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Description: Wanstead United Reformed Church
Date Listed: 22 June 2009
English Heritage Building ID: 504891
OS Grid Reference: TQ4050488629
OS Grid Coordinates: 540504, 188629
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5790, 0.0263
937/0/10060 NIGHTINGALE LANE
22-JUN-09 Wanstead United Reformed Church
Church. Built originally 1856-61 as an Anglican church in the parish of St Pancras, to the design of John Johnson. Re-erected in modified form in present location 1866-67, also to design of Johnson. Later C19 extensions to E, including Grove Hall, are not of special interest.
MATERIALS: Kentish ragstone, grey brick, Bath stone dressings, clay tile roof.
PLAN: Comprises base of unfinished W tower comprising porch, nave of 4 bays, N and S aisles and shallow chancel; with quasi-detached former schoolroom (Cromwell Hall) to NE.
EXTERIOR: Decorated Gothic style. W front is formed by modified base of intended tower. This, surmounted by gable and framed with massive angle buttresses. Large window with geometric tracery. The aisle corners have raking angle buttresses. The W ends of the aisles are surmounted by towers which originally had stone pinnacles, but the latter were removed in 1976. N and S elevations are in grey brick and have windows with four-centred arches, dripmoulds and elaborate geometric tracery. E window has similar tracery to W front, but is partly obscured by the extension. The schoolroom has simpler tracery. The area to the west end of the church is enclosed by iron railings with a flattened fleur-de-lys pattern, and stone piers with conical tops.
INTERIOR: The tower porch leads through a Gothic arch with corbel heads to a broad nave furnished with simple oak benches. Interior finished in painted plaster. Nave arcade has octagonal pillars with foliated capitals. The crown-post roof (restored after WWII bomb damage) is carried on decorative corbels. The impressive chancel arch frames the shortened chancel, which contains the organ. Continuous gallery with wrought-iron balustrade across the W end of nave and aisles, carried on an arcade. Octagonal stone pulpit with moulded chamfers. The windows have plain glass with stained glass to the traceried heads (designer unknown).
HISTORY: The church was originally constructed in 1856-61 in Kings Cross as an Anglican church dedicated to St Luke. Seating 1,200, it was one of a series of new churches built to serve the rapidly expanding population of the poorer urban districts of St Pancras parish. It replaced a temporary iron church of 1850 which stood on land destined for the construction of Kings Cross Station; this was dismantled and re-erected on a new site in Euston Road only 13 months after its completion. The new church of St Luke was built in Euston Road on the corner of what is now Midland Road, to the design of John Johnson, an architect who had already designed several new churches in the parish. Work progressed slowly due to lack of funds and only the lower part of the tower was completed, sufficient to incorporate the gallery stairs (a tall spire too had been planned). After only two years, the Midland Railway obtained an Act of Parliament in 1863 to extend its line to London and build a new terminus, the future St Pancras, on the land occupied by St Luke's and its parish. The site was purchased compulsorily by the Midland Railway for the sum of £12,500, the parish being allowed to keep the fabric of the existing building in exchange for early surrender of the land. The money was used by the parish to fund a replacement church: St Luke's, Oseney Crescent, built 1867-9 to the design of Basil Champneys. That this virtually brand-new parish church was swept away to make way for London's greatest railway terminus and Gothic Revival building, is a legacy of the over-riding power of the railway companies in this era of intense competition to build great termini ever nearer to the centre of London.
The village of Wanstead, Essex and its environs had an expanding populace of non-conformists without a purpose-built place of worship. The Congregationalist community resolved in 1863 to build a chapel on a site offered by a Mr GH Wilkinson, obtaining use of the Court Room of the Weavers' Almshouses as an interim place of worship. The church was constituted on 29 May 1865, but plans for a new building drawn up by a Mr Knightley were rejected as too costly. Meanwhile, the fabric of St Luke's in Euston Road had come up for sale, and the chapel's building committee made an offer of £526, which was accepted. The original architect, John Johnson, was then commissioned to adapt the building for Congregational worship, and the building was dismantled and transported to Wanstead at a cost of £2,000 and rebuilt 1866-67 to Johnson's modified design. Like its predecessor, the west end incorporates the lower part of the tower and it is presumed that the intention was to complete it since a spire was planned. The chancel was shortened, as was the nave by one bay, and the nave clerestory omitted to avoid the church appearing too lofty. The north entrance and porch too were omitted, and that to the south diminished, and a school room added on the north-east side. The galleries and pulpit from the original church were reinstalled. In 1897 the Grove Hall, designed by EM Whitaker, was added on the north side for use mainly as a Sunday school. At this point the former schoolroom became known as Cromwell Hall. The church was damaged by three incendiary bombs on 7 September 1940, which destroyed most of the roof.
The United Reformed Church (URC) was formed in 1972 by the union between the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales. Accordingly, the Wanstead congregational church was renamed Wanstead United Reformed Church in 1972.
SOURCES: Wanstead United Reformed Church, 125 Years (1990) (church brochure).
REASON FOR DESIGNATION
The United Reformed Church, Wanstead, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Of special architectural interest, principally for the imposing west elevation, dominated by the impressive windows and massive angle buttresses. While the north and south elevations are simpler, they too have good tracery.
* The interior is an impressive space, and has a number of pleasing details such as the carved stone capitals and ironwork balustrades to the galleries.
* Of special historic interest for its unusual history; its brief existence as an Anglican church in Kings Cross and re-erection as a congregationalist chapel in the emerging suburb of Wanstead.
* One of few examples of churches which have been moved and substantially reconstructed to their original form, and by the original architect.
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.