Building » Wandsworth – St Thomas à Becket

Wandsworth – St Thomas à Becket

West Hill, Wandsworth, London SW18

A powerful Decorated Gothic design in red brick and Bath stone by Edward Goldie and completed by his son Joseph, which makes a notable contribution to the Wandsworth Town Conservation Area. Despite being built in several stages, the church has an architectural homogeneity, by virtue of the consistent and sophisticated use of Gothic architectural language and the high quality of the detailing. The wide and spacious nave and aisles have a hall church character, while the high groin vaulted sanctuary is a dramatic setting for the liturgy. The church contains a number of furnishings of note, and has recently been sympathetically reordered and redecorated.

The Wandsworth mission began in 1841 in a cottage in West Hill. In 1847 a school-chapel was built for Fr Joseph Bower on a rectangle of land between the river Wandle and Wandsworth Plain, from designs by A. W. Pugin. This soon became inadequate for the growing Catholic population of Wandsworth, and a new site was acquired on the corner of West Hill and Santos Rod. Here a large new church was built in stages from 1893, from designs by Edward Goldie. The nave and south transept were opened in July 1895, the Lady Chapel (now Blessed Sacrament chapel) was built in 1897-8, and the chancel opened in September 1899. The south aisle and porch were completed in 1911, and the north aisle and transept in 1912 (under the direction of Fr Benedict Williamson, but probably to Goldie’s designs). Finally, the tower was completed in 1926-7, from designs by Joseph Goldie.

The church was reordered in 1961 by F. G. Broadbent and again in 2006 by Thomas Ford & Partners. As well as a new altar, ambo and sanctuary flooring, the 2006 reordering involved new internal lighting and external cleaning and floodlighting, and the addition of new parish facilities.


The building is briefly described in the list entry, below. It is built of red brick with Bath stone dressings and is a powerful Gothic design, homogeneous in character despite being built in several phases. On plan it consists of a narthex at the west end with adjoining porch (south side) and baptistery (west end of north aisle); nave with side aisles; wide two-bay transepts; sanctuary with south chapel.

The west front faces towards West Hill and is dominated by a broad four-stage tower with a corner staircase turret and an octagonal belfry stage with embattled parapet. Alongside this is a moulded basket arch door surround, with spirelets and crockets, framing paired doors on each side of a polygonal pier with a figure of St Thomas. Above this is a wide seven-light window with Dec tracery and in the gable cusped niches with figures of the Virgin and adoring angels. There is a south porch on the flank elevation facing Santos Road, along with a three bay aisle and a double gabled transept. Beyond this, the higher sanctuary has much carved stone enrichment in the clerestory. The east wall is blind; there is a gap (now infilled at ground level with a glass link) between this and the presbytery in Santos Road.

The entrances lead into a western narthex and thence into the broad, wide interior; the lack of a nave clerestory and the height and width of the aisles give it a hall church character. The roofs are mostly of oak, segmentally barrel vaulted with moulded tie beams in the nave, rib vaulted in the high sanctuary, flat and coffered in the aisles and Blessed Sacrament chapel, painted barrel vaults in the transepts. Over the narthex at the west end is an organ gallery, with a 1928 organ by Willis. At the west end of the north aisle, occupying the base of the tower, is the baptistery, with iron gates, large font c.1927 in memory of Fr George Leidig (d. 1921), and quadripartite brick and stone vault. The nave arcade is carried on octagonal piers with concave facets and moulded capitals and bases. The arcading continues in front of the double transepts, so as not to interrupt the eastward drive. Similarly, the chancel arch fills almost the entire volume; it is delineated by clustered piers. The chancel is of three bays and is more elaborate, with foliate capitals to the arcades, a blind triforium of two stages and high paired clerestory lights between the springing of the groin vaults. There is a large oak panelled and gilded reredos of 1961, with a sculpted Calvary by Arthur Ayres. The stone forward altar and ambo belong to the 2006 reordering, as does the diamond-patterned black and white floor. The marble altar rails (mentioned by Evinson) were presumably removed as part of this reordering. The Blessed Sacrament chapel gives off the south side of the chancel; like the chancel this is three bays deep and has a flat panelled ceiling supported by four centred arches, and low brass gates at the entrance from the south transept. It has a richly painted and gilded Gothic altar and reredos, possibly by Mayer of Munich. Above the entrance to this chapel is a large Byzantine-style mosaic of St Paul in a circular marble surround. The two-bay transepts are divided down the middle by circular piers with attached keel shafts; on the east side of the north transept is the marble Lady altar (formerly Sacred Heart altar), by Benedict Williamson.

There is an extensive collection of stained glass in the church, mostly of 1954-7 (much of the earlier glass was lost in wartime bomb damage); signed work by G. E. R. Smith of the A. K. Nicholson Stained Glass Studio. The Stations of the Cross are carved tableaux set within the wall beneath four centred arches, 1940. There are statues of St Teresa and St Patrick, a Virgin and Child signed Frederick G. Croke and St Anthony and St Elizabeth, both signed Marmon.

List description


Opened 1895. Edward Goldie. Perpendicular style in red brick with stone dressings and slate roofs. [West front] Moulded basket-arch door surround with spirelets and crockets, framing paired doors each side of a polygonal pier with figure of St Thomas. Round-arched West window of 14th Century tracery. Cusped niches with figures of Virgin and adoring angels in gable. North-West tower with battlemented parapet and polygonal staircase buttress at north-west angle. Recessed battlemented upper tower with chamfered angles. [South elevation] Gabled porch framing moulded basket arch. Three-bay aisle, tall 2- storey transept and 3-bay chancel. [Interior] Octagonal stone piers to barrel-vaulted nave. Chancel arch of clustered piers. Chancel rib-vaulted with three 14th Century-type windows.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Goldie; Benedict Williamson; Joseph Goldie

Original Date: 1893

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II