Catholic Apostolic Church, Gordon Square

Page 92

Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1949.

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This church was completed in 1854, (fn. n1) twenty years after the death of Edward Irving, who was chief among the founders of the Catholic Apostolic Church. It was designed by John Raphael Brandon (1817–1877), who had made an intimate study of English medieval buildings and who is perhaps best known by his Open Timber Roofs of the Middle Ages. The church is interesting as an ambitious and, on the whole, successful attempt to reproduce the architecture of the 13th-century in modern times, and it owes its undeniable beauty to Brandon's skill, learning, and sensitive powers of composition.

It is cruciform in plan, following the lines of our larger collegiate churches. The nave (Plate 40) was designed to be of seven bays, five only of which have been built, the present west wall being a temporary one of brick. It is flanked by aisles, with arcades carried on clustered columns, above which are a lofty triforium and clerestory. Triple wall-shafts divide each bay and are carried on elaborately-carved corbels at triforium level, and this motive is repeated in the eastern and western arches of the crossing where the two inner moulded orders are carried on similar triple shafts and corbels (Plate 41).

The depth of the transepts corresponds with the width of the aisles. Externally the south transept has two tiers of three tall lancet windows, with a large rose window in the gable, the angles of the transept having octagonal turrets surmounted by pinnacles rising from a ring of gabled arches. This transept accommodates the choir and the north transept contains the organ (Plate 42). The base of the centre tower over the crossing has not been carried higher than the ridge of the main roofs.

Brandon roofed his nave with a wooden roof of hammerbeam construction, but the sanctuary, or eastern arm, is vaulted in stone. It is of three bays, the main arcades elaborately decorated, but the triforium and clearestory are treated similarly to those of the nave. The east wall of the sanctuary has three lancets in its upper stage, but below these is a large arch filled with unglazed geometrical window tracery (Plate 41) through which is seen the English Chapel which extends beyond to the east. The traceried arch forms an effective reredos to the high altar.

The south aisle to the sanctuary contains the South Chapel, and to the north is a narrow aisle or ambulatory. The principal entrance is now on the north side of the church, approached by a cloister walk from Gordon Square.

The Rev. Christopher Heath (Edward Irving's successor) built the Church. (See p. 94.)


  • n1. It was opened for worship on Christmas Eve, 1853. An illustrated description of the church by J. Malcolm Lickfold was published in 1935.