors, and in 1913 (Evinson: 1915) redecorating the Lady Chapel. In 1917, F. A. Walters added a piscina in the sanctuary. The same year, statues of St John and St Joseph by the Belgian sculptor Blanchard were given to the church. In 1926, G. N. Watts cleaned and redecorated the church. In 1960, the church was restored and redecorated by A. J. Sparrow.

In 1982, the girls’ primary school moved from the 1861 school building to a site in Treadgold Street, where it was combined with the infants’ and boys’ schools. The school building then was converted for use as a parish centre and opened by Bishop Konstant on 4 October 1982. At the same time, a new statue of St Francis of Assisi by Arthur Fleischmann was blessed. In 1983–84, the church was reordered and redecorated by Williams & Winkley. The altar rails were removed in order to install a forward altar. In 2008, a new stained glass window by Benjamin Finn at the west end of the nave was blessed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor. In 2010, paint was removed from the internal stonework, the nave carpet removed and oak floor boarding installed; the encaustic tiles in the sanctuary were also repaired and reinstated, and a new wooden floor installed around the forward altar.  


The church and its furnishings are briefly described in the list entry (see below). The following additional comments use conventional liturgical orientation (the church actually faces south).

At the west end of the nave are two arcades below the organ gallery with double columns to the west and single columns with marble stoups to the east. Between them is a statue of St John by Blanchard on a marble corbel (designed by Bentley) to the north and a large crucifix (possibly carved by T. Phyffers) above a painted quote from St Francis to the north. The three-bay nave has two dormers to the north and three lancet windows to the south. The collar-beam timber roofs over nave and aisle are exposed. The Stations are painted in encaustic on slate by Westlake (1865–70).

The sanctuary has a modern forward altar inlaid with marble, a modern eagle lectern with reliefs of the four evangelists, and the original square white stone pulpit with a quatrefoil painting of St Francis preaching to the birds. Behind them is the high altar (1863) of alabaster inlaid with marble and glass mosaic whose frontal depicts the dead Christ. The reredos (1863) is also of alabaster with four eight-pointed star recesses painted with Abel, Noah, Abraham and Melchisedech. Above the tabernacle with its engraved and jewelled door, is a corbel with the monstrance throne under a canopy with the Pelican in front of a vesica panel of mosaics. The vault above retains two angels and five monogram roundels from Westlake’s painted decoration. The south wall of the sanctuary has depictions (in memory of the Keane family) of St Thomas More and St John Fisher on either side of the Adoration, set above the marble piscina inserted by Walters in 1917.

In the curving corridor to the Lady Chapel is a small altar to St John, designed by Bentley in March 1861, and the alabaster reredos and altar, carved by Thomas Earp of Lambeth. It is notable for containing the first paintings made by N. H. J. Westlake for his friend Bentley: the reredos depicts St John giving Holy Communion to the Virgin Mary, and the frontal depicts St John and St Daniel.

The northeast chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Dolours. The alabaster altar has miniature paintings on and between four columns and a central quatrefoil with Our Lady of Dolours. The reredos is formed by three panels which are part of a series of seven in total which depict the Seven Dolours (encaustic on slate, Westlake). Three further panels are on the north walls and one on the south wall. (In 1861, Westlake exhibited the designs for these panels at the Architectural Exhibition in Conduit Street.) On the canted face of the pillar between the Lady Chapel and the sanctuary is a painting of the patron saint of the church, St Francis of Assisi.

At the east end of the north aisle is a large statue of Our Lady by T. Phyffers (1870) which was given by Westlake, on a corbel and under a canopy designed by Bentley. At the west end of the aisle, two segmental red sandstone arches lead into the baptistery below the blocked tribune of 1882. The southern bay of the baptistery contains the elaborate font beside a stepped tile pavement and surrounded by wrought-iron grilles and gates (Osmond Bentley, 1907, 1910). The font (1861–62) has a red granite bowl on a base of alabaster and supported on green marble columns. The carved oak cover (1865) with panels of intarsia was designed and donated by Bentley. It was made in the organ workshops of T. C. Lewis, for whom Bentley also designed over forty organ cases. The stone vault of the baptistery is supported on red and green marble shafts.

Stained glass in the church includes three windows on the south side of the nave: St Augustine (designed by Bentley, made by Lavers & Westlake), St Elizabeth of Hungary (1886, Phillip of Bayswater) and St Francis (1926, attributed to Jones & Willis). The west window depicts Jesus and the people of God (2008, Benjamin Finn). Two cinquefoils in the apse have stained glass depictions of angels (designed by Bentley and Westlake and made by Lavers & Barraud). In the Lady Chapel is a two-light decorative grisaille window and near the altar of St John a two-light window of St John the Evangelist and St Mary Magdalen. Only two of the three windows in the north side of the north aisle have stained glass: St Agnes (designed by Bentley) and the Good Shepherd (1882, Hardman). Two west windows in the baptistery have stained glass designed by Bentley (1872, made by Lavers, Barraud & Westlake): St John the Baptist and St Charles Borromeo.

List descriptions



Church. 1860 by Clutton. Lady Chapel and Baptistry from 1863 by Bentley. Low brick church with apsidal east end. Four bay nave, no clerestory, north aisle. Lady Chapel fitted in tangentially to north-east, also apsed. Fittings by Bentley, including high altar and font, both richly decorated with contrasting marbles, and supported by stumpy columns with stiff leaf capitals. Elaborate wooden cover to font, and decorative wrought iron screen to Baptistry. Graded II* for Bentley’s work. Survey of London Vol 37.

Listing NGR: TQ2426280502



Circa 1860, probably Clutton. Yellow brick with black brick bands and voussoirs. Two storey building surrounding courtyard adjoining church. Elaborate metal finials to roof.

Listing NGR: TQ2426480520

Heritage Details

Architect: Henry Clutton; J. F. Bentley

Original Date: 1859

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*