Building » St John’s Wood – Our Lady

St John’s Wood – Our Lady

Lisson Grove, St John’s Wood, London NW8

An Early English Gothic Revival design by J. J. Scoles built a few years after Catholic Emancipation. While the exterior has a Commissioners’ Gothic character, the interior ‘gives a surprisingly correct impression of a hall church of the early C13’. Many of the current furnishings date from reorderings of the 1970s and 2010s.

The mission was started by Louise and Jessie Gallini, the granddaughters of the Duke of Ancaster, who had first proposed a new mission in the neighbourhood of Hanover Square. This proposal was declined by Bishop Bramston, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, due to its proximity to the church at Spanish Place. He accepted, however, their second proposal, to erect a church in St John’s Wood. The present church was erected between 1833 and 1836 to designs by Joseph John Scoles (1798–1863) and was opened on 9 February 1836. The Misses Gallini would have liked to put the new mission into the care of the Jesuits but Bishop Bramston preferred a secular priest. Originally, the transepts were houses for the Misses Gallini (south) and the incumbent (north).

In 1846 the church was decorated. It was restored in 1884 after a fire and again in 1905 (by S.J. Nicholl, a pupil of J. J. Scoles). During a First World War air raid many of the stained glass windows were destroyed. (Rottmann quotes an account published in 1916 describing fifteen windows showing the Mysteries of the Rosary.) The church was consecrated on 14 May 1925. In 1937, after the current presbytery was built, the two transepts were transformed into side chapels by Nicholas & Dixon Spain. The same firm also extended the sanctuary in 1956.

The church was reordered in 1971–75 by David Williams. This included the installation of many of the current furnishings, as well as sculpture by Michael Lindsey Clark. A new organ of 1972 by J.W. Walker was also installed. In 1981, a parish hall was erected beside the south transept, by A. F. D. Buchanan of Surbiton, which was connected to the existing meeting room below the south transept. In 1982, a large painting of the Baptism of Christ (by Marek Zulaski) was installed in the south transept. In c.1990, the church was reroofed and some repairs to a crack in the south nave aisle wall.

In 2009–11, the church was refurbished and reordered by Francesca Weal of WEAL Architects. The nave floor was raised by one step in order to improve circulation, the organ and statues were resited, a new font and new metal screens were installed, a new reconciliation room was created, as well as a new quiet room, repository, exhibition room and inner narthex. The 1970s tabernacle was set into a new screen. Arthur Fleischmann’s Triptych of the Holy Rosary (c.1955; on loan to the church) was installed as part of a ‘devotional way’. The cost of the works, including a new underfloor heating and lighting scheme, was £543,500.


The building is described in the list entry (see below). This requires a few updates, corrections and additions in particular with regard to the furnishings, which are not mentioned.

  • The chancel has like the west end bay and the transepts a flat timber roof.
  • The forward altar of Ancaster stone and the altar in the English Martyrs chapel in the north transept both date from the 1970s reordering.
  • The two ornamental brass and iron doors to the sacristy were formerly placed on either side of the high altar.
  • A new metal screen (by Paul Elliot) was installed during the latest reordering in the sanctuary which divides the altar space from the choir behind.
  • Sculpture by Michael Lindsey Clark of the 1970s includes two over life-size statues of Our Lady and St Joseph (now relocated to the west ends of the nave aisles); Christ in Glory at the east end; the Ancaster stone Stations of the Cross; a cast of St Anthony (now in the south chancel aisle); and the reredos of a crucified Christ and eight panels of martyrs in the English Martyrs Chapel in the north transept.
  • Several windows are filled with stained glass. The west window has glass depicting Our Lady of Czestochowa (1982, Goddard & Gibbs); the north transept has a window of St Joan the Virgin (1950, John Trinick); the two windows in the outer bays of the east wall have been attributed to Lavers & Westlake depicting the Carrying of the Cross and the Deposition; the north chancel window shows the Holy Family (1921, Hardman); the south chancel window has a roundel of the Madonna & Child (attributed to Hardman); and the south aisle has a window showing the Baptism of Christ (1946, John Trinick, reinstated here in the 1990s, having been removed when the church was extended in the 1950s).
  • The font, consisting of a circular stone font and a low circular basin set into the floor, was installed during the reordering of 2009–11. 
  • The ‘Triptych of the Holy Rosary’, a Plexiglas relief by Arthur Fleischmann of 1955, was recently installed in the south chancel aisle. On long loan to the parish, this was first exhibited in the Vatican Pavilion of the World Exposition in Brussels in 1958. 
  • The 1970s tabernacle decorated with four doves around a cross has recently been set into a large gilt surround with wheat (by Stephen Foster).

List description


Roman Catholic Church. 1833-6, altered and extended at east end after war damage. Restored 1970s. By J.J. Scoles. Grey brick with ashlar dressings. Cast iron nave arcade. Welsh slate roof. Gothic style. 6-bay aisled nave crossing, 2 bay transepts and 2 bay chancel. Pointed west door with attached shafts with foliate capitals, dog-tooth moulding, hood-mould with stops. Above, stepped group of 3 lancets with wheel window to gable end. Flanking buttresses. Lancet windows to nave aisles with continuous hood-mould. Corbel table. Nave and aisles roofed separately and gable-ended. Interior: Nave arcade of clustered columns on high plinths with moulded capitals rising to quadripartite rib vault with foliate bosses. Tall arch to unaisled west bay of nave; this bay and the transepts have flat, timber roofs.

Listing NGR: TQ2685482527

Heritage Details

Architect: J. J. Scoles

Original Date: 1833

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II