Building » Portsmouth – Corpus Christi

Portsmouth – Corpus Christi

Gladys Avenue, North End, Portsmouth, Hampshire

A late nineteenth-century brick church with Perpendicular Gothic detailing, externally plain, but with an attractive spacious interior with some good furnishings. 

Corpus Christi was the third church to be opened in Portsmouth, after the Cathedral and St Swithun’s. The church was opened and the altar consecrated by Bishop Vertue on 28 September 1893. A framed drawing by the architect William Lunn at the back of the church shows a much more ambitious design than that finally realised, with a large and asymmetrically placed tower and spirelet to the liturgical northwest, in the manner of Leonard Stokes. However, the design had to be modified, no doubt on account of cost, and according to the centenary Mass booklet the church as built ‘could only be described as a huge barn’. This is one of three churches in the Diocese of Portsmouth by J.W. Lunn of Great Malvern, the others being St Edmund, Southampton (1889) and Corpus Christi, Bournemouth (1895-6).

Between 1894 and 1900 the sanctuary and aisles were added, and the high altar purchased from a Ryde convent.


The church is built of red brick laid in English bond, with stone dressings under a tile roof. Nave, aisles, transepts, short square sanctuary. There is a polygonal former baptistry attached at the west end of the south aisle, and flat-roofed sacristies giving off the north transept. The church presents a sheer west front to the road with a large Perpendicular Gothic window surmounted by a gable incorporating an aedicule with carved stone decoration (Pelican in her Piety). The entrance is via a small porch on the north side.

The interior impresses more than the exterior, with a nave of four bays (that closest to the chancel arch being narrower), chamfered stone piers, plain brick arches and walls and a timber roof (hence the comparison with a barn). The interplay of volumes created by the wide nave, wide aisles and transepts is very pleasing. The aisles were built slightly later, although the nave arcades suggest that they were always intended; however, the narrow lancet clerestorey windows, now blocked and made redundant by the aisle roofs, suggest an early modification of the design. The sanctuary has plastered and white painted walls, formerly richly stencilled (a panel of this survives to the left of the high altar).  There is more extensive surviving stencil decoration in the Lady Chapel to the north. The original reredos and tabernacle throne behind the high altar survive intact, a richly carved stone Gothic design. The forward altar is marble and appears to have been made from the old high altar. The 1900 stone pulpit and the altar rails survive, the latter in truncated form. The font has been moved from its purpose-built baptistery at the west end towards the east end, and its place taken by three former rood figures. Good painted Stations of the Cross, and a World War II memorial window in the north transept. The organ is located to the south of the sanctuary in the space normally reserved for Lady Chapel. A modern screen/narthex has been formed at the west end of the nave.

Heritage Details

Architect: J. W. Lunn

Original Date: 1893

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed