Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Chigwell Convent


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Chigwell Convent, 803 Chigwell Road, Woodford Green, Essex, IG8 8AU


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Statutory Address:
Chigwell Convent, 803 Chigwell Road, Woodford Green, Essex, IG8 8AU

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

Epping Forest (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 16/07/2020

An Edwardian chapel, 1910 to 1911 by Leonard Stokes with an extension of one bay added in 1925. The choir and sanctuary were reordered 1968-70 by Weightman & Bullen of Liverpool and in 1995 a small link building by White & Mileson was added.

Reasons for Designation

The Chapel at Chigwell Convent, constructed 1910-11 to the designs of Leonard Stokes and altered in 1968-70 by Weightman & Bullen is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest: * as a good example of an early C20 conventual chapel designed to serve both a significant Order and an innovative school; * as a good illustration of the impact of the Liturgical movement on church design during the C20;

Architectural interest: * as the work of Leonard Stokes, a highly significant architect of the late-C19 and early-C20, also responsible for the church of St Clare, Sefton Park, Liverpool (Grade I, 1205333); * for the high quality of its post-war interior fittings, including the choir stalls and Liturgical fittings of the sanctuary;

Group value: * with the Grade II Manor House (List entry 1317363).


Chigwell prospered in the Early Modern period. It was convenient for London but set firmly in the countryside. This prompted many wealthy households to establish polite country retreats there. In 1723 Sir Henry Hicks inherited Chigwell’s manorial rights, which he retained despite selling off the house and demesne lands of his father’s estate. In their place he bought land on the edge of Hainault Forest called ‘Bowling Green’ and built a new house there, later known as the Manor House (Grade II, List entry 1317363). The house was enlarged progressively over the C19 and changed hands several times. A significant period of expansion appears to have occurred in the mid-C19 with the house being extended at the rear to the east and the west and the estate undergoing a comprehensive level of investment and upgrading. In 1896 the estate was acquired for use as a convent by an Augustinian Order of Sisters, dedicated from 1903 to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and, from 1908, mother house of the Order. The sisters occupied the main house, further extending it with substantial new wings, and created a chapel and noviciate in addition to their own administrative and accommodation buildings. South of the main convent a school was created in around 1900 that continues in operation.

The presence of an earlier chapel at the convent is not clear from maps or the surviving buildings, though there will certainly have been a place of worship for the community. However, the convent’s increased status as mother house for the Order of the Sacred Hearts from 1908 brought with it a need for a suitably distinguished chapel. Leonard Stokes was commissioned to design the new building and construction took place between 1910 and 1911.

The site demanded a building with bespoke requirements. The chapel would provide for the needs of the nuns and noviciate, as well as the boys at the school. These two distinct communities would be kept separate but equally close to the High Altar by placing the sisters’ choir and the boys’ chapel perpendicular to each other, rather than in hierarchical sequence, as might have happened according to traditional precedent.

In around 1925 the sisters’ choir was extended one bay to the liturgical west, reusing stone detailing where possible. The whole of the sisters’ choir and sanctuary were reordered in 1968-70 to designs by Weightman & Bullen of Liverpool. The reordering followed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and brought a new, square, high altar, into the centre of the sanctuary facing both of the chapel’s wings for the first time. As part of the same programme of works the furnishings and decorative finishes were updated: the choir stalls, which had been traditional in form and completed in dark-stained wood, had modernist replacements though still laid out in collegiate fashion. The sanctuary was repaved and a new tabernacle inserted into the south wall facing the sisters’ choir. The boys’ chapel remained largely unaltered, with the exception of its glazing which, along with the rest of the building, was reinterpreted with a modernist scheme integrating earlier traditional glass. The new fittings and glazing were all carried out by Earley & Co of Dublin, a firm distinguished for their work in ecclesiastical decoration, glazing and furnishing.

As part of the 1968-70 remodelling the chapel’s ancillary spaces also underwent development: a new priest’s sacristy was constructed adjacent to the two that already existed on the west side of the sanctuary, a new confessional was built, and new WC and cloakroom provision for the sisters was provided.

One later alteration was made to the chapel in 1995 when a small rectangular link was built in the angle between the two wings, allowing access between them without crossing the sanctuary. The architects were White & Mileson. The stained glass in the link, showing Eucharistic symbols of wheat and grapes, was designed by a sister at the convent.

Leonard Stokes (1858-1925) was articled to S J Nicholl, whose practice specialised in the design of Roman Catholic churches. He later worked as a clerk in the office of G E Street, and as an assistant to Bodley and Garner, among others. Over his long and productive career many of his commissions were for Roman Catholic churches and religious institutions, such as convents and Nazareth houses, as well as educational and public buildings. Amongst his most notable buildings are the church of St Clare, Sefton Park, Liverpool (Grade I, 1205333), All Saints’ Pastoral Centre, London Colney (originally All Saints’ Anglican Convent, Grade II*, 1295615), and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Georgetown, Guyana. His work varied stylistically according to context, producing Gothic, Georgian or Jacobean buildings, for example, as the site or client demanded. Stokes’s office provided work for a number of notable architects included Louis de Soissons, and Albert Richardson. He served as president of the Architectural Association and, in 1910-1912 whilst the chapel at Chigwell was underway, was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1919.


An Edwardian chapel built to serve the Roman Catholic Convent of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and its associated school, built 1910 to 1911 by Leonard Stokes with an extension of one bay added in 1925. The choir and sanctuary were reordered 1968-70 by Weightman & Bullen of Liverpool and in 1995 a small link building by White & Mileson was added.

MATERIALS: The chapel is constructed of red brick in Flemish bond with limestone dressings and Welsh slate to the principal roofs.

PLAN: The chapel separates its two original constituent communities: the members of the convent and the boys of the associated school. The sisters’ choir runs north-south and the boys’ chapel runs east-west. They join at the corner of an L-shaped plan with the same sanctuary for both wings of the building focused at the south-west of the site. Access to the boys’ chapel is at the north and south side of the easternmost bay, leading into a narthex beneath the organ gallery. From the convent access is via a winding corridor that passes a shrine or oratory at the bottom of a flight of steps, rises up past cloakrooms and WCs for the sisters, and a vestibule which leads into the west side of the northernmost bay of the choir. On the other side of the vestibule is a pair of doors leading to the plain cubicles of a post-war confessional. A run of three sacristies can either be accessed from the sanctuary or directly from the outside.

EXTERIOR: The north elevation of the boys’ chapel is four bays long and, in common with the rest of the building, has a classically moulded limestone string course and cornice. The easternmost bay provides the point of access. The upper part of this bay projects outwards by the thickness of one brick and features a brickwork apron. The same bay at ground floor has a projecting porch containing a pair of wooden three-panelled doors in a deep classical architrave beneath a pulvinated frieze broken by a rectangular tablet, and projecting cornice. The jambs of the door surround each have an incised circular consecration cross. The three western bays of the north elevation have windows with semi-circular heads within lugged stone surrounds. The windows are surmounted by keystones and projecting hood moulds. Between the bottom of the glazing and the stone sill is a plain brick panel.

The eastern elevation of the boys’ chapel is gabled with two brick pilasters at each end. The upper part of the gable is conceived as a broken pediment. The pitch of the roof is interrupted by the pilasters and a small hipped section carries the eaves to the outer walls. There are limestone bands at the upper levels, a Diocletian window beneath eaves height, and underneath the window is a canted bay containing the stairs to the organ loft. At the base of the canted bay is a foundation stone with a Latin inscription dedicating the building to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and giving the date 18 October 1910.

The south elevation of the boys’ chapel mirrors precisely that of the north and connects with a gabled bay between two pilasters that is the south elevation of the sanctuary. As with the eastern gable, the upper levels include banded masonry in the form of a broken pediment and a Diocletian window in a stone surround which intersects with the base of the pediment.

The west elevation of the sanctuary has a narrower gable and repeats the banded limestone and the broken pediment motif without any windows. Hipped eaves have been covered in Westmoreland slate. The apex of the roof is surmounted by a small chimney. At ground floor level the sanctuary and the adjoining bays of the sisters’ choir are concealed behind the projecting flat-roofed sacristies, oratory and link buildings connecting the chapel to the convent proper. The sacristies have high quality Flemish bond brickwork, six windows in total, and a single door towards the southern end. Adjacent to that door is a rainwater hopper of Edwardian Baroque design. The east wall of the oratory includes an elaborately detailed Baroque window surround within several planes of projecting brickwork. The limestone surround has a semi-circular head with a large keystone at its centre, and the jambs and architrave are interrupted by limestone blocks which extend out to the ends of the wall surface. At the upper levels the four bays of the sisters’ choir are indicated by tall segmental headed windows in stone surrounds with keystones and hood moulds.

The north elevation of the sisters’ choir is again gabled and reproduces the broken pediment with banded masonry though without any pilasters. A Diocletian window beneath the banded masonry is the only other ornament. The plain exterior wall of the corridor and confessional connects the chapel back to the convent.

The east wall of the sisters’ choir contains four windows in stone surrounds with segmental heads, key stones and hood moulds with small brick panels between the base of the window and the stone sill as found on the west side. The string course ends after the northernmost window, indicating the point at which the chapel was extended to the north in around 1925.

In the angle between the north wall of the boys chapel and the east wall of the sisters’ choir is a square, flat-roofed link structure. Its external elevations each have a single square window in a lugged stone surround with plain frieze and cornice.

INTERIOR: The principal interior spaces are the sisters’ choir and boys’ chapel with their combined sanctuary, and the oratory or shrine located alongside the ancillary spaces west of the choir. The oratory has the form of a single-celled polygonal apse with a domed ceiling, and a lantern with decorative leaded glazing. The floor, skirting, altar and tabernacle are in white and green marbles. The oratory is separated from the corridor by a non-original decorated archway supported on fibreglass columns with decorative non-Classical capitals.

The sisters’ choir is four and a half bays long beneath a plastered barrel vault featuring round transverse arches with gilt mouldings. There are four segmental headed windows to each long elevation and a Diocletian window at the north end. Beneath the windows the walls are panelled in blonde oak with minimal detailing, a broad flat dado rail and continued panelling to the ground. Three stepped ranks of choir stalls to either side of a central walkway are laid out in collegiate fashion. The stalls date from 1968-70 and are modernist in style. The seats lift in the style of medieval misericords, and each one has been moulded on the south side to allow the occupant to turn to face the altar whilst seated. Between each seat is an arm rest with a hinged top, within which books can be stored. At the southern end of the choir, stalls have been removed to allow access to the link into the boys’ chapel. The sanctuary arch, up two steps, rests on paired Ionic columns with gilded capitals and mouldings.

The boys’ chapel is three bays long with an eastern bay occupied by a narthex and organ gallery. A plaster barrel vault runs along its length with gilded transverse arches. The seating is in two rows of plain pews with un-decorated bench ends. The organ gallery rests on two Tuscan columns and the organ itself is divided in two at either end of the gallery. At the rear of the narthex, adjacent to each entrance, is an aedicule of decorative marbles, and a holy water stoup. Between them is a wooden screen of four arches containing entrances to the two, plain, confessionals, the stair to the organ loft, and a noticeboard. At the opposite end the sanctuary arch is supported on square columns with marble altars at their base, dedicated to the Virgin Mary (on the left) and St Joseph (to the right).

The sanctuary at the intersection of the two wings of the chapel has a domed plaster ceiling decorated in powder blue with gilt stairs and the figure of the Holy Spirit as a dove in a sunburst at the centre of a gilt circular moulding. Ionic columns support each corner of the ceiling. The west and south walls, the floors, altar, tabernacle, lectern and Priest’s chair are all covered in various marbles. The west fall, above the Priest’s chair and the liturgical focus of the boy’s chapel, features a stylised opus sectile figure of Christ bearing the badge of the Sacred Heart on his chest. The priest’s chair, beneath this, is of three large marble blocks with leather tops, and a tall oak back. The south wall, the termination of the sisters’ choir, has a Diocletian window with stained glass and wall surfaces of decorative marble. Set into the lower part of the wall is a vertical aedicule for the tabernacle, framed in gold mosaic tile. The tabernacle stands on a plinth of fine white marble. The plinth has a carving of a cross and a fish at its base, and a Eucharistic chalice and wafer within a recess in the middle. The door of the Tabernacle is embossed with a Pelican in Piety. The altar is of perfectly square white marble. Its base is a cube with a dark marble X on each front, against a gold mosaic background, at the centre of which is a Chi-Ro on each side. The altar stands at the centre of radiating pattern marble segments in the sanctuary floor encircled by a yellow marble nimbus.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Earley and Co’s stained glass features in every window, most of which places older figurative glass against abstract modernist backgrounds. Notable figures of entirely post-war glass include a figure of Christ on the south wall of the boys’ chapel, adjacent to the sanctuary, and the Crucifixion shown in the Diocletian window facing the sisters’ choir.


Books and journals
Howell, P, Sutton, I, The Faber Guide to Victorian Churches, (1989), 69
Placzek, A K (Editor in Chief), Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects vol.4, (1982), 132
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 08/04/2020 from
Chigwell Convent Initial Heritage Assessment - Spurstone Heritage Ltd.


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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