Building » Spanish Place – St James

Spanish Place – St James

George Street, London W1

The successor church to the Spanish Embassy chapel by Bonomi was built by his great-grandson, Edward Goldie, following a limited competition. Early English Gothic was the prescribed style, but the design also drew on French Gothic models. The church was extended westwards by Goldie during the First World War. J. F. Bentley provided furnishings for five chapels and shrines. Situated on a tight site, its height and detailing make the church a local landmark, despite lacking its projected tower and spire.

The mission grew out of the chapel attached to the Spanish embassy. The chapel was built in 1793–6 by Joseph Bonomi on a site in Manchester Square. It was extended in 1846 by Charles Parker. The official connection with the embassy ceased in 1827, when the chapel was handed over to the London Vicariate. By 1880 the chapel had become too small and the present site was acquired for £30,000. Canon William Barry wanted J. F. Bentley to design the new church but deferred to Cardinal Manning and initiated an architectural competition. This was restricted to Catholic architects and specified ‘the Early English style of architecture as practiced in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries’ (The Builder, 1 August 1885, 151). Bentley (averse to competitions) did not enter but nine prominent architects did, including Herbert Gribble, P. P. Pugin, Dunn & Hansom and Leonard Stokes. The assessor, James Fergusson, chose the design by Edward Goldie of Goldie, Child & Goldie, the great-grandson of Joseph Bonomi. His ambitious design was influenced by French Gothic models and Westminster Abbey and managed to fill the broad site by planning double aisles and flush transepts. King Alfonso XII of Spain contributed some money for the building works.

The foundation stone was laid on 17 June 1887. The church was opened on 29 September 1890, with the nave left unfinished. [Anticipating the acquisition of a piece of adjoining land, the nave was closed at the liturgical west with a temporary brick wall. In 1914–18 Goldie completed the nave by building three additional bays at the west]. At the opening ceremony in 1890 the High Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Emmaus in the presence of the Bishops of Southwark, Northampton and Amycla, the Spanish ambassador and representatives of all the religious orders in London.

Even though Canon Barry could not appoint Bentley as architect, he commissioned him to design the furnishings. After Bentley’s death in 1902, these were completed by Thomas Garner. Once the church was completed in 1918, Geoffrey Webb designed windows and furnishings for the west end, including the baptistery and the War Memorial Chapel. The projected tower and spire were never built. The church was consecrated on 28 April 1949.

In c.1987, Campling Iliffe & Partners cleaned and repaired the exterior, the roof, the stained glass and redecorated the interior. In c.2007, a wheelchair lift was installed in a new porch beside the liturgical southwest porch, accessing the church via a former confessional (by A:Kitekts, builders R. J. Matthews, according to Chris Fanning).


The church is described briefly in the list entry (see below). The following remarks will focus on the main furnishings and fittings, following conventional liturgical orientation (the church actually faces west).

  • The polygonal baptistery at the west end (1914–18) has an octagonal Caen stone font with a tall timber cover by Geoffrey Webb, who also designed the wrought-iron gate with a hart set into a wreath.
  • At the east end of the outer north aisle is a brass to Canon Barry (d.1900) by Thomas Garner.
  • St Joseph’s Chapel at the east end of the outer north aisle was designed in 1891 by J. F. Bentley. The altar frontal has the Flight into Egypt in opus sectile and the alabaster reredos has six angels in the same material, below a statue of the saint in a canopied niche. The marble mosaic pavement is surrounded by iron rails.
  • At the east end of the inner north aisle is the Sacred Heart chapel, also by Bentley. The frontal has three seraphim in opus sectile, and the altarpiece has a central panel of the Sacred Heart flanked by panels of the Nativity, the Last Supper, St Peter’s Denial and the Incredulity of St Thomas – all in opus sectile as well.
  • The trefoil pulpit at the northeast of the nave was designed by E. Goldie for Lady Sykes, who presented it to the church in 1894. Of alabaster and Purbeck marble shafts, it was made by Earp & Hobbs. The handrail and gates are by Hart, Son & Peard; the sounding board by J. Marshall; and the dove by T. Garner.
  • The communion rails (1892–95, by Bentley) are continuous across the side chapels and sanctuary and incorporate tall electric light fittings. The walls are lined with marble and opus sectile designed by Bentley (begun in 1899). The metal gilt angels above the arcade, the baldacchino, the rock-crystal corona and the hammered iron reredos are by Garner. Bentley’s altar frontal of opus sectile depicting the Madonna and Child among saints is now part of the forward altar. The grille to the sacristy is by Bentley, while the sedilia are by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel.
  • The Lady Chapel (furnished by Bentley) at the southeast has an altar of various coloured marbles, a predella with nine Old Testament figures, and a carved and gilded altarpiece framing a copy of Murillo’s painting of the Immaculate Conception (presented by Count de Torre Diaz). Near the entrance stands a fifteenth-century German statue of St Anne, St Mary and the Christ Child (‘Anna Selbstdritt’).
  • The outer south aisle has two chapels, dedicated to the English Martyrs and Our Lady of Victories. The English Martyrs’ Chapel has a plain marble altar, a painted reredos by Geoffrey Webb below a statue of St Michael (to whom the chapel was originally dedicated) and flanked by two statues of St Thomas More and St John Fisher.
  • West of the English Martyrs’ Chapel is another shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It has a marble altar and a reredos designed by Bentley and painted by Chevallier Taylor. Set in front of it is a statue of Our Lady of Fatima (presented in 1949 by the wife of the Portuguese Ambassador, the Duchess of Palmella). The rails are by Bentley.
  • At the west end of the south aisle is the War Memorial Chapel. The small gilt reredos is by J. Arnold Crush (1925). Above it is a stone statue of St Theresa on a gilt corbel and below a gilt canopy. The painted alabaster Stations in the chapel are by Geoffrey Webb.
  • The organ was built in 1922 to a design by Robert L. Hasbury, the organist of St James, and built by A. Hunter & Sons.
  • The large Stations of the Cross were bought in 1876 from Mayer of Munich. Their oak frames were designed by C. G. Wray and made by G. Leggett.
  • Stained glass by Geoffrey Webb includes four lights in the baptistery (1925); the west rose with St James and Spanish coat of arms (1915); and three windows in the War Memorial Chapel with three saints with panels referring to the three armed forces (1919).
  • Stained glass windows by Bentley include the Cardinal Manning memorial window of 1896 in the south transept, and two chancel north clerestory windows.
  • Ten windows in the south aisle have been attributed to Lavers, Barraud & Westlake (1890s).
  • Statues in the church include those of St Anthony, a marble pietà at the west, a large timber St Jude, St Peter in the north transept, St James in the south transept, an unpainted Sacred Heart and ‘the Golden Lady’ (a statue of Our Lady Queen of Heaven, carved in 1840, set in 1894 into a canopied niche by Bentley).

New photos added by AHP 23.04.2023

List description


Church, 1885-90 by Edward Goldie. Kentish rag with ashlar dressings and stone vaulted interior; slate roof. Nave, aisles and narrow outer aisles, non-projecting transepts, apsidal chancel and north Lady chapel. Ambitious and highly serious Early English design. North and south porches; lower north chancel chapel as Lady Chapel; buttresses and flying buttressed clerestory. Lofty stone interior with 8-bay arcade with shafted piers; full gallery, bridged across transepts (in Pearson manner); quadripartite stone vaulting; the Lady Chapel also vaulted and both north aisles; the outer aisles have confessionals built into wall arcade. Rich furnishings by Bentley; reredos and hanging baldacchino by Garner.

Listing NGR: TQ2828081539

The presbytery was listed Grade II in 2016, following Taking Stock. List description at:

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Goldie

Original Date: 1885

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*