Building » Streatham – The English Martyrs

Streatham – The English Martyrs

Mitcham Lane, Streatham, London SW16

A Gothic Revival church of the 1890s by Alfred Purdie, of Puginian character and as such rather old-fashioned for its date. The interior is richly fitted out with Hardman stained glass and other painted and carved enrichment. The transept chapel addition of 1965 respectfully follows the character of the original design. The church and its spire, along with the adjacent contemporary presbytery, form a major landmark on a corner site in a designated conservation area.

The Streatham mission originates in the 1880s, when the Poor servants of the Mother of God established a convent at Russell House. The present church was built next to the house, in several stages as funds allowed. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Butt in May 1892, and the church, consisting of the nave, aisles and southwest tower, was opened by Cardinal Vaughan in May 1893. The architect was Alfred E. Purdie (who had shortly before completed the church of Our Lady Help of Christians at Blackheath, qv), and the builders Lorden & Sons of Tooting Bec. The church was an ambitious design in Decorated Gothic, built with financial support from Robert Measures. The tower and spire were completed early in 1894 and the chancel in June 1897.

In 1931 the convent was rebuilt (architect Frank Geary) and the opportunity taken to straighten the wall of the southeast chapel which adjoined it. In 1952 the nave ceiling panels were painted with the names of the English Martyrs and the Hardman stained glass windows in the clerestory replaced with clear glass. At the same time a mural painting was added over the chancel arch.

By 1962 Mass attendance had risen to 3,500. Acquisition of adjacent land allowed for the building of the northeast transept chapel of St Mary of the English Martyrs, a substantial addition seating 160, which was designed in a respectfully contextual manner by Thomas Sibthorp FRIBA, a parishioner, with external sculptures by Michael Clark junior. The chapel was opened in 1965. The 33 Hardman stained glass windows which had been removed from the nave clerestory in 1952 were installed in the new addition. At the same time the original stone pulpit was removed from the nave and the oak pews replaced. New and enlarged sacristies and a parish hall with committee rooms over were built, with a street elevation alongside the presbytery.

The sanctuary was reordered in 1986 by Derek Phillips RIBA. The new limestone altar with inverted gilded arched supports was made by Richard Quinnell. The brass communion rails were removed and reused in part in the Lady Chapel. The oak screens which divided the side chapels from the chancel were removed and the font transferred from the baptistery to the Holy Spirit chapel alongside the chancel, where it was given a new cover, the detail echoing that of the new altar. The baptistery was converted to a reconciliation room.

List description


Roman Catholic church. Built in 1892-4 by A E Purdie in French Gothic style. 1962 extension in matching style by T Sibthorpe to ritual north. Church is orientated north north west. Built of coursed Kentish ragstone rubble with Bath stone dressings to most of the building and Portland stone dressings to the spire, slate roof and stone spire. PLAN: Five bay nave with aisles, three bay chancel, north chapel and south chapels and south west tower. EXTERIOR: West end has large traceried window and smaller one to north aisle. Elaborate entrance with three tiers of colonnettes, the central one with steep pediment. South west tower of three stages with broached spire with narrow lucarnes and metal finial. Top or bell stage has wooden louvres and three pointed arches to each face. Second stage has two lancets and statues of St Anselm and St Thomas of Canterbury. Lowest stage has traceried window to west and arched doorcase with three tiers of colonnettes. Five bay nave has triple trefoil-headed and traceried windows below lancets with trefoil decoration above. Chancel is similar with large traceried east window.

INTERIOR: Arcade with circular columns with stiff leaf capitals and scissor-braced roof supported on bosses and canopies above statues of Catholic martyrs. The roof was painted in the 1950s, a feature planned but not executed originally. High relief Stations of the Cross with canopies. Arched Confessional doors. Carved west balcony, screen and front row of the pews. Complete set of Hardman glass, including scenes from the life of St Thomas More to west window, Scenes from the life of St John Fisher to east window and other saints and martyrs to other windows. Clerestory glass was resited to 1960s extension. Octagonal font in south chapel. North chapel retains decorative bronze Communion Railings re-sited from main altar. Chancel has painted ribbed roof and elaborate altar with marble and silver gilt tabernacle door of vulning pelican. 1962 extension has similar roof trusses, re-sited original doors, re- sited stained glass from clerestorey and elaborate late C19 Flemish carved wooden altar re-sited from north chapel.

Heritage Details

Architect: A. E. Purdie; T. Sibthorp

Original Date: 1892

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*