Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Enfield (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ 31731 96750




GV II* 1881-3 by William Butterfield. 1897-9 chancel embellishments by Charles Buckeridge, Edward Turner and N H J Westlake. 1907-8 Lady Chapel added.

MATERIALS: Rock-faced coursed Kentish ragstone with Bath stone dressings. Red clay tile roofs.

PLAN: Nave, chancel, N and S aisles, S porch, N and S transepts, S chapel, N vestry and organ chamber.

EXTERIOR: The most distinctive feature is the spire, a dramatic tall pyramid with horizontal banding and one tier of lucarnes. The rest of the building is in a style of 1300 and is 'unremarkable' (Cherry and Pevsner). The tower is of four stages with angle buttresses to the first stage and a half, then turning to clasping ones which rise right up to the base of the spire. A square SE stair turret rises to halfway up the third stage. There is a three-light W window while the belfry windows are paired two-light openings to the W and E and two-light openings to the N and S. The form of the tracery is conventional Geometrical work with a cusped circle in the head. This form is repeated in the other ground floor windows while the clerestory has cusped Y-tracery openings. The S porch has a moulded arched entrance with one order of shafting. There is chequerwork in the gable and chequerwork also appears in the gable of the chancel. At the SE is a chapel under its own gable. Low transepts run off from the W parts of the chancel: the N transept has a hipped roof.

INTERIOR: Apart from the paintings in the chancel the walls are plastered and whitened. The nave has three wide arches to the aisles and a narrow one at the W which corresponds with the entrance alleyway from the S porch. The arches are double-chamfered, and the piers, of red sandstone, are round with moulded circular capitals. The chancel arch has an outer moulding while the inner order springs from a colonette which rises from a fluted corbel. There are similar arches to the transepts. The nave has canted roof with embattled tie-beams. The chancel has a six-sided canted ceiling divided into rectangular panels by ribs. The aisle roofs are lean-tos.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The chancel is very richly adorned. The ceiling over the choir was decorated in 1898 to designs by Edward Turner of Leicester, brother of the then vicar, the Rev George Turner. The paintings of angels holding emblems of the Passion on the sanctuary ceiling are the work of Charles Buckeridge; his also are the designs for the paintings on the E wall which include depictions of the Magi and Shepherds. The marble facing round the sanctuary is also the work of Turner. Original Butterfield work occurs in the reredos which is architectural rather than figurative with a central feature silhouetted against the E window and with square corner pinnacles. The triple sedilia with their ogee tops to the openings are also Butterfield¿s: unusually they have movable wooden stools for seats rather than fixed stone benches; big, quatrefoiled roundels sit in the valleys between the arches. The stalls are by Butterfield too and have traceried fronts with pierced quatrefoils. The wooden chancel screen of 1898 has now been moved to the W end where it screens off the N-S alleyway. The floor of the chancel is laid with Minton's encaustic tiles and multi-coloured tiles floor the nave and aisle alleys. Red tiles are used to line the lower part of the walls of the aisles. In the nave and aisles the bench seating is low and is of a type, with rounded shoulders, much favoured by Butterfield. At the W end there is a fine font, characteristic of Butterfield, with an octagonal marble bowl with sides with gabled, trefoiled arches carried on dark marble shafts: central octagonal drum. The wooden polygonal pulpit, of two tiers on a stone base, has pierced tracery and is by Butterfield. There is extensive stained glass by Heaton, Butler and Bayne.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Former parsonage to the N by Butterfield, 1882 (listed separately).

HISTORY: The need for a church in this expanding area in the late 19th century was met by Georgiana Hannah Twells, the widow of the banker and MP for the City of London, Philip Twells. She conceived the church as a memorial to him and the foundation stone was laid on 17 Dec 1881 with the consecration by Bishop Jackson of London taking place on 18 July 1883. The church comes from the latter period of Butterfield's career and, like other later churches of his, lacks the fire and inspiration which he brought to his work in the 1840s to 1860s and which helped forge the nature of High Victorian Gothic. The building, however, has been much enhanced by the embellishments of the 1890s. Butterfield had effectively retired by about 1890, hence the chancel enrichment was undertaken by others.

William Butterfield (1829-99) is recognised as one of the very greatest C19 church architects. His career flourished from the mid-1840s when he was taken up by the influential Cambridge Camden (later Ecclesiological) Society as one of their favourite architects. He was responsible in the 1850s for the great church of All Saints, Margaret Street in London, which broke new ground in terms of Victorian church-building, making use of brick for the facing and the use of extensive polychromy for the detailing. Butterfield had an astonishing fertility of invention and his work often has striking originality, seen for example, in intriguing uses of geometry (as can be seen with his spire at Enfield) and the bold use of colour. Apart from All Saints, his best-known work is probably Keble College, Oxford. A devout High Churchman himself, his clients were usually of similar leanings.

SOURCES: Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North, 1999, pp 437-8. Nick Reed, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield: a Visitor's Guide, nd (c2000). Paul Thompson, William Butterfield, 1971 pp 195, 341, 433, 439, 457, 460, 471, 475.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The church of St Mary Magdalene is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * It is of considerable interest as a late work by William Butterfield in the Gothic revival style of the late 13th century. * It has a spire of dramatic geometry and which forms an important landmark. * It contains extensive fittings which are original to Butterfield's building and which are characteristic of his work. * It has been much enhanced by a lavish scheme of chancel decoration in the 1890s.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 23 Sep 2002
Reference: IOE01/06826/34
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Colin Carron. Source Historic England Archive
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