Building » Putney – Our Lady of Pity and St Simon Stock

Putney – Our Lady of Pity and St Simon Stock

Hazlewell Road, Putney, London SW15

An Edwardian church with an Italianate west front and a ‘Wrenaissance’ interior. Lady Westbury was the benefactress and J. C. Radford the architect/builder. In 1936 F. A. Walters & Son added the sanctuary. The northwest tower remained unfinished. Furnishings of note include a fine baldacchino and several pieces of sculpture by Philip Lindsey Clark. The church is locally listed and makes a positive contribution to the West Putney Conservation Area.

The mission in Putney was founded in 1902, when Fr Robert Collinson was appointed Missionary Apostolic for the area. He initially said Mass in a rented building which had been a Primitive Methodist chapel. This converted building was dedicated to Our Lady of Compassion and the first Mass was said at Christmas 1902. The Catholics in Putney were mostly poor Irish workers, living in the back lanes west of the High Street.

When Lord Westbury inherited estates in Putney from his grand-uncle John Temple Leader (died 1903), his wife, Lady Agatha Westbury (née Agatha Manners Tollemache), a Catholic, persuaded him to donate land for a Catholic church. There were several conditions attached to the donations, including: that the church should be known as the John Temple Leader Memorial Church, a statue of John Temple Leader should be erected outside the church, the church should be discreet in style, and there should be no church hall.

The Westbury Estate provided also a site for a temporary iron church at the top of what is now Coalecroft Road. The iron church, erected for £392 and also dedicated to Our Lady of Compassion, opened on 2 August 1903. Building work started on the new permanent church in January 1906. On 25 February that year the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Amigo, who opened the church on 2 September 1906. (The Bishop had suggested the dedicated to St Simon Stock.) The builder was J. C. Radford, the surveyor to the Westbury Estate and sometime Putney District Surveyor for the Wandsworth Board of Works. The cost of the church was £3,000. In 1909, Radford also drew up plans for the priest’s house with an attached parish room.

In regard to Lady Westbury’s conditions, several compromises were reached. Instead of a hall only a parish room was built. A statue of St Simon Stock was placed on the west front of the church, sculpted by Dante Sodini of Florence, a friend of John Temple Leader, who used Leader’s face for the saint.

After the First World War, a crucifix was installed in the church as war memorial. On 10 September 1922, Putney was canonically erected as a parish. In 1925, electricity was installed, a new organ acquired and the church redecorated. As private school had been started in 1921 by the Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, who in 1923 also opened a free school, dedicated to Our Lady of Victories. In 1934, a wooden statue of St Simon Stock was placed in the church, after being exhibited at the Royal Academy. The following year, statues of St Thomas More and St John Fisher by Philip Lindsey Clark FRBS were installed. In the 1930s, Canon Francis Pritchard erected a circular plaque of St Christopher in the entrance, prompted by concern for the safety of the increasing number of motorists.

In January 1936 the long-planned east extension was started, under F. A. Walters & Son. This provided a sanctuary, the Lady Chapel and the sacristy. On 10 November 1936 the new high altar was consecrated by the Vicar General, Mgr Banfi, followed by a Solemn High Mass for the donors of the altar and baldacchino. On 12 December 1937 the Lady Chapel altar was blessed. In September 1939 a gilded canopy was placed over the statue of the Virgin Mary which was to be called Our Lady of Putney.

However, due to the wartime scare of enemy parachutists all place names were eradicated and the statue became ‘Our Lady of Hereabout’. By 1942, the church was debt-free and on 12 November it was consecrated by Archbishop Amigo. Canon Pritchard requested to add the mission’s original patron saint, Our Lady, to the title. A relief plaque of St Michael was erected in the Lady Chapel, in thanksgiving for the end of the heavy raids at the beginning of the Second World War.

In 1944 a bombing raid destroyed the parish room and gutted the presbytery. The house was restored later that year. During the post-Vatican II reordering, the former Lady Chapel became the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the font was moved near the sanctuary,  and the former baptistery was converted into a repository. During a further reordering of the 1980s, a new altar and flooring were installed and the crucifix moved further eastwards. In the 1990s, a small office was built between the presbytery and the church, replacing a small corridor. In 2011, the forecourt was adapted to facilitate access, creating new ramps and steps to the entrance with handrails on glass supports.


The church faces south, but this description uses conventional liturgical orientation. The church was built in 1906 by J. C. Radford. The sanctuary with a side chapel and the sacristy was added in 1936 in a sympathetic style by F. A. Walters & Son. A small extension was built later at the southwest corner, providing toilets. The church is built using stock brick laid in English bond, with banded orange brick and stone dressings, with a low base of dark bricks. The plan is longitudinal, of an aisled nave with a shallow-apsed sanctuary flanked by a chapel and the sacristy. At the southwest is a small later extension, at the northwest the unfinished tower.  (A drawing dated May 1905 by Radford showing the proposed campanile is deposited in the RIBA Drawings Collection, PA 2004/2/1.)

The west facade is Italianate with a pediment with prominent eaves and a circular window. Four giant pilasters of yellow and orange brick bands support a cornice of orange brick. The two outer bays have the entrances to the church, while the central bay has a niche with the statue of St Simon Stock by Dante Sodini below swags and above a window. The brick banding is continued in the flanking elements of the tower and the toilet extension. At the base of the tower is a memorial tablet to John Temple Leader and Lady Westbury.

The northwest lobby also connects to the parish office and has a silver stoup. The southwest lobby gives access to toilets in the southwest extension. Also in that lobby is a roundel of St Christopher (1930s, Clark) and a plaque commemorating previous parish priests. Between the two lobbies and below the organ gallery is a plain space, now used for additional seating, which possibly used to be the baptistery.

The three-bay nave has a barrel vault with Diocletian clerestory windows. The passage aisles have flat ceilings. The fine Stations of the Cross are sparsely detailed reliefs by Clark. The central bay of the north aisle has a mural of the Prodigal Son by Thomas Baines, a local artist, above the doors to the confessionals. At the east end of the north aisle is a statue of St Simon Stock (1934) in a timber niche, beside a door to the sacristy. Above the aisle arch opposite hangs a stone plaque of the Baptism of Christ (by Clark), which was formerly in the baptistery. Nearby stands the circular stone font. On either side of the sanctuary arch are niches with Caen stone sculptures of St Thomas More and St John Fisher (1935, commemorating their canonisation, by Clark). The sanctuary of two bays continues the Wrenaissance style of the nave with mouldings and Diocletian windows. Behind a large baldacchino hangs a Siena-style crucifix. To the right of the shallow apse is a piscina. The altar and lectern are made from stone and black marble. The timber chairs are placed below the baldacchino.

To the south of the sanctuary arch is the statue of ‘Our Lady of Hereabout’ below a suspended Gothic canopy which used to be in the Lady Chapel. Nearby, at the east end of the south aisle is a statue of St Joseph with a Renaissance-style canopy, beside an icon of Our Lady in a black marble frame. The southeast chapel (now the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, formerly the Lady Chapel) has a flat timber ceiling. A canopy hangs over the stone altar whose frontal has a pietà flanked by carvings of two angels and the coats of arms of Pius XII and Archbishop Amigo (attributed to Clark). Set against the grille to the sanctuary is the war memorial crucifix. At the west end of the south aisle is the relief carving of the Archangel St Michael (1940s, attributed to Clark). Opposite, on the west wall is a plaque commemorating the church’s consecration in 1942.

Heritage Details

Architect: J. C. Radford

Original Date: 1906

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed