Tottenham: Roman catholicism

Pages 355-356

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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Recusants from Tottenham were indicted for a decade after 1583, numbers reaching as many as ten in 1592. (fn. 1) The most prominent were William Vaux, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, freed from the Fleet after harbouring Edmund Campion, and his sons Henry and George. (fn. 2) Vaux, although confined to a house which he rented in Hackney, was often described as of Tottenham and was apparently the centre of a circle which extended into that parish. (fn. 3) Papists said to be resident included two gentlemen, Andrew Mallory and Ferdinando Parris, and their wives. After further indictments in 1608 and 1640, (fn. 4) no Roman Catholics were recorded until the end of the 18th century.

French émigrés under Father, later Cardinal, Cheverus (fn. 5) opened a chapel in Queen Street in 1793, thereby starting the revival of Roman Catholic worship on the northern fringe of London. (fn. 6) Bishop John Douglas, vicar apostolic of the London district, estimated that nearly 100 people attended in 1796, (fn. 7) the year of Cheverus's departure for America. The chapel, dedicated to St. Francis de Sales, was rebuilt in Chapel Place, White Hart Lane, in 1826 and reopened in 1827, when a school was established near by. (fn. 8) In 1840 the congregation, normally small, was swollen every summer by Irish workers; in 1851 the average attendance was estimated at 200 in the morning and 100 in the evening. (fn. 9) From the 1860s Archbishop, later Cardinal, Manning preached annually at the chapel, in aid of the school. (fn. 10) Services were transferred in 1882 to a new school in Brereton Road, where a partition between schoolroom and chapel was removed on Sundays; (fn. 11) the old chapel was then sold, although the building survived, as a blouse factory, for at least 30 years. (fn. 12) In 1895 another church of St. Francis de Sales, designed some 7 years earlier by J. and B. Sinnott of Liverpool, (fn. 13) was opened between the school and High Road, at the south corner of Brereton Road. (fn. 14) In 1972 it was a yellow-brick building, decorated with red bricks and stone dressings, in the Gothic style; work on a new sanctuary and entrance had been completed in 1967, and there was seating for 500.

At Wood Green the church of St. Paul was established in Station Road in 1882 (fn. 15) and certified in 1884. (fn. 16) A new brick church, designed by E. Goldie in the Romanesque style, (fn. 17) was registered in 1904 (fn. 18) and in turn gave way to a striking building designed by John Rochford, of Sheffield, which was opened in 1971. The building, of white roughcast and brick, has seating for 600; it is roughly triangular, with a sidechapel and a corridor-porch containing glass from the old church, and adjoins a parish hall. (fn. 19)

In the south Jesuits established a college at Stamford Hill in 1894 (fn. 20) and registered the chapel of St. Ignatius, on the west side of High Road, in 1896. (fn. 21) The chapel, designed by Benedict Williamson, (fn. 22) was replaced in 1903 (fn. 23) by a massive structure which served both the parish and the college. (fn. 24) The new church, also by Williamson, was built of greyishpurple brick with stone dressings in the style of a Spanish Romanesque cathedral. It is cruciform in plan, with a choir and aisled nave supported by flying buttresses and two towers facing High Road. (fn. 25)

Roman Catholics at West Green worshipped either at Wood Green or Stamford Hill until 1927, when they opened a wooden church at no. 370 West Green Road. (fn. 26) The building was enlarged in 1953 and moved a few yards to the west in 1958 to make way for the brick and concrete church of St. John Vianney, which was opened in 1959 and consecrated in 1964. The new church held 480 people in 1972, when the old wooden church served as a parish hall. (fn. 27)

The chapel of St. Bede, at the corner of Compton Crescent and White Hart Lane, was built and registered, (fn. 28) as part of a private school, in 1938. After closure during the Second World War the school was reopened by Jesuits and later made an annexe to St. Thomas More's secondary school. No classes were held there in 1972, when the building, a plain yellow-brick hall, was used solely for Sunday Mass and served from St. Francis de Sales. (fn. 29)

At the suggestion of Cardinal Manning a group of Servite Sisters settled in Suffolk Lodge, on the south side of St. Ann's Road, in 1871. The house, which formed the nucleus of St. Mary's Priory, was refronted in 1876 and the neighbouring Priory Villa and Leamington House were acquired in 1878. A chapel was begun in 1880 and opened in 1883; it was enlarged in 1906, when the priory too was extended, with an eastern wing. In 1972 there were 42 sisters, some of whom taught at St. Mary's school and others farther afield; the community also included nurses, retired sisters, and novices. (fn. 30)

Marist Sisters opened a convent next to the church of St. Francis de Sales in 1888. The convent, which for a time contained an orphanage and a school, closed between 1913 and 1922. (fn. 31)

In 1903 the Daughters of Providence, from France, acquired their first English premises by leasing a house in Ruskin Road, Tottenham. Encouraged by the Revd. John Nicholson, of St. Paul's, Wood Green, they moved to Broseley Villas, Bounds Green Road, and opened a school there in 1905. They moved again in 1907, to two large houses in Stuart Crescent, where they later rented two more houses and in 1921 they bought the Brabançonne, a house in spacious grounds at the corner of Wood Green High Road and Earlham Grove, as a senior school. On the building of a new school in 1926, the Brabançonne became a convent house for the nuns. (fn. 32)


  • 1. Mdx. Cnty. Recs. i. 144, 209.
  • 2. Complete Peerage, s.v. Vaux.
  • 3. G. Anstruther, Vaux of Harrowden, 149.
  • 4. Mdx. Cnty. Recs. i. 144, 167, 173, 209; ii. 35; iii. 153, 158.
  • 5. Dictionnaire de Biographie Française, viii. 1090.
  • 6. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on Robinson, Tottenham, ii. 300-1, and on inf. supplied by Revd. V. McCarthy, rural dean.
  • 7. W. M. Brady, Episcopal Succession, iii. 180.
  • 8. See p. 367.
  • 9. H.O. 129/137/2/1/7.
  • 10. Bruce Castle Mus., 984/3 [newspaper cutting, 1875].
  • 11. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 26023; Ed. 7/88 (inc. plan).
  • 12. Fisk, Tottenham, i. 128.
  • 13. Architect, xl. 293; Building News, lxix. 556.
  • 14. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 35066.
  • 15. Catholic Dir. (1970).
  • 16. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 27661.
  • 17. Builder, lxxxv. 316.
  • 18. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 40682.
  • 19. Ex inf. the par. priest.
  • 20. Catholic Dir. (1970).
  • 21. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 35218.
  • 22. Building News, ci. 403.
  • 23. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 39677.
  • 24. See p. 372.
  • 25. Building News, ci. 403.
  • 26. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 50808.
  • 27. Ex inf. the par. priest.
  • 28. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 58067.
  • 29. Ex inf. Revd. V. McCarthy.
  • 30. Ex inf. Sister M. Cuthbert, O.S.M.
  • 31. Fisk, Tottenham, i. 128; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1908); see p. 376.
  • 32. Ex inf. Sister Mary Agnes; Daughters of Providence [booklet, 1953].