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Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Southwark

Description: Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart

Grade: II
Date Listed: 1 April 2015
Building ID: 1422505

OS Grid Reference: TQ3224976812
OS Grid Coordinates: 532249, 176811
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4748, -0.0971

Locality: Southwark
County: Greater London Authority
Postcode: SE5 9JJ

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Listing Text


Roman Catholic Church, built in 1952-8 from designs by D Plaskett Marshall in a moderne style, reminiscent of the inter-war churches of Cachemaille-Day.

Reason for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Camberwell is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural and planning interest: the church is an intelligent response to an awkward site with interesting massing, and also originality in the handling of the internal arrangement; * Quality of materials and detailing: the external brickwork is of a good quality and the interior, with its sparing use of green Irish marble and monolithic maple reredos contrasting with bare brick walls, is a striking worship space; * Architect: Donald Plaskett Marshall designed several churches in and around London, most of them straightforward, modern, brick-faced designs for suburban congregations; his Camberwell church is more unusual, successfully adapting the vocabulary used by other architects of the interwar period.


A mission was established at Camberwell in 1860 and Mass said at various locations until the present site by an elevated railway line was acquired. The first permanent church was opened here in 1872. It lay parallel to the railway and was built to the designs of C A Buckler in the early Gothic style. In 1891 the church was enlarged at the west end by F A Walters (Walters’ drawings are deposited in the RIBA Drawings Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, file no. PA 1167/3, 1-10). The Buckler/Walters church was destroyed by enemy action on 8-9 October 1941. It was rebuilt in 1952-8 on the same site but in a completely different style, and was turned around by 90 degrees with a blind west wall towards the railway line, to minimise noise from that source. The architect was D Plaskett Marshall. The site also includes a presbytery contemporary with the church, a later parish centre and the extensive modern buildings of Sacred Heart School.


The church was built in 1952-8 from designs by D Plaskett Marshall in a moderne style, reminiscent of the inter-war churches of Cachemaille-Day. The church is not oriented correctly but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond, with sparing use of Portland stone on parapet copings etc. and with flat roofs.PLAN: an unusual staggered plan that reduces in both height and width in four main stages towards the sanctuary from the blind west wall facing the railway.EXTERIOR: the west wall of the nave is windowless and slightly bowed, the brickwork relieved only by full height buttress-fins and a ribbed brick parapet. On the north side is a double-height projecting porch with three doors and corresponding large windows all under a canopy. On the south side fronting Knatchbull Road is a smaller porch for a secondary entrance, alongside a tall asymmetrically-placed brick tower with plain corner buttresses and brick louvres to the bell stage. The staggered form of the plan is evident in the side elevations which are each of four stepped bays with a large steel-framed multi-pane rectangular clerestory window in each bay. The east end wall is blind.INTERIOR: the entrance doors on either side lead into spacious lobbies with the stairs to the west gallery. The main nave space is divided into four wide bays running from east to west. The internal walls are of brown facing bricks and the flooring is of concrete flagstones. The staggered bays are divided by brick piers which taper inwards and rise up to canted brick divisions in the roof space. The nave roof appears to be of reinforced concrete with prominent purlins in each bay. The westernmost bay of the nave holds a wide organ gallery with a boarded front. In the three eastern bays there are four square piers to each bay at lower level, (later) clad in green Connemara marble and separating the main spaces from side aisles and chapels. The aisles terminate at the east end with chapels of Our Lady and St Joseph. They also contain shrines to the Sacred Heart, St Anthony and St Teresa of Lisieux. The sanctuary is raised and also has narrow aisles, leading off to the sacristies. Its altar, ambo and tabernacle plinth (all post-Vatican II changes) and communion rails are of green Connemara marble, the communion rails are set in Belgian black marble. The limestone and granite sanctuary floor was installed in 2004. At the east end is the original tall, tapering maple reredos, set in a shallow niche, with a large crucifix attached and canopy above. The original baptistery lies on the north side, by the entrance narthex; it is separated from the western compartment by iron gates. The octagonal marble font, with its timber cover was moved (along with its stained glass windows depicting the Baptism of Christ, now backlit) to a central position at the west end in the 1990s. Other fittings include the Stations of the Cross placed above the side aisles. These are large rectangular pieces, in opus sectile on a gold mosaic background, by Burns Oates. The large, steel-framed multi-paned windows contain opaque plain glass unusually set in copper rather than lead subdivisions. The organ is by Rushworth & Dreaper, rebuilt in 1962 and refurbished in 1993. The timber bench seating in the church is original.


Burke, C.: History of the Camberwell Catholic Mission 1860-1910, 1910 Catholic Building Review, Southern edition, 1959, pp 88-91 Cherry, B. and Pevsner, N.: The Buildings of England, London 2: South, Penguin, 1983 Evinson, D.: Catholic Churches of London, Sheffield Academic Press, 1998, 206-7 Kelly, BW, Historical Notes on English Catholic Missions, 1907, p. 114 Architectural History Practice. Taking Stock (Diocese of Southwark) Sacred Heart Camberwell, September 2011 Catholic Herald, 25 April 1952; 10 April 1953; 12 December 1958 Institute of Registered Architects Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, Summer 1956, 15, 17; vol. 14, no. 2, Summer 1959, 29–36

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