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).
New photos added by AHP 23.04.2023
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: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1430834
Architect: Edward Goldie
Original Date: 1885
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II*