Building » Wallington – St Elphege

Wallington – St Elphege

Stafford Road, Wallington, Surrey SM6

A thoughtfully-designed church of the early 1970s by Austin Winkley, reflecting the ideals of the Second Vatican Council for greater congregational participation. The main worship space is fan-shaped, with raked seating. 

A Catholic mission was founded in Wallington from Sutton in 1908 with financial support from Miss Frances Ellis, the benefactress of many south London parishes, and a barn-like new church in a Romanesque style was erected to the designs of (Fr) Benedict Williamson. Wallington was made a separate parish in 1920. The church was extended in 1935 with a Lady Chapel and side aisle to designs by J. H. Beart Foss, Williamson’s partner, and enlarged again in 1954 by the addition of a transept designed by Conor P. Fahy.

In 1966 under Fr John Mulholland a competition was held for a new and larger church to accommodate the steady growth of the Catholic population in the area, which was won by Williams & Winkley. It was intended that a new church complex should be constructed in two stages; the first stage consisting of the new church; the second stage of converting the old church to a parish centre (The Ellis Hall) and linking it and the presbytery to the new church with a two-storey block. In the event the link was not built.

The new church was intended to seat 380 people and was designed to meet the requirements of the Second Vatican Conference for full and active participation of the congregation in worship, with a fan-like arrangement of seating and a slightly-raked floor. Austin Winkley, the architect, was particularly concerned with the quality of the light, which is mostly from high-level sources, diffused through the body of the building. The original design placed the main entrance on the side facing the old church. This allowed the font to be placed near the entrance (as it would be traditionally) while also close to the sanctuary (as favoured by modern liturgists). This arrangement was undermined in c.1999 when a new main entrance was created on the short southeast side, diagonally on axis with the sanctuary. An additional storey was also built over the side entrance at the same time, providing an upstairs meeting room (agent: Architectural Designs of Ewell).


The building is broadly rectangular in plan, with the main worship space set across one of the main diagonals. The external walls are of buff brick; the lower section in plain walling, the upper section with vertical channelling. A setback at the top of the wall hides the clerestorey lights and is punctuated by bold cast concrete gutter spouts. The roof is a square glazed pyramid, placed over the sanctuary. The main entrance is now via a brick porch with corner pinnacles at the southeast corner. The northwest corner of the building is occupied by sacristies and a weekday chapel, the latter accessed from the side porch, where there are also WCs and stairs to an upper meeting room.

The church interior is a powerful top-lit space, with a fan-shaped layout of raked seating down to a sanctuary placed on the diagonal axis. The walls are of bare brick, beneath a rectangular grid of concrete beams (originally painted pale green, now white) supported within the walls by piloti. There is no structural sanctuary, simply a raised step across one short side. The sanctuary and raked floor are carpeted, while there is a stone floor on the flat area around the sanctuary. The furnishings are of good quality and are mostly contemporary with the church. The altar incorporates stone from the old altar, with a new Bath stone mensa, and the font and ambo are also of Bath stone. The tabernacle is recessed into the wall behind the altar, with a ceramic chalice and host in the door; this opening connects through to a tabernacle recess in the weekday chapel behind. The tabernacle door and ceramic Greek cross crucifix suspended over the main altar are by Fritz Steller (a large tapestry of St Elphege on the wall behind the altar is a later addition). A wooden statue of the Virgin and Child in the weekday chapel is by Freda Skinner, a local sculptor who had studied under Henry Moore.

Amended by AHP 15.06.2023

Heritage Details

Architect: Williams & Winkley

Original Date: 1972

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed