Building » Peckham – Our Lady of Sorrows

Peckham – Our Lady of Sorrows

Bird in Bush Road, Peckham, London SE15

A lofty, impressive and relatively unaltered urban church of the 1860s by E. W. Pugin, following on from his work on existing churches in Southwark and Ramsgate, but his first new church commission in the diocese. The church was built for the Capuchin Friars and, with the substantial adjoining Friary buildings of the 1880s, forms a good group in an area which has seen much post-war redevelopment.

In 1854 Bishop Grant invited the Capuchin Fr Emidius to set up a Friary in Peckham. The present site was acquired in 1856 and a small school opened in the following year. The first chapel was adapted from an existing stable on the site, which was soon replaced by a temporary wooden  chapel. E. W. Pugin was appointed to prepare designs for a permanent church, and prepared sketches in 1857-8. The foundation stone was laid in July 1859, but building work was delayed owing to lack of funds, and the church was not opened until 1866. The builder was initially Mr Kelly of Kingsland and latterly Mr Smith of Ramsgate. At the time of opening a temporary high altar was installed, surmounted by life-size Calvary, the gift of Miss Hales of Canterbury. This was later replaced by a permanent altar placed some distance from the east wall, to allow space for a retrochoir for the friars. The marble altar in the south Lady Chapel was also designed by Pugin, and made in Ireland. Pugin prepared designs for the Friary buildings, but the Friary was not built until 1884 (according to the Pugin Society website, from designs by James O’Byrne). At about the same time the school buildings were rebuilt after a fire; they survived until their replacement by the existing school buildings in the 1970s.

In 1924 the sanctuary was reordered, with the screen behind the altar removed and the altar moved against the east wall. In 1937 a detached parish hall, Friary Hall, was built at the west end of the church. This neo-Georgian building is now boarded up and derelict.There was a further reordering of the church in 1966, when the altar was brought forward to allow for westward celebration. The parish continued to be served by the Friars until 2000, when it was handed over to the archdiocese.


See list entry below, in which the old dedication of Our Lady of Seven Dolours is given. The exterior of the church is adequately described, but makes no mention of the war memorial against the east wall, with life-size crucifix and panels listing the war dead of the parish.

The list entry barely describes the interior. This consists of a broad continuous nave and sanctuary of eight bays, with side aisles to the nave and side chapels to the sanctuary. The arcade is carried on circular piers with moulded capitals, supporting moulded pointed arches. There is a painted arch-braced panelled roof to the nave and sanctuary and lean-to panelled roofs to the aisles, where the bays are separated by transverse pointed arches, their inner spandrels pierced by oculi. Confessionals with stone gables and pinnacles are located in alternate bays in the outer aisle walls.

Giving off the north aisle is a store room with a WC and baptistery in a twentieth-century addition (possibly c.1924). The baptistery has a marble altar and walls fully lined with marble panelling. The font is carved from a single block of granite. Giving off the baptistery is the Memorial Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, housing a sculpted copy of Michelangelo’s pieta. Here the walls and floor are also lined with marble; on the walls are slate panels commemorating the community dead. There is a western gallery housing the organ, built of Caen stone with an elliptical arch of 30ft span containing a metal screen with Gothic detail, now supplemented with glazing to form a more sound-proof narthex area.

The chancel walls have extensive marble facing, possibly of 1924. Pugin’s high altar remains against the east wall, minus its reredos, where it was placed in 1924; it has a marble frontal inset with cinquefoils. It is supplemented by a stone forward altar, introduced in 1966, with two ambos of matching stone, presumably of similar date. The altar rails remain in situ, with marble colonnettes supporting Gothic arches and marble balustrading. In the (south) Lady Chapel Pugin’s altar survives, brought forward; the arcaded reredos has a central painted statue of the Virgin and Child. The chapel is now glazed in to create a separate and independently-heated space. The corresponding chapel on the north side is dedicated to St Francis and has a marble altar and stone reredos with a crenellated top and a central figure of the saint by Mayer of Munich, under a projecting Gothic canopy. The church retains good benches with pierced cinquefoils in the ends and painted sculptured Stations of the Cross supported on angel corbels (c1930, similar to those in Holy Ghost, Balham, qv).

List description


Roman Catholic (Franciscan) church. 1864-66. Edward Welby Pugin. MATERIALS: stock brick with black brick and stone banding and other dressings;pitched slate roof above brick eaves cornice. PLAN: Gothic. EXTERIOR: tall nave and buttressed aisles. South west hipped-roofed entrance extension with mosaic in tympanum, possibly later build. North aisle has 1-storey extension eastwards with row of lancets. Small gabled extensions with rose windows to roof, at point where crossing might be. Gabled east end has large rose window above row of narrow lancets flanked by twin buttresses. Side aisles have smaller rose windows in similar style at east ends and narrow lancet aisle windows with continuous stone band at spring. Quatrefoil chancel clerestory windows. Friary in similar style attached to north. INTERIOR: plain, whitewashed; 5-bay nave arcade of narrow pointed arches. Chancel panelled in various coloured marbles. Arch braced panelled ceiling. Listing NGR: TQ3438477425

Heritage Details

Architect: E.W. Pugin

Original Date: 1859

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed