Building » Richmond – St Elizabeth of Portugal

Richmond – St Elizabeth of Portugal

The Vineyard, Richmond, London TW10

A Regency church attributed to Philip Hardwick, significantly enlarged by F. A. Walters in the early twentieth century. Most of the furnishings date from the latter time. The nave has fine monochrome  murals, from H. S. Goodhart-Rendel’s redecoration of 1950. The church makes a notable contribution to the Richmond Hill Conservation Area.

The mission at Richmond was established in 1791, when Robert Wheble, a tallow chandler, provided space in his house in the Vineyard to hold Mass. The first priest to serve Richmond was Fr Prosper de Fizelier de Saint-Yves from Arras, France, assisted by Fr Gabriel de Richer de la Forge from Avranches. Fr Saint-Yves also taught at the private Catholic school run by Timothy Eeles in the adjacent Clarence House. However, Mr Eeles soon replaced him at the school by Fr Thomas Monk. (In the 1790s Bernardo O’Higgins, later liberator of Chile, attended the school. He is commemorated there by a Blue Plaque.) Mr Wheble also had objections to Fr Saint- Yves and in 1797 a new parish priest arrived, Fr James Peters, who stayed for 42 years.

In 1800 the three Orleans brothers, members of the cadet branch of the Bourbon royal family, came to live in Twickenham where they stayed until 1807. The eldest, Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, in 1830 crowned King of the French, returned in 1815 for two years.

In the 1820s Wheble sold his property and moved to Winchester. Miss Elizabeth Doughty, who had a summer residence in Richmond bought in 1821 a plot of land next to Clarence House and in 1822-4 built a chapel there dedicated to St Elizabeth of Portugal. (Miss Doughty had been guarantor of the previous chapel since at least 1804.) On 6 July 1824, the new chapel was opened by William Poynter, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, and its ownership was transferred to him. The chapel of 1822-4 consisted of the present nave with a small classical tower over the west entrance and a small priest’s house at the rear. Philip Hardwick was involved in the negotiations for the property’s sale; he supervised the chapel’s construction and was later surveyor of fabric for the complete building. Although he is not named explicitly as its architect, the chapel is generally attributed to him, as one of his earliest dated works.

Miss Doughty, who died in 1826, endowed the upkeep of the chapel with £7,000 but, after some disagreement, struck Poynter out of her will. Early illustrations apparently show  the interior of the chapel with box pews and  an  apse painted  with  purple drapery and a silver pelmet. In 1826 John Francis Butt, later Bishop of Southwark, was baptised at the chapel.

In 1851 a gallery was added at the west end. Fr Bagshawe, mission priest from 1856-1901, renewed the heating, installed a new organ and established the primary school. By 1901 the chapel had become too small and a proposal for a new church was the preferred option with the congregation. However Bishop (later Cardinal) Bourne vetoed the demolition and opted for an extension by F. A. Walters. The nave was extended by one bay at the east, with a Lady Chapel at the southeast, and he added a more richly decorated sanctuary with side chapels and southeast sacristy. At the same time a new presbytery was built beside the church. As Walters found the tower unsafe, this was also rebuilt. Among generous donations were a new high altar, a pulpit, and altar seats.

In 1911 the exiled Portuguese King Manoel II settled in Richmond and he and his family attended St Elizabeth’s church. During the First World War, the organ was enlarged. After the War, the Lady altar, the permanent altar to St Joseph and the canopy the high altar were installed, of which the Lady altar with a marble plaque formed a war memorial.

A donation enabled complete internal redecoration to a design by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, in time for the consecration on 20 June 1950. Goodhart-Rendel replaced the previous Stations of the Cross by a frieze in the nave; he added a stencilled backcloth in the apse (since removed); and a Florentine painting of the Madonna with the Child, St John the Baptist and St Viridiana (on a long loan) was hung in the sanctuary (since removed).

In 1986 rotting roof timbers and the threat of a ceiling collapse necessitated a comprehensive repair which started in August 1987. The storm of 1987 further damaged the roof and the cost of the repair project rose from £115,000 to £500,000. In 1999 and 2004 planning permission was given for the creation of a new entrance to the left of the entrance porch. This was in connection with a comprehensive restoration of the crypt which was converted to a church hall, with toilets and kitchen. A small lift was inserted into the former baptistery with a new step-free street access. The architect was Gabriel Somorjay of Low Somorjay and Talliss.


The list entry (below) is brief and focuses on the exterior. It omits the attribution to Philip Hardwick, as well as the tower by F. A. Walters.

The church is facing northwest. However, this description uses the conventional liturgical orientation. The church was built in 1822-24, probably to a design by Philip Hardwick. It was extended eastwards in 1903 by F. A. Walters, who also rebuilt the presbytery and the tower. Most recently, a new entrance was created at the northwest, leading to a small lift in the former baptistery. The materials are stock brick laid in Flemish bond with stone dressings. The roofs of the tower and southeast turret are covered in copper. The nave roof is covered in slate and the apse in lead. The plan is longitudinal, of a nave with an apsed sanctuary with side chapels, a southeast Lady Chapel, and a west tower. West of the Lady Chapel is a later neo-Georgian addition, possibly a former parish room or office.

The west front has an Ionic porch with steps and a ramp, below a niche with a statue of St Elizabeth. The upper tower storey has bell louvres and a Baroque spire, consisting of dome, lantern and small spirelet. The tower is flanked by lower bays with concave parapets. The northern bay of the facade has a circular window above an entrance created in c.2004 to provide step-free and wheelchair-suitable access. The southern bay, which houses a spiral stair to the gallery and crypt, has a circular ceramic plaque of the Madonna and Child. This bay has an entrance on its south side.

Inside the lobby in the tower is a marble memorial plaque to the Rev. George Barrett, parish priest 1901-30. Inside, below the organ gallery supported by two thin columns, are further memorial plaques, a pair of marble stoups, and a shallow niche, which used to be the entrance to the former baptistery. The segmental arch has corbels of angels’ heads and a wrought iron gate.

The six-bay nave has a shallow curved ceiling with recessed panels. The south side has five large round-headed windows, which are mirrored on the north side by blind arches. On either side, below an egg-and-dart moulding just below cill level, are the friezes painted in c.1950 during Goodhart-Rendel’s redecoration. On the north side, the monochrome scenes on a blue background depict the Stations of the Cross, while those on the south are Marian scenes, from the Annunciation to the Coronation of the Virgin. The easternmost nave bay has a larger arch – the arch to the south leads into the Lady Chapel. The blind arch on the north side has a large tile painting of St Elizabeth of Portugal, made in Portugal and given by Elizabeth Carey in August 2004.

On either side of the sanctuary arch are pilasters  with Jacobean-style decorative panels which include monograms of ‘Elizabeth’. Above the lower side chapels are a window at the north, and the organ chamber to the south. The northeast chapel has a classical canopied niche with a statue of the Sacred Heart. The sanctuary is two-bays deep, lit by two windows on the north side. It has a panelled flat ceiling, with shallow- curved transverse arches. Pairs of Ionic columns separate the sanctuary from the side chapels. At its northwest corner is the stone pulpit with marble panels. The apse has the inscription ‘Jesum Regem Regum Venite Adoremus’. The marble high altar is decorated with Christological symbols and the Instruments of the Passion in the frontal. Fixed to the short reredos is the tester, decorated with the same Jacobean/Renaissance-style panels as elsewhere in the sanctuary. Above the tabernacle stands a crucifix. There are an aumbry and a piscina in the north and south walls. There are also carved timber benches on either side of the sanctuary. The forward altar is of timber.

The southeast chapel is dedicated to St Joseph, with a stone reredos with a niche and statue of the saint, and a marble altar. In the south wall is a piscina. In front of the altar is the circular marble font with a gadrooned bowl. To the south is the sacristy, whose doorway has a coat of arms flanked by two lilies.

The Lady Chapel has marble plaques to Canon Bagshawe, parish priest 1856-1901, and to the fallen of the First World War. The large multicoloured marble reredos has a statue of the Madonna and Child. Above the entablature are further Renaissance- style ornaments. The altar is also of coloured marbles, with a timber tabernacle. The entrance to the chapel has timber altar rails. There is a piscina in the corner beside the altar.

The next bay to the west has a doorway leading into a small room used for storage, part of which is occupied by a timber confessional. The room has a separate external entrance and might have been a parish room or similar. The crypt, accessed by lift or stair at the west, has a lobby with the lavatories and doors leading into the main space. Red brick groin vaults are supported by square brick pillars. The upper crypt at the east is free of any ceiling supports and ends in an apse with two windows and a glazed door into the small garden behind the church and presbytery.

List description


1824. Chancel and adjoining presbytery by F A Walters 1903. Yellow and red brick with a square tower with stone corner pilasters to upper stage, and cornices. Surmounted by an hexagonal dome, open lantern and spirelet. Ionic entrance porch. The first stage cornice of the tower is continuous with the parapet of the main body of the church behind, which is lit by arcade of simple round-headed windows rising from a band course again continuous with the tower.

Heritage Details

Architect: Attributed to Philip Hardwick; F. A. Walters

Original Date: 1822

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II