Building » Whetstone – St Mary Magdalen

Whetstone – St Mary Magdalen

Athenaeum Road, London N20

A post-war interpretation of traditional church forms by W.C. Mangan. Some of the original or early fittings have been removed but most survive and the original character of the interior is well-preserved.

The small Catholic population of Whetstone was originally served from Finchley. From 1924 Mass was celebrated at Harper’s tea rooms in Whetstone High Road and then at Buffaloes’ hall attached to the Black Bull. The chapel of St Mary Magdalene, Athenaeum Road, was in use in 1925 and was administered by the Fathers of Sion until about 1973. In 1930 a larger temporary church of St Mary Magdalene was built in Athenaeum Road and the older building became the church hall; this survived until the 1970s. The present church was built on the same site and was consecrated in 1958.


St Mary’s is a typical Mangan design, being a mid-twentieth century interpretation of traditional church forms.  The church comprises a bold west tower flanked by lower flat-roofed extensions, a wide and tall aisleless nave under a steeply-pitched roof which is continued over a short sanctuary. The external walls are faced with red sand-faced Bracknell bricks, and the steel-framed roof is covered with Bridgwater pantiles. The building is not orientated: the liturgical east end faces south. On the (liturgical) west face of the tower is the main entrance door with a surround of Portland stone carrying a plaque with the papal arms and surmounted by a figure of St Mary. Above the entrance is a tall triple window with canted heads to the lights and above the window the tower rises to a plain parapet with a cross in raised brickwork. The side elevations of the tower have three small rectangular openings. Flanking the tower are single storey flat-roofed forebuildings with three small windows in both exposed sides.  The nave side walls have six bays divided by plain brick piers with triple windows in each bay with angular heads and the sanctuary side walls have four single windows of the same type.

The interior of the church is a single wide space with plain plastered walls and a canted ceiling which is boarded between the exposed steel trusses.  There is a small gallery at the west end in the body of the tower.  At the east end a wide semi-circular arch opens to the sanctuary, with lower arches to the side altars. The original tall reredos with panels of beechwood and bird’s-eye maple and a crucifix of walnut survives, as does the main altar of Portland stone, but the oak altar rails have been removed.  The pine benches are also original.

Heritage Details

Architect: Wilfrid Mangan

Original Date: 1958

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed