British Listed Buildings

History in Structure

If you log in, you can comment on buildings, submit new photos or update photos that you've already submitted.

We need to upgrade the server that this website runs on. Can you spare a quid to help?.

Church of St Paul with St Stephen, Tower Hamlets

Description: Church of St Paul with St Stephen

Grade: II
Date Listed: 27 September 1973
English Heritage Building ID: 206241

OS Grid Reference: TQ3656983420
OS Grid Coordinates: 536569, 183420
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5332, -0.0324

Location: Wright's Road, Poplar, Greater London E3 5LS

Locality: Tower Hamlets
County: Greater London
Country: England
Postcode: E3 5LS

Incorrect location/postcode? Submit a correction!

Listing Text

27-SEP-73 (East side)

1878 by Newman and Billing. Parish rooms and ancillary facilities inserted within the C19 building in 2004 by Matthew Lloyd of Shoreditch.

MATERIALS: Stock brick with limestone and red-brick dressings. Welsh slate roofs.

PLAN: Nave, NW tower, N and S passage aisles, W porch, round-apsed chancel, NW vestries and organ chamber.

EXTERIOR: The church is on a corner site with the W end and N elevation facing directly on to the adjacent streets. The W end presents a complex assemblage of massing, the dominant feature being the tall gable of the nave which has a large, high-set window of six-lights with three circles in the tracery and which in turn contain uncusped circles. At the NW angle is the base of a circular tower-turret which originally carried a spire (taken down 1955). It has flat buttresses in the cardinal directions and single-light windows in the intermediate ones. In the centre of the W front is a gabled and shafted entrance behind which is a half-conical roof which rises to just above the base of the W window and which marks an entrance area (and which originally doubled as a baptistry). It has a series of five trefoiled windows to light the interior. Either side of the porch lean-to roofs spread out to the tower (N) and the buttresses of the nave (S). The latter are of the set-back type and embrace a diagonally-placed doorway in the angle. The side elevations of the building have a series of five gables breaking through the eaves line of the nave, each enclosing a large clerestory window of three lights with varying, sturdily detailed designs, mostly involving uncusped circles. Each bay is marked out by large buttresses which rise to just above the springing of the windows. In the lower parts between each buttress is a steeply-pitched lean-to roof which expresses the internal arrangement of passage aisles. There is no fenestration in the aisles. At the NW end there is a single-storey vestry. The windows to the chancel are wide single lancets. The nave roof is pierced by pairs of porthole-like openings to provide light and ventilation to the spaces within.

INTERIOR: The interior is faced with red-brick (painted white at some stage in the C20 but with part of the painting now removed). The C19 church was planned as a short but wide vessel with the chancel and nave in one. The aisles are reduced to mere passages set behind large square piers which are the internal continuation of the external buttressing system. The arches to the aisles from the nave have a single step and a roll at the angle. Small transverse arches span the aisles between the piers and the side walls. The sanctuary has shafts rising from near ground level to the springing of the roof: they are interrupted by a string-course which runs below the windows. The roof of the nave is now largely obscured by the introduction of the C21 work but starts with boarded vaulting which is penetrated by openings for the clerestory windows. The roof over the sanctuary has ribs rising to a central point. Its surfaces are painted blue and in the three central bays have a representation of Christ in glory flanked by a pair of angels. Apart from the east end the church is now filled with a multi-level series of rooms. The W end is partitioned off from the rest of the building for an entrance area, kitchen etc while the structure in the nave is carried on white-painted tubular steel supports: there are two pairs on each side and each pair diverges to form a Y-shaped structure. The structure has bare timber facing on the E and under sides and fills the building to the top of the roof.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: C19 bench seating with shaped ends bearing numbers has been reused in the nave. The choir and sanctuary have patterned tiles original to the building. The font too is original and has florid High Victorian decoration with a semi-circular bowl clasped by four gables, buttress-like features: it stands on a circular shafts wand four detached shafts with foliage capitals. The wooden altar is a robustly detailed piece with curved crossing members at the ends.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the S is a large, brick-built, three-storey former vicarage.

HISTORY: One of many churches built in mid-Victorian times to serve the rapidly expanding population of east London. It is typical of many churches of the time in terms of its free and inventive use of muscular Gothic forms. The Rev. Basil Clarke in his classic Parish Churches of London of 1966 did not warm to the building, describing it as 'A self-confident, rather ugly, townish church', but, evidently thinking of its broad, spacious interior felt it to be 'well adapted for the worship of a congregation'. It is, however, very much of its time and representative of a style of tough, muscular Gothic popular in the 1860s and 1870s. The foundation stone was laid on 11 January 1878 by John Derby Allcroft, the chairman of the building committee

Arthur Shean Newman (1828-73) and Arthur Billing (1824-96) were in partnership in London from about 1860 and had an extensive practice mainly concerned with church work, most of it in London. They were also surveyors to Guy's Hospital and to St Olave's District Board of Works. After Newman's death in 1873 Billing took on his son as a partner in 1890. Billing had worked in the office of the well-known Gothic Revival architect, Benjamin Ferrey, from 1847 and began independent practice in 1849. The builders of the church, noted on the foundation stone, were F and F J Woods.

Basil F L Clarke, Parish Churches of London, 1966, p 164.
Bridget Cherry, Charles O┬┐Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 5: East, 2005, p 606.
Foundation stone on N side of church.

The church of St Paul and St Mark, Bow is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is a strongly detailed, brick, passage-aisled Victorian church with a wide, spacious interior which has now been largely filled with early C21 additions of offices, meeting rooms and other ancillary facilities.
* It still retains some of its C19 fittings.
* It possesses good streetscape value on account of its boldly massed exterior.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

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