Building » Surbiton – St Raphael

Surbiton – St Raphael

Portsmouth Road, Surbiton, Kingston-upon-Thames KT1

An outstanding example of a mid-Victorian Italianate church designed by Charles Parker, one of the leading architects of the type. It was built for Alexander Raphael, a local notable, and has connections with the Savile family, Earls of Mexborough. The building makes a strong contribution to the Riverside South Conservation Area. It is richly-decorated internally and retains many original fittings.

St Raphael’s was built in 1847 as a private chapel for Alexander Raphael, owner of Surbiton Park, who was also MP for St Albans and the first Catholic since the Reformation to be Sheriff of London. His architect was Charles Parker, a pupil of Sir Jeffry Wyatville and the author of an influential publication Villa Rustica, containing over ninety plates of buildings near Rome, which first appeared in the 1830s and was one of the principal sources  for the Italianate architecture of the early Victorian period in Britain. Parker also designed Christ Church, St Albans for Mr Raphael, which is a virtual replica of St Raphael’s, but the building was later sold to the Church of England.  Alexander Raphael died in 1850 and his nephew Edmund sold most of the Surbiton estate for housing development and opened the church for public worship. In 1889 the building passed to the Savile family by the marriage of Agnes Raphael to John, fourth Earl of Mexborough.  It was sold to the diocese after the Second World War.

As first built, the church was flanked by a priest’s house and school in the Italianate style. These both survive as parish buildings but a new parish centre (the Alexander Hall) has recently been formed behind the right-hand wing and a new presbytery added in the same style.


See list entry, below. This makes no mention of the interior, which is richly decorated, with Minton floor tiles, stained glass windows and coloured statues by Mayer of Munich. The main walls are picked out in grey and white after the Italian fashion, with gilding to the capitals and decoration of the arcades. The east window is figurative; the side windows have coloured arabesques of unusual type.

The church is also rich in memorials. Alexander Raphael himself is buried beneath the high altar in a crypt also containing members of the Savile family.  A memorial in the body of the church commemorates Lady Anne Savile, Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim, who later became an aviatrix and died in an attempt to fly the Atlantic in 1927. The organ is by Bishop & Starr. The pews appear to be of different dates, with the older ones in the nave.

List description


1847-8 by Charles Parker. Patron Alexander Raphael, MP for St Albans. Ashlar, with pantiled roof. 3 bay nave with aisles and lower, shorter chancel. Central western tower of three stages, with tripled round arches and strong bracketed eaves to pyramidal roof. Two light round headed aisle windows with Corinthian column between lights, oculus over, and round enclosing arch. Triple round arched and shafted windows to clerestory. Round headed entrance below tower. Flanking church to north and south are two wings, each three bays wide, two storeys high, of brick with stone dressings and pantile roofs. Centre bay to each is taller than flanks. 2 light round headed windows to central bay of each with square headed two light window above, divided by Doric columns. Outer ground floor windows also round headed. Arched doorways with shouldered arches beneath in bays adjacent to church. Low pitched hipped roofs to eaves.

Heritage Details

Architect: Charles Parker

Original Date: 1847

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*