Building » Nunhead – St Thomas the Apostle

Nunhead – St Thomas the Apostle

Evelina Road, Nunhead, London SE15

The original church was built in 1905 and is typical of the so-called ‘Ellis boxes’ built under the patronage of Miss Frances Ellis. This survives as the sanctuary of a larger church of the 1970s, a very functional design.

A small church (which survives as the sanctuary of the present church) was opened by Bishop Amigo on 10 November 1905. The cost of £3,000 was met by Miss Frances Ellis, who supported a great many building projects in the diocese in the opening decade of the twentieth  century. The architect has not been established; it is typical of the so-called Ellis boxes, and may be by F. W. Tasker.

The parish struggled in the early days, being described in The Tablet as ‘the poorest mission in South London’. In 1927 (according to the parish website; Evinson says 1924) Stations of the Cross were erected in the church. The presbytery was rebuilt between 1934 and 1937, but was badly damaged by a bomb in September 1940, when the windows of the church were also blown out.

In 1973-4 a large new flat-roofed extension to the worship area was built by Fr Hugh Lagan; the architects were the Wilman Partnership (Evinson). The north wall of the old church was removed and its nave became the sanctuary of the new church. The church was consecrated by Archbishop Bowen in 1989, when relics of St Thomas the Apostle and St Philip Howard were placed in the altar. In 1996 the parish was put in the care of the Sacred Hearts Fathers, but they left in 2010. The parish is now in the care of the Missionaries of St Paul.


The small 1905 church survives as the sanctuary of the present church. It is typical of the so-called ‘Ellis boxes’, being built of London stock brick, with spare use of stone for the dressings and a slate roof. The west elevation has a circular window in the gable and a corbelled brick raised parapet. Below this is a lean-to with slate roof, the original entrance. The flank (south) elevation is of four bays, divided by plain broad pilasters, its clerestory windows now blocked. The 1970s extension is attached to the north side of the original church. It is a large and low building, flat-roofed, and with rendered external walls.

The interior has not been inspected, and this description relies on the account given in Evinson. The sanctuary is broad and deep, having been formed out of the nave of the old church. It retains its original timber king-post roof. The original north wall of the church has been removed and opens out into the new congregational space, a large space with a low ceiling. The most noteworthy of the furnishings are the frameless Stations of the Cross, dating from the 1920s, made by Burns, Oates & Washbourne – clearly the work of Anton Dupre at his best, says Evinson.

Heritage Details

Architect: Possibly F.W. Tasker; Wilman Partnership

Original Date: 1905

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed