Building » Ogle Street – St Charles Borromeo

Ogle Street – St Charles Borromeo

Ogle Street, London W1

A small urban church in the Gothic Revival style built on a tight site. It is notable for its elaborate furnishings designed by J. F. Bentley. Now home to a Neocatechumenate community, the nave has been reordered to include a large forward altar and an immersion font.

The mission was founded by Fr Cornelius Keens (see Chelsea 2) in 1861 as a chapel of ease to St Patrick, Soho. The current site was acquired with the help of an anonymous benefactor in 1862. The foundation stone was laid on 22 August 1862 and the church was taken into use in February 1863. It was ceremonially opened by Cardinal Wiseman on 20 May 1863. The architect was Samuel Joseph Nicholl, possibly in partnership with T. J. Willson. The builders were Messrs Patman and Fotheringham and the cost was around £4,000.

In 1870–73, the sanctuary was reordered and furnished by J. F. Bentley. This work included the current reredos, high altar, chancel stalls (removed), and the communion rails. In 1879, Bentley also designed a frontal for the Lady altar. In 1902, the Sacred Heart reredos was installed (from designs by Nicholl).

In 1921, Madame Meschini and her son Arthur bought the freehold of the church and presbytery from Lord Howard de Walden and presented it to the Archdiocese. The church was consecrated on 4 October 1921 by Bishop Butt. The church was restored in 1957–1963 following war damage. The exterior was cleaned in 1967 and 1979. In the 1970s a moveable Perspex altar with internal illumination was introduced, from designs by Arthur Fleischmann; this was removed shortly afterwards (information from Chris Fanning). The church was refurbished in 1978–80 when the reredos was restored by Pauline Plummer and a large forward altar installed (designed and constructed by Michael Anderson). In 1984, an octagonal immersion font was added in the nave, to the design of Michael Anderson, in collaboration with Mattia del Prete and Antonio Incognito of Rome (a similar font was installed at the church of the Guardian Angels, Mile End (qv); both churches are the home of Neocatechumenate communities).

In 1989–90, two rooms were excavated below the church, where previously there had only been a small storage space below the narthex. Three further rooms are currently being excavated below the east end and the church is being underpinned and supported on steel beams. A wheelchair lift will be inserted in the stairwell behind the Lady Chapel.


The church’s exterior is briefly described in the list entry (see below). The additional comments below use conventional liturgical orientation.

The plan is longitudinal, with a wider north aisle and a narrower south aisle, both terminating in side chapels. However the internal seating arrangement is centralised, with three blocks of chairs focused on the central, square altar and the immersion font.

At the southeast is a transeptal crosswing, which in fact contains the Lady Chapel. It has a rose window with plate tracery above three lancets. The south aisle has four pairs of lancets alternating with three single ones. Above are seven two-light clerestory windows with plate tracery. At the southwest corner is a low, square tower with a pyramidal roof in whose base is the south entrance (currently disused and its doors hidden behind a panel painting of the Nativity). To the west, the tower has an attached semi-circular stair turret, beside the four-light west window and the small entrance door set hard against the junction with the presbytery (photo bottom left).

The four-bay nave has a timber canted barrel vaulted ceiling with a tie-beam in every bay. There is no internal division to the one-bay sanctuary. The lean-to roofs of the aisles have cusped trusses. The pointed nave arcade is supported by columns with stiff-leaf capitals. The nave is used as an extension of the sanctuary, with a large octagonal immersion font with decorative grilles and mosaics of the Four Evangelists, and a large altar table of Russian teak. Both were installed in the 1980s under the direction of Michael Anderson. The chairs are placed inward-facing at the west end and in the side aisles.

In the place of a sanctuary arch, the end of the nave is marked by pilasters above the east nave column with niches holding statues of angels above which are empty canopies. The raised sanctuary is dominated by the high altar (1873) and reredos (1872) designed by Bentley, on either side of which are placed the original altar rails designed by Bentley and made by J. McCarthy. The high altar of Derbyshire marble has an alabaster frontal with two scenes from the life of St Charles. The reredos is thirty feet high and has two tiers of saints painted on slate by N. H. J. Westlake. On the lower tier these are: SS Edward, Peter, the Madonna and Child, Joseph and Augustine. The upper tier features SS Charles, Mary Magdalene, the Crucifixion, John and Francis.

The rib-vaulted northeast chapel, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, has a marble altar given in 1863 with a reredos of 1902 (designed by Nicholl, made by A. B. Wall). Four angels with the instruments of the Passion in canopied niches flank a central niche with a statue of the Sacred Heart by T. Phyffers. Beside the arch to the chapel, which is lit by a hidden west window above the aisle roof, is a statue of St Joseph on a pillar and under a crocketed canopy.

The small Lady Chapel is at the southeast, consisting of a small altar (with a frontal of fleur-de-lys, 1879, by Bentley) and reredos flanked tightly by two canopied niches holding statues of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist – the spire over the former being particularly complex and tall.

The Stations of the Cross are framed and painted reliefs. At the west end of the south aisle is a carved timber chest and a nineteenth-century hymnbook cupboard. A room at the northwest is separated by a modern partition for use as a reconciliation room. At the west end of the north aisle are a group of modern icons. The south aisle has four stained glass windows of Saints Patrick, Margaret, Cecilia (1898) and Thomas of Canterbury.

List descriptions

Church and no. 6 Ogle Street


Roman Catholic church. 1862 by S.J. Nicholl, sanctuary by J.F. Bentley. Coursed rubble ragstone with ashlar dressings in a simple but “muscular” Gothic. Plate tracery 2 and 3-light windows. Low aisles and shallow porch to south east corner. Lower 2 storey 2-window wide school extension to north.

Listing NGR: TQ2914081766



Presbytery. Dated 1867, possibly by Nicholl? Red brick with squared coursed rubble ground floor and stone dressings. Rogue High Victorian Gothic detail. 4 storeys and basement rising to a shaped gable. Narrow 2 window wide front. Doorway to right, shafted and with cusped fanlight, 2-light mullioned sash window to left, both under stone lintels and red brick relieving arches. Upper floors have recessed sashes under stone lintels with shallow triple arch shelves. The right corner is splayed through top two floors with shafted and hooded panel inscribed with date surmounted by crown. Stone and brick flush banding and blue brick bands at impost level and also forming pointed arches over 3rd floor lintels. Cast iron area railings. Included in part for group interest with church.

Listing NGR: TQ2914481752

Heritage Details

Architect: S.J. Nicholl

Original Date: 1862

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II