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Roman Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood, Presbytery, Forecourt Walls and Shrine, Southwark

Description: Roman Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood, Presbytery, Forecourt Walls and Shrine

Grade: II
Date Listed: 17 April 2014
Building ID: 1418445

OS Grid Reference: TQ3238380073
OS Grid Coordinates: 532385, 180072
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5041, -0.0940

Locality: Southwark
County: Greater London Authority
Postcode: SE1 1TD

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Listing Text


Church and presbytery of 1891-92 designed by F A Walters. The church is in neo- Romanesque style, the presbytery in Arts and Crafts style.

Reason for Listing

The Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood and presbytery, both of 1891-2 by F A Waters, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: simple but effective Romanesque style church built to a basilican plan, which has a good internal spatial quality and was produced to a modest budget;
* Fixtures, fittings and decoration: includes an unusual wooden baldacchino, life sized carved wooden Calvary and large terra cotta stations of the Cross, all dating to the early 1890s;
* Degree of survival: the church is externally unaltered and has undergone little internal alteration. The presbytery is little altered except for replacement windows;
* Group value: the church and its attached presbytery form an integrated contemporary ecclesiastical complex designed by the same architect.


Until 1891-92 the largely Irish and Italian Catholic population of the Borough area was served by the Cathedral and Our Lady, Melior Street near London Bridge. In 1890 the site of the present church was bought from the Anglican Diocese of Winchester for £4,000. The church was designed by F A Walters and was described by the architect as 'of an extremely simple style of Romanesque or Norman, somewhat like the earlier portions of the abbey of St. Albans.' It was built in 1891-92 by James Smith & Sons of Norwood. The church and attached presbytery, clergy and choir sacristies were built at the same time and as part of the same design for a total contract sum of £7,000. F A Walters' original drawings for the church are in the RIBA Drawings Collection [reference PA1167/29(1-37)]. The completed church was opened on 6 June 1892.

The principal internal furnishing was the giant painted wooden baldacchino over the stone high altar, modelled on the baldacchini in the Roman basilican churches of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and San Giorgio in Velabro. According to Evinson this was a design which Walters had prepared earlier for his church at Mitcham. Other early furnishings included the Calvary (1893) and the large terra cotta Stations of the Cross by the German sculptor Matthias Zens (1839-1921), installed in 1894.

In the 1890s the railway line running close to the north side of the church was widened, bringing the church even closer to the railway.

The interior of the church was originally covered in painted stencils but this decoration was painted over in the later C20.

Frederick Arthur Walters (1849-1931) was a prolific Catholic architect who was first articled to his father, Frederick Page Walters, and then worked for Goldie & Child for nine years before setting up his own practice in 1880. He was responsible for more than 50 Roman Catholic church commissions, which included Buckfast Abbey (Devon) and Ealing Abbey (London). He also rebuilt the Bishop's House at Southwark (London), and designed the diocesan seminary at Wonersh in Surrey. His son, Edward John (1880-1947), was taken into the practice in 1924, when it became F A Walters and Son. The practice was continued after F A Walters' death by his partner S Kerr Bate under the name of Walters & Kerr Bate. Currently twenty nine buildings wholly designed by F A Walters are listed, seventeen of these churches, three of them, Buckfast Abbey Church and main block and Sacred Heart Wimbledon at Grade II*. Buildings with a residential element, such as Buckfast Abbey or the Southwark diocesan seminary at Wonersh are less numerous. Another six listed buildings had significant additions or alterations by him.


Church and presbytery of 1891-2 designed by F A Walters. The church is in neo-Romanesque style, the presbytery in Arts and Crafts style.

MATERIALS: stock brick in English bond with slate roofs.

PLAN: the church is roughly rectangular on plan with a small west vestibule, a seven bay nave, the two western bays comprising a gallery, with narrow circulation aisles, two narrow transepts and a sanctuary with semi-circular apse. A sacristy is attached on the north-east side of the church leading into the presbytery, originally also incorporating a seminary, which faces on to Redcross Way.

EXTERIOR: the entrance or west front of the church on O'Meara Street has a central gable flanked by corner bays rising as tall bellcotes with gabled tops, each containing a Whitechapel bell of 1956. Pilaster strips define the central and end bays. Near the apex of the central gable is a small pair of round-arched windows within a round-arched opening and below a large circular window with iron glazing divisions, forming a cross and circles and incorporating some coloured glass, flanked at a slightly lower level by narrow round-headed windows. Below is a central round-headed arched doorway with double doors, which is panelled and has decorative ironmongery. Above the doorway is a stone plaque inscribed '1892-1992 PRECIOUS BLOOD CENTENARY DEO GRACIAS'. Attached on either side of the doorway are low brick walls surmounted by iron railings, incorporating two square brick piers with gabled stone heads, which enclose two forecourts. Within the north forecourt is a stone Lourdes grotto with pediment and pilasters of stone, with knapped flint lined round-headed niche enclosing a statue of Our Lady of all the Nations. The other sides of the church are plain brick, the only window openings in the transepts, and are masked by other buildings.

The attached Presbytery at 22 Redcross Way is of three storeys in two sections. The southern section is taller with a tall panelled chimneystack and has a staircase tower at the south-east end with two small circular windows, three lancets and a round-headed doorcase with C20 door. Its major part faces west, has two tall panelled chimneystacks and is of three bays with three round-headed giant arches with sash windows, the central one retaining original sashes with six panes above verticals, and the ground floor has two windows with round-headed arches. At the south-east corner is an attached gabled brick passage entrance with round-headed arch and iron gate. The northern section, also of three storeys and basement, is of lower elevation and is of five bays. The two upper-floor windows are divided by pilasters. The ground floor has three round-headed arches and the narrower northern arch may have been an entrance originally. All sash windows to this section are later C20 replacements.

INTERIOR: the central main west entrance of the church leads into a small brick vestibule with three arched recesses on each side. The main doors in the middle are paired, with flamboyant iron strapwork hinges, and have a segmental arched opening above with herringbone brickwork.

At the west end of the nave is a gallery with three round-arched openings onto the nave supported on square piers. Further arched openings lead off at the south-west corner to the stair leading up to the large gallery (built to accommodate 150 people), and at the north-west corner into the former baptistery, originally with steps down to a lower floor, now levelled to form a clergy vestry. The original stone font is currently located at 160, College Park Avenue HA3.

The remaining part of the nave excluding the west gallery is of seven bays. The narrow circulation aisles have tall round-headed arched arcades towards the nave and lower, narrower arches punctuating the buttress-like piers which mark the bay divisions at this level. The walls of the nave are alternately blind and lit by two small round-headed windows. The bays are divided on the nave side vertically by pilaster strips and horizontally (as far as the gallery) by a string course. Above the string course there is a round-arched opening in each bay, each incorporating a circular clerestory window, with alternating patterns (diamond and square) of iron glazing subdivision. Above this is a timber roof, with hammer beams supporting kingpost trusses on stone corbels. The westernmost aisle bays of the nave are slightly wider and accommodate side chapels and altars; the Lady Chapel on the south side (the lean-to rafters here are painted with chevron patterns) and a statue of St. Joseph on the north side. Beyond this, taller arches to left and right give on to the shallow north and south transepts, which have small high-level window openings on their shorter sides. The nave is floored with large bricks.

The sanctuary is dominated by a painted timber baldacchino over the stone high altar, placed within a semi-circular apse. Four columns carry two upper balustraded tiers, the first square and the second octagonal, all crowned by an octagonal roof surmounted by a cross. Around the arch of the apse is the lettering 'CHRISTUS DILEXIT NOS ET LAVIT NOS IN SANGUINE SUO'. This is all which visibly survives of an earlier scheme of painted and stencilled decoration. Behind the baldacchino an aumbry and piscina are set in the wall and a door leads off the north side to the sacristy. In front of it is a later C20 forward altar.

The main furnishings to the church are the dramatically expressive and life-size painted Calvary figures of Our Lord, Our Lady and St. John in the north transept, introduced in 1893, the artist not at present established, and the large terra cotta Stations of the Cross in the aisles by Mathias Zens. A marbled tablet in the second bay of the nave from the east records the names of the parishioners who donated the Stations of the Cross in 1894. There is a memorial to the parish war dead on two timber tablets on the wall beside the Calvary. There is a late C19 organ in the south-east transept. The nave retains original wooden benches.

The sacristy has a large rectangular wooden lantern roof.

The presbytery retains the original well staircase with slender turned balusters and carved posts with ball finials.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.