The front of the church, in Eldon
Street, has some carved images around the doorway and on the first floor.
Strangely, to each side of the door, is a shop that appears to have nothing to
do with the church.
The church's website [visit
link] tells us about the building:
"This foundation has a long and
proud history. A chapel was opened in 1686, but had to be suspended in 1689.
From 1736 there was a chapel in Ropemaker's Alley, whose fabric and furniture
were destroyed in the Gordon Riots. This was succeeded by a chapel in White
Street. Its replacement in 1820 by a large Classical church in Finsbury Square
sponsored by laypeople marked a turning point in the size and stylistic
aspirations of Catholic churches. Its architect John Newman entertained the
notion of concealing the source of light for the altar-piece, and journeyed on
the Continent in search of examples. He found the example he required in Paris
in the church of St Sulpice, which confirmed his intention of using the idea.
The plan consisted of nave, aisles and apsidal sanctuary. The glory of the
church, however, was the altar-piece concealed from view. On the terminal wall
was a fresco of Mount Calvary executed by Angelo Aglio, 55ft high and 33ft wide,
containing over fifty principal figures. Its scale may be envisaged from the
dimensions of the cross alone, which was 18 ft high. This final church of the
first wave of building that succeeded in the 1791 Catholic Relief Act was
probably the finest in structure and decoration. As the permanent seat of the
Vicar Apostolic, it served as Cardinal Wiseman's pro-cathedral from 1850 to
That part of the city having become
less of a residential centre, this illustrious church was pulled down in 1899
and replaced by the present church in Eldon Street, which was opened on 25th
March 1903. The builders were Holliday and Greenwood, and Cardinal Vaughan's
chosen architect was George Sherrin, already known for the completion of the
London Oratory dome, and such works as colleges, houses and underground
Sherrin clearly did the best he
could to provide a church that need not be compared unfavourably with its
predecessor, whilst battling against the difficulties of a restricted side and
ancient lights. The front to Eldon Street is flanked by shops and allowed no
display of a conventional church façade. The most that Sherrin could provide
here was an arched entrance of Portland stone with Quattrocento detailing,
surmounted by a group of sculptures by J Daymond representing the Virgin and
Child. The entrance is tactfully blended with the adjacent shops and the
domestic windows of the presbytery above.
Inside a narrow vestibule leads to
the nave, necessarily lowering the floor level some three feet owing to
difficulties here with ancient lights. In plan the interior consists of four
nave bays, the north aisle with its chapel, and the chancel. In the west gallery
is the organ, by Corps and Son of Finsbury Park. The walls are panelled in oak,
and above a cornice in the nave is an elliptical ceiling, with rectangular
windows along its length. At the west end is a small baptistery with a marble
font surviving from the old church, and a screen of marble and bronze; and two
confessionals with oak doors carved by J Daymond.
Between nave and aisle is an arcade
of four Devonshire marble columns with Doric capitals. Across the fourth bay lie
the altar rails, of pavonazzo, with panels of various other inlaid marbles. At
the end of the aisle is the Blessed Sacrament altar, its mensa resting on
squared legs with incised panels and foliage capitals. The frontal is recessed,
and bears geometrical decoration. Behind is a window (a memorial to Mary Burton)
depicting the Assumption, and on the surrounding walls there are canvas
paintings of Regina Apostolorum, St Thomas of Canterbury, St Thomas More, St
Edmund and angels.
Within the sanctuary are the
original six columns by Comolli re-used by Sherrin, and there is an echo here of
the spectacular theatrical effect observed in the pictures of the old church.
The columns are of Como marble, monoliths 18ft high and 2ft in diameter,
designed by Giovanni Battista Comolli after those of the Choragic monument of
Lysicrates at Athens. Positioned some distance from the rear of the apse, they
form a dignified frame for the altar; the apse itself is now faced with tall
vertical panels of marble revetments of light blue colour flecked generously
The church is Grade II listed and the
entry at the English Heritage website [visit
link] tells us:
"1890-1902 by George Sherrin,
replacing a church of 1817-20 by John Newman on the same site and incorporating
part of the east (ritual) end. Church is oriented north-south, so ritual
directions are given here. Front of church set in plain office building of grey
ashlar stonewaork. Elaborate quasi-classical round-arched entrance in enriched
entablature setting with Virgin and Child in semi-circular pediment crowned by
angels above. Scenes of Life of Virgin In relief above ground floor windows.
Interior has porch to 4-bay nave without windows. Lights inserted in barreled
roof. North aisle only, though south wall has matching blank Tuscan arcade.
North aisle east window the only one. Gallery at west with side organ chambers.
Apsidal sanctuary incorporates semi-circular Corinthian screen from old church,
with passage behind."
The church's website [visit link]
lists the days and times of services:
Friday: 8.05am and 1.05pm (Friday Mass at 7.45am and in the ‘Extra-ordinary
Holy Days: Vigil (the evening
before) 7.00pm. 8.05am, 12noon, 12.30pm, 1.05pm, 5.30pm
Sacrament of Reconciliation
Monday to Friday: 12.30-12.55 pm and 1.30-1.50
Thursdays after Evening Prayer
Adoration of the Blessed
Monday to Friday: 8.30am-6.00pm
Morning and Evening
Monday to Friday: 7.45am and 6pm
Monday to Friday 12.30pm