Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory - Warwick Street, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.667 W 000° 08.282
30U E 698590 N 5710549
Quick Description: This church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, that was built in 1789–90, is the sole survivor of the few Roman Catholic chapels which existed in London during the eighteenth century.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 7/8/2012 12:16:58 PM
Waymark Code: WMEV4H
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 2

Long Description:

The church, located in Warwick Street, is very modest and could easily be passed by. Only the noticeboards, a cross on the roof and a couple of statues on the first floor give an indication that this brick built building is something else. One of the local clergy saw me taking photos and suggested that I have a look around inside to see the real beauty of this church - and he was not wrong.

The Soho Masses website (visit link) gives a breif history of the church:

"The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho, is one of the most historic churches in the Diocese of Westminster, reaching back to 1724. British History Online suggests that due to the ministrations of clergy serving the then Royal Bavarian Embassy chapel in 1780, the area may have been a focus for English Catholics to gather around, with 1000 people, including Catholics, living in St. James’ Parish and many more in St. Anne’s Parish, Soho. Other references suggest that in the latter part of the 18th & 19th centuries, parts of this area offered refuge to poorer people who served the better-off merchants living in nearby Mayfair. The “Portuguese Chapel” and St. Anne’s Parish Church were noted for their ministry to the poor. There are, therefore, historical precedents in reaching out to marginalised groups in the area.
Many of those who use the Church of the Assumption do so due to historical ties, having worked in the area, being received into the Church, or married there. Workers from local hotels, restaurants, shops and offices, also use the church on weekdays. The parish is now served by the Rector, who is also Vicar-General for Westminster Diocese, assisted by other priests.  The parish is dependent financially upon income generated by the letting of commercial property in the adjoining building in Golden Square, as well as church collections.
Masses in Westminster Diocese, welcoming LGBT Catholics, parents, families and friends, began in April 1999 on the Sunday following the bombing of the Admiral Duncan public-house in Old Compton Street. These liturgies were first held in the Convent of the Helpers of the Holy Souls in Camden Town, London.

When the Convent property was sold in 2001, the LGBT worshiping community relocated temporarily to St. Anne’s Anglican Church, Dean Street, Soho. As the congregation enlarged in its Soho location, it eventually outgrew the space available.

In March 2007, following a period of consultation with Diocesan representatives, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered Catholics, parents and friends were invited to transfer 1st & 3rd Sunday 5.00 pm Masses from St. Anne’s Anglican Church, Soho to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho.  A statement encouraging “full and active participation” by LGBT Catholics in the life of the Church was issued by the Diocese of Westminster on 2 February 2007. The Soho Masses Pastoral Council was invited to make its own statement regarding the initiative. A further statement from Westminster Diocese confirming this pastoral provision was released on 17 December 2007.
The regular 1st & 3rd Sundays’ evening congregation has a regular attendance of well over 100, but there is estimated overall contact with 250-300 people, some being occasional participants. These Masses are served by a rota of 15 priests from a variety of dioceses and religious communities, some of whom are resident or work in Westminster Diocese. The Soho Masses Pastoral Council, 12 people, elected on an annual basis by regular Mass participants, has been responsible for planning these liturgies, and a number of other pastoral events."

Depart its external looks the church is Grade II* listed and the entry at the English Heritage website (visit link) tells us:

"Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church - II* Built as the Portuguse Embassy Chapel c. 1730, transferred to the Bavarian Embassy in 1736; rebuilt 1788 after the Gordon Riots. Red brick, slate roof. Deliberately domestic looking elevation. 2 storeys. 3 window wide pedimented centre with narrow flanking bays. Central corniced doorway and flanking flat gauged brick arched windows. 1st floor level has 3 blind semicircular arched windows. Stone bracket cornice and pediment. Inside the western part of the Chapel has retained its C18 character with galleries around 3 sides on wood grained columns with Adam style capitals and ceiling plasterwork in similar vein. Cast iron gallery balustrades by Bentley who shortened them when he altered the east end in a Veneto- Byzantine manner from 1874 onwards, the apse faced in grey marble panels with mosaics of 1910 and the saints in panels even later. Font of 1788. Large relief sculptures of the Assumption, formerly part of High Altar by J. E. Carew, 1853. Early C19 Italian neo- classical altar originating from Foxcote House, Ilmington, Warwicks."

The British History On-Line website (visit link) gives a further description of the building:

"The church has a modest brick front that is almost domestic in character. It is designed in two stages each of five bays, the three centre bays forming a slight projection. The brickwork appears to have been dyed red, but it was probably yellow originally. The lower stage consists of a large round-arched doorway flanked by two tall flat-headed windows, the end bays being occupied by slightly smaller versions of the centre doorway. The doors themselves have raised-and-fielded ovolo-moulded panels, the centre one in four leaves, the outer ones in two, while above them are fanlights with radial glazing-bars. To all three doorways have been added new, and decidedly unsympathetic, stone surrounds. In the upper stage the windows are round-arched with continued sills of stone. The two end bays are glazed, but those in the centre are blind with recessed brick surrounds. Above this stage is a simplified entablature, the projecting centre being finished with a triangular pediment. The cornice and architrave mouldings are of stone, and above the end bays is a stone-coped parapet. The apex of the pediment is surmounted by a gilded cross, and in each of the three middle bays of the upper stage is a gilded eight-pointed star, the outer two having beneath them the figure of an angel. These ornaments, however, are very modern additions; the stars were added in 1952 and the angels in 1957.

The interior of the church is a simple rectangle to which has been added Bentley's semi-circular eastern apse. At the west end is a deep sloping gallery which is continued along both sides of the church, although it has now been cut back a little way short of the east end. The gallery is supported by iron columns cased in wood, the capitals consisting of acanthus leaves tightly moulded around the top of the column. The gallery-fronts are designed in the form of dentilled coved cornices, surmounted by patterned iron railings which are broken at intervals by panelled pedestals. The south gallery has four round-arched windows and the north gallery six, two of the latter being placed at the east end beyond the gallery while the western two are blocked by the adjoining building. At the back of the west gallery is the organ, originally erected in the 1790's and rebuilt several times, most recently in 1960. The ceiling is coved, the flat centre part being divided into rectangular compartments of varying sizes by enriched ribs. At the east end a series of broad steps leads up to the altar, which is contained in the apse. This is designed in three sections. The lower section, finished with a moulded marble cornice, is decorated with a pattern of inlaid coloured marbles, while the second stage is divided into compartments by pavonazzo marble pilasters supporting an enriched marble entablature. Within the compartments are mosaics depicting the Virgin and Child flanked by St. Gilbert, St. Gregory, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, St. Edward the Confessor and St. Cecilia. The topmost section comprises the domed head of the apse, an enriched marble archivolt framing a mosaic depicting the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin in Heaven. Carew's plaque is now set high up in the wall face north of the apse. It depicts the draped figure of the Virgin being carried to Heaven by winged cherubs, the lower part of the plaque being filled by a radiant five-pointed star. The oblong frame breaks into a slight curve at the top over the head of the Virgin and is supported at the bottom by two carved brackets. The font is said to be 'probably of c. 1788', and was originally placed against the south wall beside the confessional; it now occupies the south entrance lobby. It is of stone, and simply designed with an oval bowl resting on a bulbous baluster-shaft having a moulded base.

Beneath the north gallery is an altar, now dedicated to St. Gregory, which was brought from Foxcote House, Warwickshire, in 1958. It is of multi-coloured marble with large panels of green marble set into the sides. In the centre panel is fixed a round plaque of white marble, carved in high relief with the figure of a pelican in her piety.

Alterations to the interior of the church were being made early in 1963, when this volume was in the press. In the eastern apse the mosaic depicting the Virgin and Child was being replaced by a large crucifix attached to a panel of red marble, and the Lady Chapel on the south side of the church was being refitted, all to the designs of Douglas Purnell."

Type of Church: Church

Status of Building: Actively in use for worship

Date of building construction: 1/1/1788

Diocese: Westminster

Warwick Street
London, United Kingdom

Relvant Web Site: [Web Link]

Date of organization: Not listed

Dominant Architectural Style: Not listed

Associated Shrines, Art, etc.: Not listed

Archdiocese: Not listed

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