Hackney: Roman Catholicism

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10, Hackney. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1995.

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'Hackney: Roman Catholicism', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10, Hackney, (London, 1995) pp. 128-130. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol10/pp128-130 [accessed 25 April 2024]


William, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, who had been arrested for harbouring Edmund Campion, was allowed to live from 1583 at Hackney and remained there, apart from a further period of imprisonment at the time of the Armada, until 1590. He rented a house from Lord Mordaunt, where several priests stayed and c. 18 people attended a mass in 1584; the conspirator Anthony Babington, one of whose servants was exorcised there, was a visitor in 1585. (fn. 1) Those indicted for recusancy between 1583 and 1587 included Lord Vaux, his sons Henry and George, Andrew Mallory, gentleman, and their retainers. They probably formed more than one household, since some were also described as of Tottenham. (fn. 2)

Recusants in 1609 were Sir Rhys Griffin of Hackney (fn. 3) and in 1610 Isabel Oliver, in 1615 William Deane, and in 1617 and 1619 Richard Abington, gentleman, and his wife, all late of Hackney. (fn. 4) Samuel Hodgson, who had been ordained in Lisbon, joined the Jesuit mission to England in 1761 and died at Homerton in 1766. (fn. 5) Fourteen papist families were reported c. 1790; they had no place of worship, whereas protestant dissenters had four meeting houses. (fn. 6)

Roman Catholics could attend the chapel of St. Mary, Moorfields, from 1820. (fn. 7) In Hackney their first services were probably held in 1843, a mission was established in 1847, and the church of St. John the Baptist opened near the southern end of Mare Street in 1848. In Kingsland a mission was started in 1854 and the church of Our Lady and St. Joseph, built over a school at the corner of Culford and Tottenham roads, opened in 1856. In Clapton a mission was started in 1862 and the church of St. Scholastica opened as part of a school in Kenninghall Road. In Homerton a mission was started in 1873 and used a school chapel until the church of the Immaculate Heart and St. Dominic, Ballance Road, opened in 1875. The church served Hackney Wick, a poor district where its success was ascribed in 1903 to the presence of Irish or Italian immigrants. (fn. 8) The four Roman Catholic churches had a Sunday attendance of 1,801 in 1886 and 3,312 in 1903, both of which figures were much smaller than those for Congregationalists, Methodists, or Baptists. (fn. 9) Kingsland's church was replaced by one nearby in Ball's Pond Road, Islington, in 1964, and another church in Clapton, St. Jude's, opened in 1965. (fn. 10) The churches, followed by convents and many charitable institutions, are described below.

The following abbreviations are used: consecr., consecrated; demol., demolished; evg., evening; reg., registered; temp., temporary. Attendance figs. 1886 are from Brit. Weekly, 19 Nov. 1886, 4b; figs. 1903 are from Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 66.

St. John The Baptist, King Edward's Rd. (fn. 11) Svces. said to have begun as evg. mtgs. in a room and later held by Revd. John Rolfe in old brewery behind Black Boys in Elsdale Street. Spaniard John Lecuona was missionary priest when ch. built on N. side of King Edward's Rd. near the Triangle at rd.'s junction with Mare Street. (fn. 12) Attendance 1851: 300 a.m., 150 evg.; (fn. 13) 1886: 191 a.m., 175 evg.; 1903: 648 a.m., 128 evg. Bldg. of Kentish rag with Caen stone dressings in Early Eng. style, seating c. 300, by W. W. Wardell 1847-8: chancel, nave, N. aisle and chapel, tower with spire; S. aisle and chapel added later. Consecr. 1899. Served Hackney union and workho. at Bethnal Green 1863. After war damage, svces. on ground floor of no. 14 Gore Street, reg. 1945, and chapel of St. Joseph's hospice, Mare Street, reg. 1947. (fn. 14) New ch. in King Edward's Rd. reg. 1956: brownbrick bldg. with pantiled roof, seating c. 300, by Peter Lamprell-Jarrett. (fn. 15)

Our Lady and St. Joseph, Kingsland. (fn. 16) Mission begun by Wm. Lockhart, Father of Charity, 1854. Temp. chapel opened at no. 83 Culford Rd. North 1855. Ch. on S. side of Tottenham Grove (later Rd.) near E. corner with Culford Rd. reg. 1856. (fn. 17) Attendance 1886: 428 a.m., 220 evg.; 1903: 912 a.m., 438 evg. Bldg. by A. W. N. Pugin: aisleless ch., reached by external staircase, over sch. and hall. (fn. 18) Served Hoxton 1858, Shoreditch workho. 1863. Moved to no. 100A Ball's Pond Rd., Islington, 1964. (fn. 19)

St. Scholastica, Kenninghall Rd., Clapton. (fn. 20) Svces. begun by Fathers of Charity (Rosminians) from Kingsland in libr. hall of St. Scholastica's Retreat (q.v.), on part of site given by Miss Eliz. Harrison, 1862. Reg. 1870. (fn. 21) Ch. intended to form N. side of rectangular gdn., with Retreat to E. and W. and Kenninghall Rd. to S. Land and pastoral charge transferred to diocese 1868. Sch. chapel to be built instead of ch., with presbytery for first full-time par. priest, 1879. Reg. as temp. ch., at NE. corner of gdn., 1887: (fn. 22) plain bldg. with rectangular windows. Attendance 1886: 128 a.m., 140 evg.; 1903: 272 a.m., 127 evg. Reg. again 1963. (fn. 23) Permanent ch. built next to new sch. after demol. of Retreat. Bldg. of pale grey brick and concrete in contemporary style, seating 400, by J. E. Sterrett, consecr. 1987. Sch. chapel and old sch. bldgs. used as par. centre 1988.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Dominic, Homerton. (fn. 24) Mission begun by Geo. Akers, asst. priest at St. John the Baptist, at no. 21 Sidney Terr., Sidney Rd., 1873. Temp. sch. chapel opened 1873, reg. 1874. (fn. 25) Ch. on S. side of Ballance Rd., at corner of Sidney (later Kenworthy) Rd., reg. 1877. (fn. 26) Attendance 1886: 211 a.m., 308 evg.; 1903: 646 a.m., 141 evg. Bldg. of yellow brick with red-brick dressings in Romanesque style by A. E. Buckler 1875-7: basilican plan, with apse, aisled and clerestoried nave, round-headed windows, campanile, not oriented. Consecr. 1884. Damaged in Second World War; svces. in hall of convent of Sacred Heart (q.v.) 1951; ch. restored after 1952. (fn. 27)

St. Jude, Clapton Pk. Yellow-brick former tabernacle, S. side of Blurton Rd., reg. 1965. (fn. 28)

St. Scholastica's Retreat (later home) (fn. 29) was founded by Wm. Harrison and sis. Eliz., out of est. of their bro. Rob. (d. 1852) and his wid. Charlotte Scholastica, for 40 poor Caths. aged 60 or more from gentry, professions, or commerce. Each man or woman had self-contained residence in hos. forming E. and W. sides of gdn. on N. side of London (later Kenninghall) Rd. Bldgs. in Gothic style by E. W. Pugin begun 1861, partly occupied by 1863, when under spiritual care of Fathers of Charity. (fn. 30) Demol. 1972, but Retreat survived as home for aged gentlefolk in Princes Risborough (Bucks.) 1988. (fn. 31)

Little Sisters of the Poor were in Queen's (later Queensbridge) Rd., Dalston, before moving to Manor Rd., Stoke Newington, where they built St. Ann's Ho. 1878. (fn. 32)

Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (fn. 33) moved from Stratford to Sidney Ho., Homerton, 1872. Chapel and orphanage opened 1883, when ho. was at SE. end of new Hassett Rd. (fn. 34) Orphanage closed during Second World War. Hostel for 60 women opened 1948 and closed 1978, whereupon hostel and chapel were replaced by Chigwell Ct. old people's flats. Old ho. altered to inc. convent chapel, in use 1988, when St. Anne's wing was on lease to priests of order of St. Camillus, who cared for sick.

Ursulines of Jesus were at no. 164 Culford Rd., De Beauvoir Town, by 1897 until c. 1959. (fn. 35)

The Institute of Our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle occupied convent at no. 63 Stamford Hill by 1900. (fn. 36) Chapel reg. from 1905 to 1941. (fn. 37) One of order's four Eng. convents, where retreats held and religious instruction given. Replaced by ho. in West Heath Rd., Hampstead, by 1946. (fn. 38)

Irish Sisters of Charity came to Mare Street, where anonymous donor gave them Cambridge Lodge Villas, 1900. Originally intending to supply home nursing for the dying, they opened St. Joseph's hospice in 1905; hospice was one of first of its kind, although preceded by Anglican hostel in Clapham and by St. Luke's hosp., which settled finally in Bayswater. Sisters occupied only no. 6 in 1905 but whole row by 1911. Private nursing home advertised from 1930s until c. 1951 was later absorbed into hospice. Old bldgs. replaced by Our Lady wing 1957, St. Patrick's wing 1965, new convent 1969, Heenan House 1977, and Norfolk wing, containing study and day centres, 1984. Hospice, which retained home care svce., had 108 beds 1988. (fn. 39)

Servite Sisters, who managed Our Lady's Convent high sch. at nos. 14 and 16 (later 6 to 16) Amhurst Pk. from c. 1931, came from St. Mary's priory, St. Ann's Rd., Tottenham. (fn. 40)

Little Sisters of the Assumption, nursing sisters of the poor, occupied no. 11 Amhurst Pk. from c. 1946 to c. 1960. Ursulines of Jesus had taken their place by 1965. (fn. 41)


  • 1. Complete Peerage, xii (2), 221; G. Anstruther, Vaux of Harrowden (1953), 149, 153-4, 159, 162-3, 217; G. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, i (1969), 127, 227, 303.
  • 2. Mdx. County Rec. i. 144, 158, 163, 167, 173; V.C.H. Mdx. v. 355.
  • 3. Cal. S.P. Dom. Addenda 1603-10, 493.
  • 4. Mdx. County Rec. ii. 69, 114, 131, 146, 215.
  • 5. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, iv (1977), 140.
  • 6. Guildhall MS. 9557, f. 31.
  • 7. Para. based on Cath. Dir. (1838 and later edns.); A. Rottman, Lond. Cath. Chs. (1926); accounts of individual chs. below.
  • 8. Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 27.
  • 9. Brit. Weekly, 19 Nov. 1886, 4b; Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 66.
  • 10. V.C.H. Mdx. viii. 101; below.
  • 11. Para. based on Cath. Dir. (1846 and later edns.); Rottman, Lond. Cath. Chs. 204-5.
  • 12. G.L.R.O., M79/LH/25, pp. 118-22, 422-3, 433-5.
  • 13. P.R.O., HO 129/11/5/1/5.
  • 14. Pevsner, Lond. ii. 166; H.A.D., H/LD 7/24, p. 185; G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 61059, 61705.
  • 15. H.A.D., H/LD 7/24, pp. 185, 195; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 65650; inf. from par. priest.
  • 16. Para. based on Cath. Dir. (1856 and later edns.); Rottman, Lond. Cath. Chs. 210.
  • 17. G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 7481, 7522.
  • 18. Pevsner, Lond. ii. 166, says that ch. was converted from a manufacturing bldg. by Wardell.
  • 19. V.C.H. Mdx. viii. 101.
  • 20. Para. based on Cath. Dir. (1863 and later edns.); Rottman, Lond. Cath. Chs. 203-4 and illus.; Hist. of St. Scholastica's (consecr. pamphlet 1987); inf. from par. priest.
  • 21. Old O.S. Map Lond. 30 (1868); G.R.O. Worship reg. no. 19486.
  • 22. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 30296.
  • 23. Ibid. no. 69248.
  • 24. Para. based on Cath. Dir. (1900 and later edns.); Rottman, Lond. Cath. Chs. 200-2.
  • 25. G.R.O. Worship reg. no. 21938.
  • 26. Ibid. no. 23767.
  • 27. Hackney Photos. i. 60; Pevsner, Lond. ii. 165.
  • 28. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 70032; below, prot. nonconf. (Meths.).
  • 29. Para. based on Hist. of St. Scholastica's and inf. from par. priest.
  • 30. Cath. Dir. (1863 and later edns.); Old O.S. Map Lond. 30 (1868); Babe of the Retreat (TS. by caretaker's son in H.A.D.).
  • 31. Westm. Year Bk. (1969); Cath. Dir. (1979).
  • 32. P.O. Dir. Lond. County Suburbs, North (1884); V.C.H. Mdx. viii. 211.
  • 33. Para. based on inf. from superior, Sacred Heart convent; Cath. Dir. (1900 and later edns).
  • 34. P.O. Dir. Lond. Suburban, North (1880); Bacon, Atlas of Lond. (1910), sheet 40.
  • 35. P.O. Dir. Lond. (1897 and later edns.); Cath. Dir. (1900 and later edns.).
  • 36. Cath. Dir. (1900).
  • 37. G.R.O. Worship reg. no. 41201.
  • 38. Cath. Dir. (1938, 1946).
  • 39. P.O. Dir. Lond. (1905 and later edns.); Cath. Dir. (1931 and later edns.); M. Manning, Hospice Alternative (1984), 42, 44, 106, 126; inf. from hospice sec.
  • 40. Cath. Dir. (1931 and later edns.); V.C.H.Mdx. v. 356; below, educ. (private schs.).
  • 41. Cath. Dir. (1946 and later edns.).