Churches and chapels: Non-Anglican denominations

Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.

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'Churches and chapels: Non-Anglican denominations', in Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court, (London, 1986) pp. 386-394. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

In this section

Roman Catholic Church of our Lady of Victories, Kensington High Street

The church now on this site was built to designs by Adrian Gilbert Scott in 1955–8. Its predecessor, designed by George Goldie, built in 1867–9 and destroyed by a fire bomb in 1940, was for thirty-three years the Pro-Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster.

The Church of 1867–9

Roman Catholics were prominent and active in Kensington well before they formally regained their religious liberties in 1828. From 1813 until 1869 St. Mary's Chapel in Holland Street functioned as their local place of worship. (fn. 199) But its smallness, together with the establishment of a Carmelite church and priory in Kensington Church Street nearby in 1863–6, encouraged Father James Foley, the priest in charge at Holland Street, to move his congregation further south and west. After a lengthy search, ownership of the present site was acquired for £5,125 from Stephen and Emma Yeldham in August 1866 and preparations for building commenced in earnest. (fn. 200)

Only in 1868, while the church was actually in course of construction, was its status elevated to that of ProCathedral. This occurred because Henry Manning, who had succeeded Cardinal Wiseman as Archbishop of Westminster in 1865, was unready as yet to build the new cathedral which many of his flock desired, yet wished to transfer his diocesan seat from St. Mary Moorfields to a more convenient spot; the particular advantage of Kensington was its proximity to a projected new theological seminary at Hammersmith. With Foley's agreement, therefore, the new St. Mary's (or Our Lady of Victories, as it promptly became known) was to be Manning's ProCathedral until such time as Westminster Cathedral should be built. (fn. 201)

Part of the land sold off in lots by Gerard Noel Noel in 1809 (see page 110), Foley's plot extended back nearly 300 feet and had a breadth of between sixty-five and seventy-seven feet at the rear, but its frontage to Kensington High Street was only thirty-three feet wide. On the front of the site were two shops of the 1830s then numbered in Newland Terrace; further back stood a pair of cottages called Baxter's Cottages, another house, and a schoolroom with its playground. So the church was planned well back from the main road, from which access was restricted, the two shops having to remain. These boxed-in conditions pointed to a tall, clerestoried building which could make its presence known from behind the frontage.

George Goldie (of Goldie and Child) was chosen as architect to the new church, of which the foundation stone was laid on 14 May 1867. (fn. n1) Goldie showed a coloured drawing of his accepted design, which was in a strict French thirteenth-century Gothic style, at the Royal Academy in 1868, and the completed church, built by Samuel Simpson of Tottenham Court Road, was opened by Manning with some pomp on 2 July 1869. (fn. 203) It occupied the whole width of the back part of the site and most of its depth, leaving room only for a small priest's residence and garden at the southern end of the ground, accessible via a narrow outside passage alongside the western aisle (fig. 155). This presbytery seems not to have been built. The confined site obliged Goldie to orient the church north-south and concentrate his external effect on the northern or entrance elevation, which alone stood freely visible. This had a large, Geometric upper window flanked by aisles and tall buttresses, the bases of which carried across to form a single-storey wall forward of the main face of the building (Plate 149a, 149b). Within this projection was set a deep entrance porch, richly sculptured by Thomas Earp with figures of Christ in Majesty and angels in the tympanum. (fn. 204) Apart from this feature and a lead-capped flèche rising to 120 feet over the chancel arch, the exterior, built in yellow brick with bands of red brick and stone dressings, was plain. A minor peculiarity was the lighting of the aisles with cinquefoil windows.

Internally, the layout consisted of long nave and aisles (113 feet), short chancel and apsidal sanctuary at the south end (33 feet), and two small flanking chapels and vestries. The arcade, in a firmly French style, possessed stumpy, circular piers of polished granite with rings and rich foliated capitals (carved by Earp (fn. 205) ), and rose first to a blank triforium stage and then to lancets in the clerestory above (Plate 149c). The nave roof (as in many Victorian churches, a slight eccentricity) was described in The Builder as 'trefoil in shape, having the purlins forming the angles of the cusp supported by shafts resting on carved tie-beams'. (fn. 206) By contrast the chancel and sanctuary were vaulted and groined in plaster. The apse was lit by five tall Geometric windows running the full height of triforium and clerestory. At the west end a fine organ by Bryceson Brothers was positioned (against Goldie's wishes) above the entrance on further granite pillars. (fn. 207) The internal walling was of stone and plaster; it appeared at first 'strikingly plain', (fn. 208) but was destined for future painted decoration.

The finished church earned a mixed reception. Charles Eastlake picked it out in A History of the Gothic Revival (1872) for its 'fine proportions and rich sculpture' and commended the care lavished on detail, instancing the gas standards. (fn. 209) C. Maurice Davies thought its magnificence a reproach to 'the poverty of many of the Established churches in this richest suburban parish'. (fn. 210) Others disagreed: the British Almanac complained that the building was 'marked by a mixture of gloominess and assumption rather than grandeur or beauty'; (fn. 211) T. F. Bumpus was not alone in finding the window over the entrance thin and weedy'; (fn. 207) more extremely Warington Taylor, William Morris's business manager, confided to Philip Webb that he found the church 'the coarsest piece of vulgarity, and its proportions more hideous than anything I have seen in modern times'. (fn. 212)

Some permanent fittings were installed at the time of completion, or shortly thereafter. Besides the organ, there was a carved font with oak cover, a big pulpit stuck against a column of the two western arcade, six subsidiary altars in the aisles and the two chapels, and a lengthy High Altar (supplied by the Continental Marble Company of Finsbury). (fn. 213) But there was no rich reredos or baldacchino.

In general the Pro-Cathedral (as Our Lady of Victories was regularly called between 1869 and 1901) could boast little further ornamentation for some years. This reflected its shaky finances. Perhaps in order to get an imposing building ready to receive Manning, the church was built largely on credit. One statement put the cost of the whole enterprise, including the purchase of the site, at £27,230. The building contracts in particular exceeded provision: the main contract with Simpson came ultimately to £9,722, carving and other sub-contracts to £2,909, and the item of 'organ, seating etc.' to no less than £5,232. As a result Father Foley was soon deep in mortgages. Trustees, among them Manning and Foley, took over the church's finances from 1871, but in 1877 £12,000 was still owing. (fn. 214) The debt was not extinguished until 1901, when the building was finally consecrated. Just a year later, with the opening of Westminster Cathedral, the church reverted to parochial status and became generally known as Our Lady of Victories.

Figure 155:

Our Lady of Victories' Catholic Church, Kensington High Street, plan of church of 11867–9 by Goldie and Child, architects.Destroyed

Unsurprisingly therefore, the sums raised in the church's earliest years were devoted to meeting liabilities rather than to beautifying or augmenting Goldie's bare structure. Despite regrets that the church was hidden away behind the frontage to Kensington High Street, early efforts to remove the obstructing shops met with no success, and a rumour purveyed in 1870 that a tower was to be added came to nothing. (fn. 215) By 1883, however, there was stained glass in the apse and aisles by Wailes, other windows had been installed by Hardman and by Lavers and Barraud, while N. H. J. Westlake had commenced a series of paintings of saints around the upper blank arcading in the apse. (fn. 207) The High Altar never acquired a permanent reredos, but at some point Goldie, Child and Goldie designed a tabernacle for it made by Hart, Son and Peard, and in 1886 a small hanging canopy of gold, previously in the Oratorians' temporary church at Brompton, was placed above it. In the same year a painted scheme of decoration for the nave devised by the Goldie firm was embarked upon. In 1887 Louis Grosse, a church furnisher of Bruges and Baker Street, was making a rich communion table and marble balustrade, probably both for one of the minor altars in the aisles. An equally obscure church designer, Thomas Grew, estimated for decorations to the Lady Chapel in 1894. (fn. 216) Otherwise, little is known of embellishments to the church. In 1907 Edward Goldie, the original architect's son, was preparing to enlarge the church, but this seems to have come to little more than a possible new sacristy and alterations to the clerestory windows. (fn. 217)

The church itself remained essentially as it then was until it was burnt out by a fire bomb on 13 September 1940. (fn. 218) But in the inter-war period its environs were improved in two ways. The acquisition of properties nearby enabled the present ample presbytery to be built at No. 16 Abingdon Road to designs by Joseph Goldie of Edward Goldie and Son in 1932–3. (fn. 219) Shortly afterwards Nos. 233 and 235 Kensington High Street, which had eluded the church's grasp when they were for sale in 1897, were purchased and in 1934–5 Joseph Goldie rebuilt the whole frontage so as to make two ample shops (Nos. 233– 235 and 237) in place of the previous four, with a Gothic arch between them offering more dignified means of access to the church. (fn. 220)

The Present Church

After the destruction of Our Lady of Victories, its congregation took temporary refuge elsewhere; for some years they were housed in the Kensington Chapel in Allen Street. But in 1952 Adrian Gilbert Scott was appointed architect to rebuild the church on the old site. The new Our Lady of Victories was planned on similar lines to the previous one, having a long aisled nave, short chancel and flanking chapels. One important new feature was a capacious crypt—the first part of the church to come into occupation. Though conventionally Gothic, Scott's first design of 1952 was more vigorous and no doubt costlier than the one eventually built, having little touches of 'expressionist' brickwork, notably on a projected north tower over the entrance. On revision, these features were purged and Scott proposed a more conventional tower, but even this had to be omitted, leaving the church an instance of the austerest and plainest manner of the twentiethcentury Gothic Revival in England. In the search for economy, the flank elevations were finished in common bricks and facing bricks used only towards Kensington High Street. (fn. 221)

Thus pared down, Scott's church was built in 1955–8 by Holliday and Greenwood Limited. The interior is tall and faced entirely in brick except for a dado of brown Hornton stone all round on both walls and piers. The fittings and furnishings are restrained. A scheme of stained glass, planned by the rector and designed by C. F. Blakeman, is the most interesting feature. The church was officially opened in April 1959. In 1970 sacristies and a parish room, envisaged by Scott but not planned in detail by him, were built behind the chancel to designs by Archard and Partners, architects. The church was finally consecrated in May 1971. (fn. 222)

St. Sarkis's Armenian Church, Iverna Court

This arresting small church, designed by Mewés and Davis but closely modelled on a bell-tower in the monastic precinct of St. Haghpat in Armenia, was built in 1922–3; additions to it were made in 1937 and 1950.

Until recent years the Armenian community in Britain was very small, and concentrated particularly in Manchester. Following the war of 1914–18 its numbers in London rose to some 300, and the need for a church began to be debated. In May 1919 a meeting chaired by the community's spiritual leader, Dr. Abel Abrahamian, resolved to raise funds for the project, which took shape during the brief and turbulent period of Armenian independence (1918–21). The £6,500 initially found sufficed to purchase the freehold of the site of the future church, but not to build it. The community therefore approached the great oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian for assistance. After some negotiation Gulbenkian agreed to give £15,000 on certain conditions. He stipulated that the church should be dedicated in memory of his father and mother Mahtesi Sarkis and Dirouhi Gulbenkian, that its affairs were to be managed (as they still are) by a board of trustees, that it should be built in a characteristic Armenian style, and that a vicarage should be constructed next to it. (fn. 223)

Gulbenkian presumably also chose the architects appointed to design the church, Mewés and Davis. At the time he was living in Paris but kept a permanent suite in London at the Ritz Hotel, this firm's most famous London work, and doubtless admired their Beaux-Arts approach to architecture. St. Sarkis's certainly departs from the kind of architecture associated with Mewés and Davis, but its cool elegance accords with the spirit of their work. The partners in the firm at this period were Arthur J. Davis and Charles H. Gage, (fn. 224) but it is unclear who was especially responsible for St. Sarkis's.

Ideas for the design of the church evolved during 1921. Mewés and Davis submitted at least three alternative schemes before the design finally built was decided upon. All were in an Armenian manner, but none was specifically based on the building at St. Haghpat's monastery finally taken as a model, and none had a fully centralized plan. Two of the proposals had a conventional nave with an apsidal sanctuary and were to seat about 125 people, one having a modest bellcote at the west end and the other an Armenian belfry over an open porch. The third and more grandiose project was for a church with a sizeable drum and dome over the nave, combined again with an apsidal sanctuary and a belfry over the west porch (Plate 150d); this would have held 174 worshippers. (fn. 225)

In due course all these schemes were rejected in favour of a far smaller and more archaeological church with accommodation for only fifty-one. This was based precisely, but with slightly altered dimensions, on a famous Armenian building of the thirteenth century, the freestanding bell-tower of the church of St. Nshan within the complex of the monastery of St. Haghpat (Plate 150a , 150b). The model was presumably chosen by Gulbenkian, allegedly after consulting J. Strzygowski's Die Baukunst der Armenier and Europa (1918); (fn. 223) it seems certain that detailed drawings of the original were procured.

Plans on the Haghpat model were being drawn up by Mewes and Davis from November 1921. The design was quickly finalized and put out to tender, and on 23 December 1921 Holloway Brothers signed the contract to build the church. (At about the same time Dr. Abrahamian appears to have changed his name to Dr. Nazarian and, as head of the London congregation, became the official client for the church.) The foundation stone was laid in February 1922 and the consecration took place on 11 January 1923; the vicarage was built at the same time. (fn. 223) Later, additions were made in an attempt to compensate for the church's minuscule size. In 1937 an apsidal baptistery was put on the north side and a new western entry made to secure extra seating, while in 1950 a sacristy was added in the south-east position. All these additions were built by Holloway Brothers and designed by Mewés and Davis, who continue to act as architects for St. Sarkis's and supervised a major restoration in 1982–3. Among unexecuted proposals made by the firm was one of 1937 to decorate the apse and sanctuary, and another of 1960 to extend the church significantly southwards. (fn. 225)

As first built (Plate 150b), St. Sarkis's came very close externally to reproducing the Haghpat bell-tower, having the same narrow profile and proportions, the same GreekCross plan (fig. 156), and the same arrangement of windows and detailing down to the cusped squinches at the angles and the seven-sided belfry atop the roof. Such minor changes as occurred may have been due to inadequate information or attempts to restore features missing in the original. The most striking difference arises from the substitution of sharply arrised and thinly jointed Portland stone for the rich, time-worn tufa of Armenia. The stone facing is only some six inches deep and is fixed on to a stock-brick backing. The roofs are also covered with tiling in Portland stone, laid here upon arches and ceilings of reinforced concrete, even the upper structure of the belfry being in this material. The additions of 1937 and 1950 follow the detail of the original building.

Figure 156:

St. Sarkis's Armenian Church, Iverna Court, plan. Mewes and Davis, architects, 1922–3

Internally (Plate 150c), the church is a simple, centralized structure of fine proportions, rising to a high saucer dome carried on concrete arches. It is faced throughout in stuc, a stone aggregate thrown on the walls (by the Monoyer Construction Company) and then smoothed and jointed to resemble ashlarwork. The main piers are divided into colonnettes, with capitals carved in the Armenian-Byzantine style. Decoration is confined chiefly to the tiny chancel and apse, particularly to the imposing free-standing altar and baldacchino, which is of alabaster, marble, onyx and lapis lazuli, with capitals and relief work in gilded metal; this was made by the Bromsgrove Guild. Paul Turpin acted as decorator to the church and designed the doors and the canopies flanking the altar, while the firm of Bagués constructed the wrought-iron electrolier, a seven-sided design based on twelfth-century records. (fn. 226)

To the east of the church is the vicarage, built by Holloway Brothers to Mewès and Davis's designs in 1922. (fn. 225) It is a simple house of plain English character, with a hipped roof and Crowborough brown-brick facings except along the plinth, round the windows and under the eaves, where a redder brick was used for dressing. Formerly it was only three windows wide, but in recent years its looks have been somewhat marred by an extension to the front by one window's width, and the replacement of the original wooden transomed fenestration with plain aluminium sashes.

Kensington United Reformed Church (formerly the Kensington Chapel), Allen Street

The Kensington Chapel, a potent classical interjection in the ordinary course of Allen Street, was built in 1854–5 to designs by Andrew Trimen. A Congregational foundation, it superseded the Hornton Street Chapel of 1794–5 to the north of Kensington High Street. (fn. 199) This, despite the opening of the Horbury Chapel in 1849 at Notting Hill, remained too small, so its pastor John Stoughton urged the raising of a new chapel. Built on an ample plot south of Phillimore Terrace belonging to the Phillimore family, it cost £8,748 including the purchase of the freehold. Trimen, an architect favoured by the English Congregational Chapel-Building Society, had produced designs by December 1853; a foundation stone was laid on 26 June 1854 and the chapel was opened in May 1855. The builder was Thomas Chamberlain. (fn. 227)

The chapel, clad in dressed Bath stone all round, testifies handsomely to local Congregational pretensions at the time of its building. There is a tall Corinthian frontispiece, with pedimented portico (prostyle, with four columns on high bases, two on either side of the central steps) and pilastered ends (Plate 151a, fig. 157). The sides are equally well finished. Inside the custom was followed of serried seats and galleries on thin iron columns round three sides, all focussed on a majestically high pulpit (Plate 151c). This was described by C. Silvester Horne, the minister here for some years, as 'a firm remonstrance against locomotion on the part of its occupant'. (fn. 228) Above the pulpit until the war of 1939–45 was an organ, set against the east wall within a backdrop framed by pilasters. The auditorium's one peculiarity is the ceiling, which hides a Queen-post roof; it has a raised central section and very un-classical tiebeams, with spandrels enriched in plaster. There were some 1,000 sittings in the chapel, of which about 250 were free. Stoughton's enlightened style of preaching was such that in 1871 every available sitting was let, and the congregation was said to contain 'several persons of literary eminence and professional distinction'. (fn. 229)

Bomb-damage in 1940 caused the closure of the chapel, and reinstatement had to wait until 1952–3, after which the building was leased for a few years to the Roman Catholic congregation of Our Lady of Victories, pending the reconstruction of their church. The original congregation returned to the Kensington Chapel only in 1958, after further works including the reconstruction of the organ in the west gallery. (fn. 230)

Figure 157:

Kensington Chapel (now United Reformed Church), plan showing arrangements in c. 1939. Andrew Trimen. architect, 1854–5

A lecture hall made its appearance east of the chapel in 1856, (fn. 231) and sundry outbuildings followed nearby and next to Adam and Eve Mews over subsequent years. Meanwhile, in Allen Street south of the chapel, the congregation in 1868–9 built new schools to replace its previous ones in Hornton Street which were on land taken by the Metropolitan Railway. These were designed by G. Gordon Stanham, architect, and probably built by Scrivener and White, at a total cost of some £5,000. (fn. 232) Pepperell complained about the school buildings: 'There is a want of truthfulness about the design, which one must regret, seeing that the chapel itself is in such good taste'. (fn. 233) They were sold in 1939 in preparation for the building of flats here, but in the event they were not demolished until c. 1970, when the present old people's home was built on the site (page 114). (fn. 234) In 1963 a new 'manse' was cleverly inserted on top of the hall in the south-east corner of the chapel site, Seligmann, Snow and de Saulles being the architects. (fn. 235)

St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church (formerly St. John's Presbyterian Church), Allen Street

A Coptic Orthodox Church since 1976, this was until 1975 a Scottish Presbyterian Church, established in 1863 and since 1887 named St. John's. It originated in a suggestion made by the minister of the Regent Square church to the Reverend Gavin Carlyle, a nephew of Edward Irving, that he should come from Edinburgh to London. (fn. 236) A site in Kensington was evidently desired, but the circumstances in which this particular site was chosen are not known. The congregation was constituted in June 1862, tenders for a church were accepted in July, and in December Carlyle and other trustees accepted a 99–year lease of the site at the south-west corner of Scarsdale Villas and Allen Street. (fn. 237) All around new houses were springing up on the estate of the lessors, E. T. Goldingham, Marris Wilson, Ann Brown and George Nokes (page 233). The architect was a Scot, the little-known J. M. McCulloch, and so, presumably, were the builders, R. and A. M. Greig, whose price for the initial contracts was £3,368. The total cost, however, was about £6,000 for the church as it was opened in May 1863. (fn. 238)

In the words of a later history of the church, 'owing to the unsatisfactory work of the original architect' alterations were soon begun, (fn. 236) but externally (Plate 151c) it stands much as in 1863. Inside, however (fig. 158), both practical problems and aesthetic discontent were experienced. William Pepperell commented that when passing from the exterior 'a feeling of disappointment it is impossible to repress ensues. The interior in no way accords with the idea conveyed by the outside inspection. It is roofed in one span, and heavily ceiled and panelled, producing a sense of depression. The walls are simply bare plaster, the pulpit very large and heavy, the pewing poor and plain. A northern gallery, evidently intended for a organ, is organless, and not much improved by large curtains.' (fn. 239) In 1866–7 advice was sought from Glasgow, in the person of the architect J. J. Stevenson, about the pulpit and other matters acoustical. (fn. 240) Large changes were made about 1876–80 and 1882 by the architect J. Theodore Barker. An intention to raise the spire evidently went unfulfilled but a chancel arch was inserted, galleries erected to increase the seating from 500 to 750, the missing organ supplied by Bevington, a new pulpit provided, a tile floor substituted for boards, and a lecture hall built on the west of the church, with a single-storey extension to Scarsdale Villas added in 1882. The 'quite inadequate' heating apparatus was replaced. The stained glass was also replaced. (fn. 241)

Figure 158:

St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church, Allen Street, plan. J. M. McCulloch, architect, 1862–3

Some problems were occasioned by this work: perhaps they were only routine ones, but the church again changed its architect for the next alterations, made about 1884–8 to designs of another Scot, the unprolific and able J. M. MacLaren (then living in Edwardes Square), by the builder Henry Lovatt. The flat nave roof was opened up like that of the chancel, new pews replaced the old, another attempt was made to get the heating right, and a pleasant partly-surviving feature of the exterior was provided—the lamp designed by MacLaren for outside the door. The cost was about £1,213. The woodwork was redecorated in 1930 and a new communion table installed. (fn. 242)

In 1975 the building was sold to the Coptic Orthodox Church, who renamed it St. Mark's. The last service of the Presbyterian (United Reformed) Church here was held in October of that year, when the church joined the former Congregational Kensington Chapel a little higher up Allen Street, within the Kensington United Reformed Church.

Russian Orthodox Church, Emperor's Gate

This church (Plate 151b, fig. 159), under threat of demolition at the time of writing, has seen several vicissitudes. It began as the South Kensington Baptist Chapel, an initiative set on foot by the Reverend Samuel Bird of Sussex (now Launceston) Place, Kensington New Town. Bird had been connected with the Hornton Street Chapel in its few years as a Baptist place of worship (c. 1858–65). (fn. 243) In 1867, some years before Emperor's Gate was laid out, he procured a design from C. G. Searle and Son (experienced architects to Nonconformists) for a chapel and three houses here. The chapel only was built in 1868–9, by W. Higgs, whose tender was for £6,235. (fn. 244) When it opened, the lease (from the Metropolitan Railway, then the freeholders) was made out not to Bird but to Joseph Clark, the eventual developer of Emperor's Gate (see page 340). (fn. 245) The earliest access to the chapel seems to have been from Cornwall Mews South, on Broadwood land.

Figure 159:

Russian Orthodox Church, Emperor's Gate, plan. C. G. Searle and Son, architects, 1868–9

Bird's venture speedily collapsed, 'whether from any social pecularity in the locality, or personal peculiarity in the minister, or from the circumstance of the opening and enterprising of two or three more new churches in the same part, we cannot pretend to say', as William Pepperell put it in 1871. (fn. 246) When this was written, the chapel was for sale but had already been 'greatly beautified by the mortgagee', who added a spire without and an extra gallery within. The vicar of St. Stephen's, Gloucester Road, had already taken over the lower floor for use as a schoolroom. (fn. 247)

In January 1873 the chapel passed to an English Presbyterian congregation. Promptly in 1874 they added a broader porch towards Emperor's Gate, which was by now being laid out. (fn. 248) They remained here until 1929–30, when they joined the Scottish Presbyterians at the then St. John's Church in Allen Street. (fn. 249) In due course they were succeeded by the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, who still use the chapel. But the ownership of the site has been acquired by the Fidelity Trust Limited, who propose to replace the building with twenty-six flats and three mews houses designed by David Lloyd-Jones, architect. (fn. 250)

Architecturally, the chapel is a straightforward exercise in the Decorated Gothic of the day. Its southern end makes a slight attempt at show. The steeple added by the mortgagee after Bird's departure has been taken down, but in other respects the original arrangements remain.

Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Warwick Gardens

This substantial chapel was built in 1863 to designs by Lockwood and Mawson and demolished in about 1927. It represented a movement by local Wesleyans to broaden their scope and, in William Pepperell's words, 'plant chapels in more respectable localities, such as that of Warwick-gardens'. (fn. 251)

The initiative came from the Bayswater Circuit of the Methodist Conference, to which the chapel was formally attached. It appears that there was a competition for the building, probably in mid 1862. By September 1862 Searle, Son, and Yelf, architects, had procured tenders, but by the end of the year their design had been set aside and a contract for £4,219 agreed with Nevill Simmonds of Harrington Street, Hampstead Road, to build a cheaper scheme emanating from Lockwood and Mawson of Bradford and London. (fn. 252) In 1863 two further architects, Bassett Keeling and C. O. Ellison, showed competition designs for a Wesleyan Chapel in Kensington at the annual Architectural Exhibition in Conduit Street. (fn. 253)

At any rate, the foundation stone for Lockwood and Mawson's chapel was laid in May 1863. (fn. 254) The prominent site, at the south corner of Pembroke Gardens and Warwick Crescent (now Gardens), was taken from Lord Kensington on a long lease. The exterior, Geometric in style, was of red brick with black bands and Bath stone dressings, and had aisles, a high roof, and a slim tower and spire in the south-west position (Plate 151d). Inside was a timber arcade and the usual array of galleries, while in a semi-basement were schoolrooms 'and a residence for the chapel-keeper'. (fn. 255)

The finished chapel, opened on 10 December 1863, contained some 1,100 sittings. But Pepperell reported in 1871 that an average congregation amounted to some 200 only, and 'a number of these are from a distance, and properly belonging to other Methodist congregations'. (fn. 251) The Reverend C. Maurice Davies, visiting a few years later, offered a livelier impression. 'There was generally a shiny look about the chapel, as though everything, including the congregation, had been newly varnished. The seats were low, the galleries retiring, and everything in the most correct ecclesiastical taste. The position of the pulpit was strange to me; and the addition of a table covered with red baize surmounted by a small white marble font with a chamber towel ready for use, did not diminish the peculiarity. . . . The pulpit had succeeded in attaining the "Eastward position", but the table at its base did very well for a quasi-altar, and was flanked, north and south, by two semi-ecclesiastical hall chairs of oak. The font was locomotive, and might be supposed to occupy its abnormal position under protest.' (fn. 256)

Pepperell's forebodings may have been accurate, for the chapel never attained much prosperity or influence. In about 1925 it was closed, its site sold to the Prudential Assurance Company, and shortly afterwards houses were built upon the site (see page 267).

The Seventh Church of Christ Scientist, Wright's Lane

This now-mutilated building, like many other Christian Scientists' places of worship, has the flavour of a hall rather than of a traditional English church. It was built in 1926–8 on land left over from the Iverna Court development to designs by Paul Phipps. It was preceded by a temporary church, erected on the same site in 1919–20 by Humphreys Limited to house the congregation of the Seventh Church of Christ Scientist, previously established in Queen's Gate Hall, Harrington Road. (fn. 257)

Oswald Milne and Paul Phipps, then in partnership, produced drawings for a permanent church in January 1924, but Phipps took over the commission when the partners separated soon afterwards. The church was built in two stages, the south end (1926) preceding the north end (1927–8). (fn. 257) Oscar Faber, the expert in reinforced concrete, was the engineer and E. H. Burgess the main contractor. The building as completed had two entrances in Wright's Lane. It contained a hall (used for a Sunday school) and offices at ground level, and a large, bare auditorium above, filled with serried ranks of pews beneath a plaster ceiling of wide span. Two tones of brick and a measure of Portland stone are used in the elevations towards Wright's Lane and Iverna Court, which were described at the time as being in the manner of Chelsea Hospital. (fn. 258)

In 1985 the northern two-thirds of the church was demolished. This portion of the building is being replaced at the time of writing with a seven-storey block of offices and flats (F. J. Henson, architect, for Taylor Woodrow Properties), while the Christian Scientists will continue to occupy the remainder. (fn. 259)


  • n1. A design for the church was also made by C.J. Richardson (then living in Kensington Square), who published it in the secound edition of his book The Englishman's House (1870). Whether this was commissioned from Foley, or whether Richardson made it in hopes of securing the job, is not known.
  • 199. Survey of London, vol. XXXVII, 1973, p. 68.
  • 200. M.D.R. 1866/20/121–3: B. 28 April 1866, p. 315: Westminster Diocesan Finance office, deeds of Our Lady of Victories.
  • 201. Edmund Sheridan Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, vol. 2, 1896, pp. 354–5: The Tablet, 10 April 1869, p. 786.
  • 202. C. J. Richardson, The Englishman’s House, 1870 edn., pp. 210–13.
  • 203. B.N. 17 May 1867, p. 348: B. 9 May 1868, p. 332; 11 July 1868, pp. 507, 511: Kensington News, 3 July 1869.
  • 204. Pepperell, pp. 13–15: The Architect, 2 Oct. 1869, p. 166: Charles L. Eastlake, A History of the Gothic Revival, 1872, pp. 439–50.
  • 205. T. Francis Bumpus, London Churches Ancient and Modern, [1883], pp. 149–50.
  • 206. B. 9 May 1868, p. 332.
  • 207. Bumpus, op. cit., p. 149.
  • 208. Pepperell, pp. 13–15.
  • 209. Eastlake, op. cit., pp. 349–50.
  • 210. C. Maurice Davies, Unorthodox London, 1876, p. 231.
  • 211. British Almanac for 1870. Companion, p. 161.
  • 212. Victoria and Albert Museum Library, RC/JJ/35, Warington Taylor to Philip Webb, 12 July 1869.
  • 213. Kensington News, 3 July 1869.
  • 214. Westminster Diocesan Finance office, deeds of Our Lady of Victories: Our Lady of Victories, miscellaneous archives, 1877–94.
  • 215. B.N. 25 March 1870, p. 239.
  • 216. Our Lady of Victories, miscellaneous archives, c. 1875–95: Kensington Catholic Magazine, Feb. and June 1886: The Architect, 20 Aug. 1886, p. 116: Oratory Parish Magazine, April 1927, p. 60.
  • 217. B. 8 June 1907, p. 698.
  • 218. The Architectural Review, vol. XCI, 1942, p. 16.
  • 219. R.I.B.A. Library, notes on Catholic churches by Stephen Welch, p. 65.
  • 220. B.R. 107116.
  • 221. Ibid., 14238.
  • 222. Ibid., 14238: Souvenir Brochure of the Solemn Opening of Our Lady of Victories Kensington, April 16th 1959.
  • 223. Abel Nazarian, St. Sarkis, The Armenian Church, London(in Armenian), 1922. Translation kindly furnished by Dr. Nersessian of the British Library.
  • 224. Who’s Who in Architecture (1926 edn.).
  • 225. Drawings of St. Sarkis’s at the offices of Mewès and Davis, architects, kindly made available by Mr. Eric Roberts.
  • 226. The Architectural Review, vol. LIII, 1923, pp. 169–74: B 20 Aug. 1926, p. 284.
  • 227. John Stoughton, Congregationalism in the Court Suburb, 1883, pp. 80–5: D.S.R. 1854/18: M.B.O. 33, p. 89f.: B . 3 Dec. 1853, p. 733.
  • 228. C. Silvester Horne, A Century of Christian Service, 1893, p. 95.
  • 229. Pepperell, p. 26.
  • 230. K.P.L., MSS. 21671–2, 21675–6.
  • 231. Horne, op. cit., p96.
  • 232. Stoughton, op. cit., pp. 90–1: B. 23 Jan. 1869, p. 75: M.B.W. Proceedings, 25 Sep. 1868, pp. 1077–8: Pepperell, p. 26.
  • 233. Pepperell, p. 25.
  • 234. K.P.L., MS. 21675: B.R. 153692.
  • 235. B.R. 153692.
  • 236. St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Kensington 1862–1962, n.d., p. 7: St. John’s Presbyterian Church (United Reformed) The Last Years 1962–1975, n.d., pp. 13–14.
  • 237. St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Kensington 1862–1962, n.d., p. 7: B.N. 11 July 1862, p. 37; 18 July 1862, p. 58.
  • 238. British Almanac for 1864. Companion, p. 161: B.N. 11 July 1862, p. 37; 18 July 1862, p. 58.
  • 239. Pepperell, p. 29.
  • 240. K.P.L., MS. 21555.
  • 241. St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Kensington 1862–1962, n.d., p. 8: K.P.L., MS. 21561: Kensington News, 11 Nov. 1876; 9 Dec. 1876: M.B.W. case no. 31368: R.I.B.A. Library, Fellowship Nomination Papers, J. T. Barker, 9 Jan. 1882.
  • 242. K.P.L., MS. 21556: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Kensington 1862–1962, n.d., pp. 9, 17.
  • 243. Survey of London, vol. XXXVII, 1973, p. 68: Pepperell, p. 60.
  • 244. B.N. 25 Oct. 1867, p. 750: Pepperell, p. 60.
  • 245. M.D.R. 1869/7/352.
  • 246. Pepperell, p. 60.
  • 247. Ibid., p. 61.
  • 248. Inscriptions in situ.
  • 249. St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Kensington 1862–1962, n.d., p 16.
  • 250. Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, planning applications, 1984–5.
  • 251. Pepperell, p. 28.
  • 252. B. 20 Sep. 1862, p. 687, 20 Dec. 1862, p. 919: G.L.R.O., N/M/12/3.
  • 253. Catalogue of the Architectural Exhibition, Conduit Street, 1863.
  • 254. B. 9 May 1863, p. 336.
  • 255. Ibid., 9 Jan. 1864, pp. 33–4: M.D.R. 1864/6/365.
  • 256. C. Maurice Davies, Unorthodox London, 1876, pp. 367–8.
  • 257. B.A. 16841.
  • 258. B. 23 Sep. 1927, p. 462: The Architect and Building News, 6 Sep. 1929, pp. 281–6: The Architects' Journal, 20 Nov. 1929, pp. 790–4.
  • 259. The Standard, 17 Dec. 1894, p. 26.