Building » Roehampton – St Joseph

Roehampton – St Joseph

Roehampton Lane, Roehampton, London SW15

A large Gothic Revival church of 1878-81, the first of many in the diocese by F. A. Walters, here apparently working in collaboration with Br. Michael Fearn. The church has lost its early sanctuary fittings, but retains several historic furnishings of note. The benefactors were Henry James Garcia and his wife, Anna Gertrude, who is buried in the church. The timbered framed tower with saddleback roof is a landmark in the conservation area.

The Jesuits bought the Georgian mansion Manresa House in 1861, where a private chapel was open to the public from 1865. In 1869 a regular mission was established, with a temporary iron church built in the grounds of Manresa House. The builder was Vavasseur of Hammersmith. This chapel was demolished in 1872, when permission from the Board of Trade expired. One of the first mission priests was Fr George Porter, later Archbishop of Bombay. In 1876 he asked Br. Michael Fearn to prepare plans for a new church. On 16 July 1878 the foundation stone was laid; however, work was suspended and a professional architect was consulted. Fr Francis Goldie SJ recommended Frederick Arthur Walters, who had trained with Goldie & Child and had just set up in private practice.

St Joseph’s church is generally thought to be Walters’ first important commission. However, Evinson concludes that he used the plan and details designed by Br. Fearn, who stayed on as clerk of works. (A centenary publication of 1981 describes Walters’s role as ‘interior designer’.) The builders were Lucas & Sons. The church was opened on 8 May 1881 and was consecrated on 24 July 1883. In the year of the opening, stained glass by Hardman was installed, as well as Stations painted by Westlake, an organ and bells (cast in 1879), both by T. C. Lewis of Brixton. The oak lychgate designed by Walters was constructed in 1881 by Parmenter of Braintree. The high altar and tabernacle designed by Fr. Ignatius Scoles SJ were installed in 1883 (removed in c.1973).

The church was built with money from the estate of Henry James Garcia and his wife Anna Gertrude (died 1875). Originally from Brazil, the couple had moved to Roehampton in 1865. Anna Garcia was first buried in Fulham and later reburied within the sanctuary of St Joseph’s church. After her death her husband became a Jesuit novice and was ordained in 1881 in St Joseph’s. He died in 1885. In 1886, memorial windows to the Garcias were installed (by Hardman of Birmingham).

In 1931-2, Fr Scoles’ wrought iron rood screen was removed and the crucifix instead suspended in the sanctuary. (The original sanctuary furnishings, now removed, included also oak stalls by Thomas Earp.) In October 1951 a new presbytery was bought. Due to the extensive development of LCC estates in the area during the 1930s and 1950s, the church required an extension by the 1950s. The east end was extended in 1958, during which time the tomb of Anna Garcia was opened and resealed. At the same time, her gravestone from Fulham was broken up, in order to avoid confusion over her place of burial. The fragments, together with the fragments of the former high altar, were used to build the Lourdes Grotto.

In 1963 Tomei & Maxwell rebuilt the presbytery and added porches and a baptistery at the west end of the church. The same year the lychgate was moved from its original position in front of the central west door to its present position beside the car park entrance. In 1973 the church was reordered and a new altar installed. A further reordering took place in 1998, which included a new altar, and which was part of a millennium development appeal for a new hall which was built against the liturgical south side of the church.


The church was built in 1878-81 to designs by Br. Michael Fearn and F.A. Walters. The style of the original church is Early English Gothic. It was extended at the east in 1958 (architect unknown) and at the west in 1963 (Tomei & Maxwell), when porches and a baptistery were added. In c.2000 a new hall was added on the south side. The materials are stock brick, laid in English bond, with Bath stone dressings and a slate roof. The southeast tower has a timber framed upper stage.

The plan is cruciform, with a short transept about half way between the nave and the long chancel. The bell tower is to the east of the south transept. The Lady Chapel is at the northeast, off the north transept. The sacristies are at the southeast, while the old hall (possibly the original school) is just south of the south transept. The new hall is further west, occupying a triangular site between the old hall and the southwest porch.

The west front was the main elevation until 1963, when the original doorway was encased  by a polygonal baptistery extension.  Above is  a three-light window with geometric tracery, flanked by blind single lancet windows. The gable has a quatrefoil opening and a stone cross on its apex. The side elevations are plain. On the south side, a brick relief in the facade of the new hall, depicting St Joseph and the Christ Child with the name of the church, provides a new focal point. The tower has a lower stage of brick with plate tracery stone windows. The upper stage is timber framed with timber Y-tracery windows with foils and bell louvres. The saddleback roof has a thin, tall spirelet with a metal cross.

The southwest entrance porch has a statue of St Joseph and connects to the new hall. The northwest porch has the stair to the gallery. Below the west gallery of three arches are statues of St Anthony and St Theresa, as well as the granite font, set in front of the baptistery. The font is octagonal and has an inscription commemorating Henry John Harvey (died 1878). The baptistery is entered via the former main doorway, which retains its external carved stonework and the internal stoups. It has an abstract blue stained glass window symbolising Baptism (David John, 2005).

The five-bay nave has a scissor beam roof. The Stations are mural paintings, painted in 1881 by Westlake. The two westernmost nave bays have four memorial windows to Henry James and Anna Gertrude Garcia, depicting their respective name saints. On the north side: St Gertrude and the Nativity, and St Anne and the Marriage of the Virgin. On the south side: St James Major and the Presentation, and the Henry and the Visitation. All four windows are by Hardman of Birmingham, 1886.

The north transept has three stepped lancets to the north and a Gothic Revival brass memorial to Anna Garcia (formerly in the sanctuary). The west re-entrant corners of both transepts have small, single-storey confessional extensions, with entrances from the nave and the transepts. (The confessional to the south was probably removed when the new hall was constructed, although its internal doors remain.) On the east wall, above the entrance to the Lady Chapel is a dark mural of an angel in a shallow niche with a hood mould, matching a similar mural in the south transept. The Lady Chapel (formerly the Fullerton Chantry) has a stone and marble altar with a statue of St Mary in Carrara marble in front of three stepped lancet windows. The south transept used to house the organ by T. C. Lewis (removed post-1998). A door connects to the old hall. One of the three stepped lancets is slightly shortened.

The four-bay chancel has a large wheel window at the east (Hardman, 1881). It has the Instruments of Passion and five angels at the centre, surrounded by Christ (at the top), St Mary and St Joseph and seven other saints, including St Ignatius of Loyola and St Francis Xavier. Below the window is the tabernacle stand, flanked by remnants of the original reredos, an arcade of four stone and marble arches, two on each side of the tabernacle. On either side in the east wall are an aumbry and a piscina, with a statue of Christ at the southeast corner. The westernmost part of the sanctuary dates from the reordering of 1998 and has the new altar inside a circle marked in white stone, with a semicircular step to the east. The altar of 1998 has a resin layer with pebbles and stones from the original altar of 1883 and the 1973 altar. Behind the altar hangs the rood, a remnant from the original screen designed by Fr Ignatius Scoles SJ.

Heritage Details

Architect: Br. Michael Fearn and F. A. Walters

Original Date: 1878

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed