St Charles Square, London W10
The church was originally built as the chapel of St Charles’s Teacher Training College, itself housed in the buildings of a boy school founded by Cardinal Manning. After 1945, the site of the bomb-damaged college was redeveloped by the diocese with three schools, while the chapel was restored as the parish church. The interior has a jolly Italian Baroque character, with floral ceiling decorations and a colourful reredos.
St Charles’s College had been founded in 1863 by Dr Henry Manning, then Superior of the Oblates of St Charles. It provided a Catholic education for boys of the upper classes. It moved to the site in St Charles’s Square in 1874 into buildings erected in 1873 by F.W. Tasker. The College was discontinued in 1903. In 1905, the buildings were taken over by nuns of the Sacred Heart who used it as St Charles’s Teacher Training College, a successor of a teacher training college which they had founded in 1874 in Roehampton. In 1908, a chapel was added to designs by Percy Lamb and Robert O’Brien North. The first Mass was celebrated on 25 May 1908 and the chapel was dedicated to St Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1937, the mission was founded and used the College chapel. In 1939, the parish moved to a temporary chapel near the western boundary of the site and only returned in 1948 to the chapel.
During the war, the College buildings suffered severe damage and in 1946 the College returned to Roehampton. The site was bought by the Archdiocese of Westminster who built two Catholic secondary schools on the site of the former College, the Cardinal Manning School for Boys (opened 1954–55) and the Sion-Manning Girls’ School (opened 1957). The parish primary school was rebuilt and re-opened in 1957. In 1955, following its restoration, the chapel was dedicated to St Pius X and reopened as the parish church.
In 1981, D. Plummer prepared proposals for alterations, including the (unexecuted) shortening of the nave. At that time, the sacristy in the angle of the south transept had been converted to ‘more general parish use’ and the two rooms above the porch were used as vestries. In 1987–88, TCK Properties Ltd extended the presbytery and repaired and refurbished the church.
The church faces north. The following description uses conventional liturgical orientation.
The church was built in 1908 using red Essex bricks laid in English bond on a plinth of Staffordshire blue bricks. The plan is longitudinal, comprising an aisleless nave and a narrower chancel with a south transept (St Pius X Chapel) opening off the chancel. At the southwest is a two-storey porch and sacristy, added in the 1950s from designs by Spain-Dixon & Partners (information from Chris Fanning). The area between the south transept and the porch has been filled in with a single-storey building. At the west is a narrow ‘day chapel’ which used to connect the chapel to the college building.
The main, street-facing elevation is that to the south, which, however, is partly obscured by later additions such as the single-storey block in front. There are five large round-arched nave windows set under a brick arcade with block imposts. A mutuled cornice continues around the church and in the open pediments at the east, west and on the south transept (replaced in fibreglass in the 1970s, according to C. Fanning). The latter is filled with a large Diocletian window and has rusticated corners. Above the south transept’s roof is a further Diocletian window, lighting the chancel. The west elevation has a bricked-up circular window with four keystones over two brick bands which continue the line of the cornice and of the imposts. The east elevation is similar with a half-bricked up circular window, a brick band at cornice level and rusticated corners.
The southwest porch contains the repository and leads into the narthex below the organ gallery which is glazed to the nave. The ‘day chapel’ at the west contains statues of the Virgin Mary, Saints Anthony, Joseph, Padre Pio and others. The narthex ceiling features a roundel with a copy of Dali’s Crucifixion. On either side of the door into the nave are holy water stoups painted like yellow marble.
The five-bay nave has a barrel vaulted ceiling. Between transverse ribs springing from corbels are recessed panels framed with fruit and floral garlands and with swags to north and south. Along the south side of the nave is a narrow and flat-roofed passage aisle leading to ancillary spaces. On either side of the chancel arch are statues of Pope John Paul II and the Sacred Heart. The coffered chancel arch is carried by fluted Ionic pilasters whose cornice continues on the north and south walls of the one-bay chancel.
The chancel has a saucer domed vault whose central round panel is bordered by further garlands of fruit and flowers. Around this are frescoes of angels which have darkened over time. The sanctuary furnishings are plain and of white marble. Behind them the high altar has veined marble insets. Both the tabernacle and the monstrance throne above are domed. Above them is a colourfully-painted Baroque-style reredos with a central aedicule with fluted Composite columns and an open segmental pediment over a shell-headed niche with a statue of the Virgin Mary. In the pediment are musician angels and in four panels on either side of the aedicule are reliefs of two angels and the Annunciation.
The Stations of the Cross are conventional unframed carvings (signed FST). The nave windows are filled with stained glass of eleven saints (six on the north side, five on the south), by John Trinick.
Architect: P. A. Lamb & R. O’B. North
Original Date: 1908
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed