Building » Wimbledon – The Sacred Heart

Wimbledon – The Sacred Heart

Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London SW19

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

An exceptionally large and handsome Jesuit church in the Gothic style, standing on a conspicuous site in a conservation area. Built between 1887 and 1901, mainly at the expense of Edith Arendrup, a member of the Courtauld family, it is perhaps the best of the many Catholic churches designed by F. A. Walters. The interior is richly furnished, with works by notable late-Victorian designers including J.F. Bentley and N.H.J. Westlake.

The church was founded in 1887 through the patronage of Edith Arendrup, a wealthy widow and member of the Courtauld family. She purchased the present site in 1883 and in 1884 commissioned F. A. Walters to provide a design for a new church, to be served by the Society of Jesus. Walters prepared three successive schemes, each more elaborate than the last. The final design made in 1886 was very much like the present church, but with a monumental west tower and a considerably smaller sanctuary. The church took fourteen years to complete. The nave was completed in 1887, the sanctuary and south aisle in 1895, the ambulatory chapels in 1896, the north aisle and sacristy in 1898, and finally the west front in 1901 (Walters’ intended west tower was not built because of the high cost, and in 1896 he provided the designs for the present west front with its flanking turrets).


The building is fully described in the list entry (below). However, this does not describe the more recent furnishings associated with Austin Winkley’s 1990 reordering. These include a new stone forward altar by David John, incorporating a bronze reliquary containing relics of Roman and English martyrs. In this reordering encaustic tiles were removed from the sanctuary, although surrounding parquet flooring was retained (information from Giles Heather).

List description


Roman Catholic parish church. 1887-1901 by Frederick Walters for the Jesuit community under the patronage of Edith Avendrup, and from 1898 of Mrs Caroline Currie. Consecrated 1931. Reordered in 1990.MATERIALS: Limestone and dark grey knapped flint in Late Decorated manner. Tile roofs. PLAN: Eight-bay nave with north and south aisles. Main entrance through west front under narthex, with organ loft and gallery above. Off the north aisle is a canted baptistery, and rectangular chapel to St Ignatius. Between are confessionals. The polygonal three bay sanctuary, narrower than the nave, has an open arcade giving on to an ambulatory, off which are three apsidal east end chapels. Off the sanctuary to the north are inner and outer sacristies and at first floor a community tribune overlooking the choir, and music room. EXTERIOR: West Front. Slender octagonal turrets flank a six-light west window with curvilinear tracery over a canopied porch. The turrets have a slender western buttress to the lower stages, and small rectangular stair windows set in flush stone bands. The upper stage has louvred, foiled bell openings, each under a canopy and under a chequerwork flint and stone embattled parapet. The canted porch has a pierced stone parapet over an entrance of multiple moulded arches on slender shafts under a crocketted canopy flanked by plain buttress shafts. In the tympanum is a seated figure of Our Lady and Child flanked by quatrefoil lozenges. Doors are of oak with robust iron door fittings. The west window has six narrow lights under flowing tracery and is flanked by slender shafts under a shallow embattled parapet. Above, in the gable, is a small two-light window flanked by sunk blind circular panels, and there is a small gable end cross. South elevation. From the south the nave and chancel are under a continuous roof. Each bay of the nave has a two-light aisle window between a square offset buttress, all under a pierced stone parapet. The south entrance under a simple moulded hood is reached by stone steps within a stone and flint parapet wall. The English Martyrs’ altar abuts forward on the south elevation and is gabled with a three-light window. There is a three-light west window to the aisle. Large three-light clerestory windows to nave and sanctuary are set between slender buttress shafts with tall finials and have differing intersecting and reticulated tracery. The nave has a solid chequerwork parapet; the sanctuary, which has a taller eaves line, has pierced trefoil panels to the parapet. The lower stage of the sanctuary is in chequerwork stone and flint including an embattled parapet. Windows reveals are shallow under a depressed arch. Each has a small foiled glazed light between a similar blind foiled panel. Each bay is defined by a robust flying buttress. The division between nave and chancel is marked by a staged offset buttress wall surmounted by a shaft, which has lost its finial.

East End. The sanctuary is canted, with windows of three lights with curvilinear tracery, between flying buttresses some of which have lost their finials. The pierced trefoil parapet continues from the north and south fronts. Three canted chapels each have two-light windows with curvilinear tracery, the central chapel of different pattern, over a chequerwork base. Each chapel has angle buttresses surmounted by crocketted finials. All is under a pierced quatrefoil parapet.

North elevation. The clerestory stage is treated as the south front. The westernmost bay houses a canted baptistery, each bay with a single light window. The St Ignatius chapel is of two bays, each with a two-light reticulated window, and a small oval window in its west wall. A two-storey gabled bay has irregular two-light and single- light windows, and an entrance under a simple moulded arch. Confessionals and offices between are under deep catslide tiled roofs with simple rectangular openings. Attached to the sanctuary is a three-bay, two-storey range housing the sacristies at ground floor. Windows are of three lights, those at ground floor level under depressed arches, at first floor rectangular. All lower parapets are of chequerwork pattern.

INTERIOR: A small panelled porch leads to a panelled lobby with a boarded ceiling with a deep moulded frieze and ribs and has internal windows and part glazed doors with cusped tracery above rectangular leaded lights. A tall nave arcade (1887) of quadrilateral piers with engaged shafts rises to a large well-lit clerestory. Above the arcade are enriched canopied niches each with a figure of a Jesuit saint, flanked by angels carrying instruments of the Passion. At the west end are encircled trefoil panels. The nave has a canted timber roof. The south aisle has an arch-braced roof, the north aisle roof is panelled with moulded ribs with carved bosses. Braces are pierced and decorated. Over the west porch, the organ loft, with organ by the firm of Walkers was installed in 1912.

South aisle (1895). Small water stoup to east of south door. At the east end, English Martyrs altar, with carved figures, 1915. Enriched stone water stoup to right. Stained glass by Westlake depicting the martyrs Edmund Campion, John Fisher, Thomas More, Margaret Pole and Margaret Clitherow. Fine west commemorative window by Hardman.

North aisle (1898), under the patronage of Mrs Caroline Currie. At the west end, the baptistery has a ribbed stone roof with carved bosses and is enclosed by fine embattled wrought iron gates, carrying tall fleur-de-lys, installed 1909. A stone octagonal font with carved panels has a very tall ornate timber cover. St Ignatius chapel is in two open bays under a stone vaulted roof with carved bosses, lined in enriched linenfold timber panelling, and with paintings by Chevalier Tayler, 1904, depicting the life of St Ignatius. An alabaster altar with ox-blood marble panels, carries a gilded triptych with painted panels surmounted by a panel depicting St Ignatius. To the right a stone water stoup with a carved canopy. The chapel has a richly carved stone memorial to Mrs Caroline Currie, 1904. Flanking the chapel, are confessionals each with a moulded stone doorcase, with a cusped panelled door with bold iron fittings. A fine series of gilt panel paintings on the north aisle wall depicts the Stations of the Cross, to designs of JF Bentley, executed by the artist, Innes Fripp. At the west end there is a war memorial: a marble Pieta set in front of a timber panelled screen. At the aisle’s east end (before the chancel) there is a small Holy Souls Chapel, 1915, by Drysdale, in memory of Fr William Kerr founder of the Jesuit Mission in Wimbledon. It bears a plain polished stone enclosing wall and altar above which is a carved stone reredos depicting souls in Purgatory. This is the only original structural element not to Walter’s design. North aisle stained glass by Hardman. The nave retains its original seating of simple benches with shaped ends, some carved. The timber pulpit, on a carved stone pedestal, 1901, by FA Walters was formerly attached to the easternmost north aisle pier, under a carved sounding board. In 1990 it was moved to its present position on the north side of the sanctuary arch, when the canopy was removed.

Chancel (1894). The three-bay polygonal sanctuary has an open arcade of slender engaged shafts with rich stone springings for an ornate timber roof with moulded ribs and enriched bosses. Above the arcade the wall is treated as a pierced stone screen. A richly carved water stoup is set against the south arcade. Stained glass to east windows by Hardman depict the Annunciation, Crucifixion and Resurrection. Small ambulatory windows to north and south are set in larger blind bays, those to south with stained glass, commemorating Jesuit saints, and probably by Westlake. Off the ambulatory at the east end there are three polygonal chapels (1896), to St Joseph, the Sacred Heart and the Lady Chapel, each with a vaulted stone roof with emblematic carved bosses. The outer chapels retain alabaster altar tables each with a fine carved stone reredos. Each chapel has polychrome tile floors. The stained glass to each chapel is by Hardman and Westlake. Carved wooden benches remain in the Lady Chapel. The sanctuary was reordered in 1990: the original parquet floor remains, but the high altar was remodelled; the reredos and tabernacle are in-situ, the altar reduced, but flanked by the stone bases of the former baldachino. The rood screen is by McCulloch of Kennington, 1887, in slender iron filigree; the design is based on the rood in the Collegiate church Louvain, Belgium and drawings of figures from the rood screen at Westminster Abbey. Against the pier of the south chancel arch is a Carrara marble figure of Our Lady, 1896, by Messrs Regali of London, under a richly carved canopy. Wrought iron altar rails by JF Bentley formerly enclosed the High Altar, but were repositioned in 1990 to either side of the lower altar at the opening to the Sanctuary.

Arched stone doorways, the doors with ornate foliate door furniture, lead to inner and outer sacristies on the north side of the chancel. The sacristies are linked by a heavy oak panelled door. The outer sacristy has plain panelled cupboards. Above, is a community tribune with a pierced timber oriel window overlooking the choir, and an upper doorway.

HISTORY: The Church of the Sacred Heart is an exceptionally large and richly furnished parish church. The church was founded in 1887 through the patronage of Edith Arendrup a wealthy widow, and member of the Courtauld family, who was keen to support the Roman Catholic community in Wimbledon. Frederick Walters had recently completed the Church of St Joseph, Roehampton for the Jesuits and in 1884 was commissioned without competition to design the new church in Wimbledon. The architect, Frederick Arthur Walters (1849 -1931) was the son of Frederick Page Walters of Walbrook, also an architect. He set up his own practice in 1880 after training as a pupil with his father, and with the practice of Goldie and Child, a practice notable in the field of mid and late C19 Catholic church building. Walters was author of many churches for the Roman Catholic community, from the small St Winefride’s in south Wimbledon (1905) to the monastic buildings and church at Buckfast Abbey, Devon (1907-32). His work included the church of the Sacred Heart, Petworth for whom he built the church and presbytery in 1896, the church of St Mary, Cardiff (1907), and buildings for the Benedictine monastery at Douai, Berkshire and for the abbey church in Ealing, London W5 (1897). He was one of several notable architects who worked on the abbey church at Downside. Towards the end of his career, in the 1920s, he built the cathedral church of St Peter, Winchester.


Amended by AHP 18.12.2020

Heritage Details

Architect: F. A. Walters

Original Date: 1901

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*