Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Victories, including the entrance screen
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Location Description:
- High Street, Kensington, London W8
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Location Description:
- High Street, Kensington, London W8
- Greater London Authority
- Kensington and Chelsea (London Borough)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Victories, 1957 to designs by Adrian Gilbert Scott, and its entrance screen, 1930s, by Joseph Goldie.
Reasons for Designation
The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Victories, Kensington, of 1957, by Adrian Gilbert Scott, including the 1930s entrance screen by Joseph Goldie, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a striking and boldly massed church in a stripped-back post-war style, relieved by restrained traditional Perpendicular Gothic detailing in Portland stone, which aptly demonstrates the post-war transition from traditional to modern forms in ecclesiastical architecture; also a good quality 1930s entrance screen; * Architect: designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott, a noted ecclesiastical architect of the early to mid C20, who trained under Temple Moore and specialised in commissions for the Roman Catholic Church; * Interior: while reduced in dramatic effect due to the alteration of Scott’s design intention, the interior is lofty and well-proportioned, containing several original features which are characteristic of Scott’s work including a Blue Horton stone dado, and tall windows to maximise light. Modifications from the original design, by H S Goodhart-Rendel, are of interest in their own right; * Critical response: the design of the church engendered considerable controversy in the public arena, an illuminating example of public debates surrounding the changing architectural styles of the post-war period; * Historic interest: the site has historical continuity, having formerly been occupied by the pro-Cathedral of Westminster diocese, built by George Goldie in 1867-9, and destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.
The mission started in 1794 when Abbé Charles de Broglie opened a school for the sons of exiled French noblemen at Kensington House. The school chapel was also open to local Catholics and indeed continued after the school closed in 1806. A new chapel was built in Holland Street in 1812 and was enlarged in the 1830s. In 1867–69, a large French Gothic church was built on the current site, behind Kensington High Street, to the designs of George Goldie. The site was a difficult one, extending back some 300ft, but having a restricted narrow frontage, necessitating its construction well back from High Street. It was opened by Cardinal Manning on 2nd July 1869 and succeeded St Mary Moorfields as the pro-cathedral of the diocese until the opening of Westminster Cathedral in 1902. It was consecrated in 1901.
In 1932-33, George Goldie’s grandson Joseph (1882–1953) built the neo-Georgian presbytery. Shortly afterwards, the church purchased 233 and 235 Kensington High Street, which were rebuilt as two shops (in the place of four) by Joseph Goldie, with a brick arch framing the approach to the church.
In 1940, Goldie’s church was destroyed by a bombing raid. The present church was built as a replacement, from designs by Adrian Gilbert Scott. His designs represented a form of continuity with the former church, having a long nave with short chancel and flanking chapels. However, due to strong public opposition against Scott’s modernist design, the original scheme was modified by H S Goodhart-Rendel, resulting in a plainer design, which saw Scott’s lofty parabolic arches altered to a more conventional Gothic form. Although a more elaborate tower and expressionist brickwork were present on Scott’s early drawings, these were later removed as an economy. The builders were Messrs Holliday and Greenwood and the cost was estimated at £125,000 (£100,000 of which was to be met by compensation). Work on site started in 1955, the foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Godfrey on 23rd March 1957, and on 30th September 1957 the extensive crypt was opened for services. On 31st October the following year, the whole church was opened for use and it was formally opened by Cardinal Godfrey on 16th April 1959. A number of details remained unfinished, due to lack of funds; there were at this time no permanent fittings, and the tower was unfinished. Gradually the church was furnished, with a Hornton stone dado, and fourteen stained glass windows by Charles Blakeman (between 1959 and 1961).
In 1959, the parish still wished to remove the two shops in front of the church, which flanked the entrance arch, in order to ‘form a spacious entrance forecourt to the Church’. However, this was never realised and the shops remain along the street-front.
In 1966, the side chapels were provided with metal screens and gates, and decorations were added.
In 1970-71, Archard and Partners designed additions to the church, based on those envisaged by Scott in his original plans, but not built at the time through lack of funds. These included: a new hall in the crypt, ground floor sacristies and a flat for the Sacristan at first floor level. The church was consecrated in 1971. During the 1980s a Michael Clark sculpture of the Risen Christ replaced a crucifixion, in the sanctuary. Reordering was carried out c1990, with the installation of a new timber reredos by Ormesby of Scarisbrick and the placing of the tabernacle on a plinth from the previous church which had survived the bombing raid.
In 1991, Michael Marsden restored the Lady Chapel and the Sacred Heart Chapel. In 1994, for the bicentenary of the mission, eight canvases by Peter Lyall were commissioned for the ceiling and walls, depicting the Assumption, Our Lady of Victories, St Alban, two angels, St Thomas More, SS Edmund Arrowsmith and John Southwell, St John Fisher and the martyrs at Tyburn.
In recent years the church has undergone refurbishment (Kyle Smart Associates Ltd). These works have included the remodelling of the approach and entrance area with a glass canopy and step-free access; the crypt (part of which houses the Diocesan Archive) has also been reorganised and refurbished; the nave and sanctuary have had new marble floors, and a screen was erected at the east end to house a new artwork by Stephen Foster (replacing the 1990s reredos).
Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Victories, 1957 to designs by Adrian Gilbert Scott, approached by an entrance screen of the 1930s by Joseph Goldie
MATERIALS: the walls are faced in brick laid in English bond, with some Portland stone details. Only the west front is clad in dark facing brick, while the side elevations were finished in pale bricks.
PLAN: the church faces south, but this description follows liturgical orientation. The plan is rectangular, consisting of a five-bay nave with aisles, rectangular sanctuary flanked by side chapels. It is accessed via a passage spanned at the entrance by a brick screen (see item below).
EXTERIOR: the church is largely screened from view by the commercial buildings on High Street. Detailing is concentrated at the rather monolithic west front, which takes the form of a wide tower, relieved only by an ornate entrance ensemble comprising a pointed arched entrance opening with deep grooved reveal in limestone, surmounted by a two-tier raking Perpendicular panelled arcade and a canopied recess holding a statue of Our Lady of Victories (by Messrs Albion of Merton), all embraced by a pair of half-engaged octagonal piers. The entrance is deeply recessed and lined in ashlar limestone facing blocks. The tower is crudely finished off with a plain parapet (differing significantly from the intended Gothic blind arcading and pyramidal roof shown on Scott’s original drawing). The nave and sanctuary have a continuous pitched roof, hipped at the east end. The narrow and tall aisles are flat roofed, as are the other numerous ancillary structures to the sides and the 1970s east extension. The five-bay side aisles and the one-bay chancel are lit by tall two-light Decorated windows.
INTERIOR: side porches and a central entrance open directly into a lofty nave of five bays, having a west gallery but without a narthex. There are no aisles in the conventional sense, rather an enfilade of shoulder-arched openings to the north and south, cut into a series of deep projecting piers which articulate the bays and rise to form a massive arcade of pointed arches to either side of the nave. (Perspective drawings for Scott’s original design indicate parabolic arches to the nave bays and sanctuary, but these were modified to conventional pointed arches by Goodhart-Rendel). The sanctuary is rectangular, reached by five segmental steps and separated from the nave by a pointed arch. The nave roof is coved, plastered and painted. Throughout, the walls and piers are plastered and painted over a tall dado of Horton stone with pale pointing, finished with a frieze moulded in a profiled wicket pattern. The north ‘aisle’ contains a shrine to St Theresa and is otherwise lined with confessionals. The Lady Chapel is to the south of the sanctuary, and the Sacred Heart Chapel to the north. Both are accessed by metal gates (those to the Sacred Heart chapel appear to be original, those to the Lady Chapel were replaced c1990), and are divided from the sanctuary by geometric metal screens. They each have coved ceilings with decorative paneling. The Sacred Heart Chapel contains a plain stone altar and a statue of the Sacred Heart on a wall-mounted marble surround. The Lady Chapel has a marble altar, with a carved and painted reredos containing a statue of Our Lady of Victories. The gallery contains a large organ. The baptismal font is of stone, with linear detailing painted in gold and a carved oak cover. Windows are leaded and stained, by Charles F Blakeman, depicting a variety of Biblical scenes and saints. There is a large carved wooden crucifix from Bavaria, formerly suspended above the sanctuary, now sited in the south aisle and serving as a twelfth Station of the Cross. There are conventional statues of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Joseph by Mayer of Munich.The Martyrs’ Chapel, located to the south-west corner is decorated by mural paintings by Peter Lyall, dating from c1995. A large freestanding artwork by Stephen Foster is located to the rear of the sanctuary, comprising a depiction of the Crucifixion on a tall painted relief panel.
On the street frontage is the 1930s entrance screen by the architect Joseph Goldie. It is of brick and Portland stone in the form of a pedimented gateway with a four-centred arched opening surmounted by a statue of the Madonna in a Gothic niche, flanked by stone shields.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), it is declared that the C21 disabled access ramp and retaining walls and canopy at the entrance to the church and crypt are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Books and journals
Evinson, D, The Catholic Churches of London, (1998), 157-159
Little, B, Catholic Churches since 1623, (1966), 210
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: London 3 North West, (1991), 464
Proctor, R, Building the Modern Church: Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain, 1955 to 1975, (2014)
Rottmann, A, London Catholic Churches: a historical and artistic record, (1926), 107-111
Eberhard, R, Church Stained Glass Windows, accessed 2015 from www.stainedglassrecords.org
Hobhouse, Hermione, Survey of London, vol 42, accessed 2015 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp99-116
Kyle Smart Associates Ltd, accessed 2015 from http://www.kylesmartassociates.co.uk/08016-EC.html
Parish website, accessed 2015 from http://www.ourladyofvictories.org.uk/history.htm
Architectural History Practice; Westminster Taking Stock report; 2012
Drawings in the Diocesan Property Services archive
Souvenir Brochure: The Bicentenary of Our Lady of Victories, Kensington 1794-1994
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed buildings are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing