Building » Shooter’s Hill – St Joseph

Shooter’s Hill – St Joseph

Herbert Road, Shooter’s Hill, London SE18

A late Gothic Revival church of 1886–7 by the architect J. K. Cole. Originally a Bible Christian (Methodist) church, it was acquired by the Archdiocese of Southwark in 1970. The interior has an attractive timber roof, but retains few original furnishings. The church has some landmark value and is locally listed.

The church was built in 1886-7 for the Bible Christian Church, a branch of Methodism founded in 1815 by William O’Bryan in Cornwall. The foundation stone was laid on 13 May 1886 by J. C. Bumsted. During the building work a memorial stone was placed at the west end, commemorating the opening of a mission in China in 1885, as well as several personal memorial stones. After some initial problems with the foundations the church was completed in early 1887 and opened on 13 January. The pastor was Rev. I. B. Vanstone. The total cost including the site and the organ was £4,000. The builder was E. G. Covil and the architect was John Kingwell Cole (1860–1928). He had been articled to Nathan Solomon Joseph and George Pearson, and commenced independent practice in 1883.

In July 1970 the Methodists moved to a new church in Burrage Road and the old church and adjacent hall were offered to the Diocese of Southwark. They were bought for £10,000 by Canon Ronald Pepper, the parish priest of Woolwich.

The first Mass was said on 11 October, in the hall, as the church needed repairs and renovation. These were completed in 1972 and included the installation of the sounding board from the pulpit of St Peter’s church, Woolwich, over the altar (1892, by the Belgian firm Jans), and the creation of a rail around the lectern, using parts of the removed altar rails from St Peter’s. Possibly during this restoration campaign, the organ was moved from the sanctuary to its present position in the south transept.

On 4 October 1972 the church was officially opened by Archbishop Cowderoy. Initially, it was served from Woolwich. Four years later Shooter’s Hill was erected as an independent parish, with Fr Michael Clifton its first parish priest. The parish took over the military chaplaincy and the care of the patients at the Military Hospital (first the Herbert Hospital, later the Queen Elizabeth Hospital). Initially the parish priest lived at 3 Donaldson Road and from 1978 at 38 Paget Rise. The present presbytery at 135 Herbert Road was acquired in 1981. Between 1988 and 1989 the lectern and altar rails were removed and a modern timber lectern installed. The double doors at the west end were created; the church carpeted, and the bench arrangement changed from three to two blocks. In 2005-06 a new kitchen and an accessible toilet were installed in the hall. Subsequently the hall was redecorated, and, about two years ago, the church as well. The latter campaign included laying a new wooden floor, the installation of a disabled ramp to the southwest entrance, a new boiler and heating system. At the east end a bricked up stained glass window was discovered and re-opened. The sounding board from Woolwich was removed and donated to the Pugin Society.


The church was built by J. K. Cole in 1886-7. It is built in red brick laid in Flemish bond (the eastern apse has header bond brickwork), with stone dressings. The spire is clad in zinc, the roofs in slate. The plan of the church is longitudinal and double-apsed, with a pitched roof nave, a transept, a tower with steeple at the southwest and a disused porch at the northwest. The sanctuary is flanked by a sacristy at the northeast and a room used as a repository and confessional in the southeast.

The main facade is the south elevation facing Herbert Road. There is a separate entrance to the southeast  room  with  the date ‘AD 1886’  in terracotta. The main entrance is through a gabled doorway in the south face of the tower. The square-plan tower has two main stages, of which the upper one is polygonal with polygonal pinnacles framing windows with louvre boards. The spire is octagonal.

The west front has a low semicircular apse framed between the tower to the south and a low porch at the north. Above the apse is a four-light window with a circular window above. The west gable has a Celtic cross. The lower brick courses of the west faces of tower and apse have numerous memorial stones, including the foundation stone and a memorial to the opening of the China Mission in 1885.

The lobby in the tower is lit by two lancet windows and leads into the apsed narthex at the west. This has three lancets with coloured glass. Three doors give access to the nave. The unaisled nave is three bays long and has a cusped hammerbeam roof. The two-light windows have mostly clear glass with some symbols of saints. The benches in the nave are not symmetrical, the northern block being wider.

The northern transept has more benches, as well as a small timber altar and tabernacle. Its north wall has a cusped rose window above three blind lancet windows. Set in front of the central lancet is a statue of Our Lady. A door leads into the sacristy. On either side of the chancel arch are statues of Our Lady with the Sacred Heart and St Joseph with the Christ Child. The sanctuary has a semicircular apse with three stained glass windows, depicting biblical quotes on scrolls winding around crosses and a flower. All the sanctuary furniture is modern and of timber. The south transept with three clear glass lancets holds the organ by A. Hunter & Son of Clapham, which was inherited from the Methodist congregation.

Heritage Details

Architect: J. K. Cole

Original Date: 1886

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed