Building » Walworth – English Martyrs

Walworth – English Martyrs

Rodney Road, Walworth, London SE17

An early twentieth century Gothic Revival church occupying a prominent corner site, and forming a good group with the adjoining presbytery and school. Three architects were involved: F. W. Tasker for the church, F. A. Walters for the presbytery and Leonard Stokes for the school. The church has been reordered twice, but an original altar with mosaic and opus sectile decoration survives in the Lady Chapel. The dedication is to Catholic martyrs executed at the North Surrey Gallows, and the nave contains a number of large polychrome statues of martyrs.

In 1890 (not 1904-05, as stated in the list description) a large Catholic primary school was built in Northampton Place, from designs by Leonard Stokes, and was used for services pending the construction of a purpose-built church. In 1893 a nearby narrow and irregular corner site was acquired with a view to building a daughter church to the Cathedral, which would be dedicated to the English Martyrs (the martyrs in question being those who died at the nearby North Surrey gallows). This was to serve a working class congregation, predominantly Irish with some Italians. Much of the fundraising was done by the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, and the church was built as a ‘Thanksgiving Church’, thanksgiving for those who had converted to the Catholic faith. The rector was Fr (later Bishop and Archbishop) Amigo. The presbytery was built before the church, in 1895, from designs by Frederick Walters. Benedict Williamson prepared designs for a new church (The Architect, 23 March 1900, p191), but these were not taken forward. Instead F. W. Tasker was appointed, and the foundation stone was laid in by Bishop Bourne in February 1902. The builder was N. Gough of Hendon and the church opened in 1903. At the same time St Augustine’s House, a place of training and preparation for men considering the priesthood (and used as such until 1975), was built next to the church.

In 1904 St Alban’s, a daughter church serving the southern end of the parish, was built in Herring Street, the gift of Miss Ellis, a great supporter of church building in the diocese. This simple neo-Romanesque church (probably designed by Tasker, but not confirmed) was demolished in 1986 as part of the creation of Burgess Park.

A high altar, in memory of those in the parish killed in the First World War and replacing the original temporary wooden altar, was consecrated by Bishop Amigo in 1919. In January 1924 F A Walters prepared designs for a reredos (drawing in the RIBA Drawings Collection, ref. PA 1171 2/7) but it is not clear whether this was ever built.

English Martyrs became an independent parish in 1929. It was placed in the charge of the Carmelites in 1980. There have been two major reorderings, in 1961 (by F. G. Broadbent & Partners), and in 1983.


The church, presbytery and school are all separately listed in Grade II (see list entries below). The date of the school is given incorrectly, and the architect of the presbytery (F. A .Walters) is not mentioned.

The list entry describes the architecture fairly fully, but does not describe the furnishings:

  • The painted timber panelled  reredos, its borders carved with the arms of various martyrs and the Instruments of the Passion, and the canopy above this, belong to the 1961 reordering. They were made by G. Jackson & Son
  • The crucifix fixed to the reredos is from 1904
  • The Portland stone altar, ambo and (in the south side aisle) font all belong to the 1980s reordering
  • The marble altar rails from the 1961 sanctuary have been relocated in part to the front of the Sacred Heart and Lady shrines giving off the south circulation aisle. The statues here are by Mayer of Munich
  • Around the nave are large painted statues of martyrs, mounted on corbels against the piers, by Anton Dupre. One of these, St Margaret, is later, replacing a First World War memorial nave pulpit in c1983
  • Off the south aisle at the west end of the nave is the Lady Chapel, glazed-in in 1972. It has an altar of 1919 in a shallow apse with carved angels and opus sectile and gold mosaic decoration. Also in this chapel is a statue of St Joseph by Mayer, and a series of wall plaques recording the gratitude of those received into the Catholic faith
  • At the west end of the nave is a statue of St Peter, a copy of that in St Peter’s in Rome, of 1904, from Froc-Robert of Paris. This commemorates Fr Peter Amigo’s time as rector of the parish.

List descriptions



Roman Catholic church. 1902-3. By FW Tasker architect; altar and reredos by FG Broadbent & Partners, 1961; re-ordered 1980s. MATERIALS: yellow stock brick with random blue headers, red brick dressings and blue brick plinth; pitched slate roof with slender slated spirelet. STYLE: Early English Gothic. PLAN: asymmetrical rectangular building with west elevation on Flint Street, staircase turret; 1-storey Lady Chapel curved extension to right on Rodney Road. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys with buttressed gable end with 3 tall lancets to west elevation, staircase turret to left. Gabled entrance to Lady Chapel extension with pointed arch and moulded red brick surround. Groups of 3 lancet windows in upper stage only to side  elevations. INTERIOR: red brick. Tall nave of 5 bays with pointed arches, timber rafter roof and lofty side chapels with transverse pointed tunnel vaults, either side. Sanctuary is east extension of nave and has plastered walls with round blank arcading on ground stage, 3 cusped lancets above; rib-vaulted roof. Chancel arch on tall, single round shafts with arrises. Baptistry (formerly choir) at east end of south ambulatory. Lady Chapel extension to south has coffered ceiling and recessed windows in bays with splayed reveals and transverse rib vaults. Organ gallery at west end.

Listing NGR: TQ3279778616



Presbytery. Early C20. Yellow stock brick with dark red brick dressings and slate roof. Rectangular plan. 3 storeys, basement and dormers to hipped roof with stacks to either side. 2-window range to front elevation, roof with 2 hipped dormers and casement windows. Second floor with 2 pairs of 3×6 sash windows under segmental brick arches; 1st floor, 2 pairs of 6×6 sashes under the same, here with large keystones; the ground floor has one bay window with four 6×6 sash windows under flat arches; off-centre, recessed door; the outer doorcase with 2 open overlights and a stone plaque with shaped gable bearing initials ‘IHS’, and one 6×6 sash window to the right of entrance. Basement bay window and rectangular window (both with late C20 glazing). West return with scattered fenestration. INTERIOR: not inspected.

Materials used match the Church of the English Martyrs (qv) to which it is attached and with which it forms a group. Listing NGR: TQ3279278627



School. 1904-5. By Leonard Stokes. Yellow brick with random blue headers, red brick window dressings; slate roof (replaced) with small fleche. EXTERIOR: south elevation of 3 storeys, 5 main windows, with gable over each outer pair; extension of 2 storeys, 1 window to right. Entrance in west elevation to Flint Street which is of 3 main bays beneath a broad gable with wider bipartite windows to central bay, that on 2nd floor with semicircular radially glazed head. South elevation has gauged, red brick arches to multi-pane sash windows with glazing bars and overlights. Flat arches to ground-floor windows, segmental arches to upper floor windows. Wall blank to left side; extra windows on 1st and ground floors to right. Flat buttresses merging into walls at 2nd-floor level outside and between all 5 main window bays. INTERIOR: not inspected.

Faces Church of the English Martyrs, Rodney Road (qv) across former Northampton Place, now a playground. Listing NGR: TQ3281778587

Heritage Details

Architect: F. W. Tasker

Original Date: 1902

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II