Soho Square Area: Portland Estate, St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery, Soho Square

Pages 79-81

Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.

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St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Soho Square

In 1791 'a very numerous and respectable body of Catholics conceived the wise and Charitable project of establishing a Catholic Chapel' in the neighbourhood of St. Giles's, which was 'inhabited principally by the poorest and least informed of the Irish who resort to this Country'. (fn. 1) A committee of subscribers purchased the lease of what had hitherto been the two-storeyed assembly rooms behind Carlisle House, (fn. 2) and after the upper floor had been removed (fn. 3) the building was consecrated as a Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to St. Patrick on 29 September 1792. (fn. 4) The leader in the establishment of the chapel was the Reverend Arthur O'Leary. (fn. 1)

In 1866 the freehold of the two houses facing Soho Square and of the chapel behind was acquired by trustees for the church. (fn. 2) The northerly of the two houses was used as a presbytery from 1868 until 1891, when it and the chapel were demolished for the erection of the present church (fn. 5) (Plate 24, fig. 13), which was first used for worship on St. Patrick's day (17 March) in 1893. The architect was John Kelly (who had previously designed the Roman Catholic church at Turnham Green) and the contractor was W. H. Gaze. (fn. 6)

Kelly's two Roman Catholic churches are of similar Italianate style and both are faced with red bricks, their interiors being plastered. The bell tower at Turnham Green, however, was erected to a modified design in 1930 and the interior does not compare in scale or distinction with the church in Soho Square.

St. Patrick's has an arcaded nave of five bays, the very shallow aisles being unlit and divided by screen walls at each pier. The arcade is enriched with a Corinthian order of compound pilasters, continued into the sanctuary and bowed apse with antae and single pilasters. A small Corinthian order embraces the clerestory, which has a pair of round-arched windows to each bay and five single windows in the west wall with a large circular one above. A pair of lunettes, giving additional light to the sanctuary, cut into the barrel-vaulted ceiling, which is divided into bays. There is an archway to the sanctuary, and, like the half-dome to the apse, the ceiling has large sunk panels or coffers.

Figure 13:

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Soho Square, plan

A lower sixth bay at the west end of the church, which according to the architect's drawings was originally intended to be of full height, is occupied by a gallery which projects forward from a pair of uncomfortably spaced piers, in an altogether unsatisfactory manner. At the eastern end of the south side of the nave is a transeptal chapel, the inner part of which has a circular lantern supported on pendentives.

There is a doorway into the church in the centre of the long elevation to Sutton Row but the principal entrance is from the square, through an octagonal lobby beneath the tower and an antechapel beside the presbytery. The lobby contains a Baroque Pietà in white marble, set in a niche in the south wall; it appears to be older than the church. The ante-chapel is undistinguished but for a monument to the Reverend Arthur O'Leary, O.S.F., who died in 1802 aged seventy-eight. The monument must have been erected shortly after his death but the sculptor is not known. It is of white marble with a tapered grey marble backing to a draped female figure in high relief. She holds a cross and leans on two books on top of a pedestal bearing the Irish harp above a weathered profile portrait of O'Leary. Beneath is a large corniced tablet with a shaped lower edge and two framing pilasters.

The outside of the church (Plates 24a, 69b, 71b) closely corresponds with the interior but the pilasters are Doric instead of Corinthian. Swept buttresses connect the low aisles of the nave with the clerestory, and a high attic with gabled ends and an arcaded north side houses the vaulted ceiling. All the cornices and mouldings are of brick, Portland stone being used only for the pedimented Corinthian portico at the foot of the tower. The portico is topped by a cross and its tympanum is carved with the Papal arms. A larger cross surmounts the pyramidal roof of the tower, the wide eaves being supported on large brackets and the stages beneath being treated with pilasters and round-arched openings. A niche immediately above the portico contains a statue of St. Patrick.

St. Patrick's Church Presbytery, Soho Square

This house was erected in 1791–3 on the southern part of the site of Carlisle House (see above). It appears to have been in divided occupancy, its inhabitants including John Weippert, harpist and music seller, 1836–48; John and later Isabella Jones, pianoforte manufacturers, 1850–79; William Gibbs Rogers, woodcarver, c. 1859–64 (he had previously lived at Carlisle House, Carlisle Street); Captain Thomas Griffiths, professor of fencing, c. 1865–88. (fn. 7)

In 1866 the freehold of this house, together with that of the house to the north and the adjoining Roman Catholic chapel, was purchased by trustees for the church. (fn. 2) In 1893 the house became the church presbytery. (fn. 5)

The house has four storeys, and is three windows wide (Plate 24a, fig. 5). The front is of yellow stock brick with a stuccoed ground storey, a plain band at first-floor level and added architraves to the upper window openings; those to the first floor have ornamental bowed iron guards. The entrance doorway is set in a roundheaded opening with a pair of side-lights and a simple fanlight over. The interior is conventional in arrangement and not elaborately finished. A semi-circular archway at the rear of the hall screens the stair, which is of wood with an open well. The main rooms have small cornices with enriched mouldings and plain joinery, the rear rooms having a slightly bowed window wall. Two original chimneypieces on the ground floor are of white marble, each having enrichment to a central tablet and a pair of end blocks. In the first-floor front room the chimneypiece has been altered, but that in the rear room is an elaborate design in wood with two pairs of very thin Corinthian columns and an enriched frieze, the tablets and blocks being carved with figures in relief (Plate 129f).


  • 1. MS. at St. Patrick's Church.
  • 2. Westminster Cathedral, deeds of St. Patrick's Church.
  • 3. Rev. Thomas R. England, The Life of the Reverend Arthur O'Leary, 1822, pp. 236–8.
  • 4. Tablet in entrance to gallery of St. Patrick's Church.
  • 5. R.B.
  • 6. Vere, op. cit., pp. 19, 21; The Builder, 18 July 1885, p. 107; 16 May 1891, p. 388.
  • 7. R.B.; P.O.D.