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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 28 November 2010
City of Westminster Part 9: Churches of
Westminster & Pimlico
The Cathedral Church of Westminster is on the
southern side of Victoria Street between Ambrosden Avenue and Morpeth
Terrace. The site was originally known as Bulinga Fen and formed part of
Westminster's marsh. It was reclaimed by the Benedictine monks who built
Westminster Abbey, and subsequently used as a market and fairground. After
the Reformation the land was largely waste ground used for occasional
events, before playing host to a prison between 1651-1880.
The site was acquired by the Catholic Church in 1884.
The foundation stone for the cathedral, which was to serve as the most
senior Catholic church in Britain, was laid in 1895 and the building was
designed in the Early Christian Byzantine style by the Victorian architect
John Francis Bentley. The work was completed in 1903 and the cathedral dedicated
to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The amazing interior of the
cathedral remains incomplete to this day.
St Andrew Ashley Place stood between Ashley Place
and Victoria Street, close to the corner of Carlisle Place. The silver office
block seen here, probably constructed in the sixties, occupies the site today,
on the southern side of Victoria Street, a stone's throw from Victoria Railway
Station. The church was built in 1856 and gained its own parish in 1876. Closed
in 1946 (probably due to bomb damage), it was demolished and its parish united
to St Peter, Eaton Square in 1953.
Salvation Army Citadel, Rochester Row is squeezed
between taller buildings on the southern side of the street, opposite the
entrance to Willow Place. Just when the citadel was built is unknown, but
a date around 1910 might not be too wide of the mark. The citadel also provides
a home for the 'Centre', a drop-in for homeless and vulnerable people, also
known as Rochester Row Day Centre. A brass ensemble from Regent Hall played
in 2010 for an open-air meeting neaby.
St James the Less Pimlico occupies a well-hidden
site on the south-west side of Vauxhall Bridge Road, opposite the entrance
to Osbert Street. The rear entrance is onto Thorndike Street (formerly
Upper Garden Street). The church was opened in 1862, built to the designs
of G E Street of the Royal Artillery. The edifice was founded by the
daughters of the late bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (Dr Monk) as
a memorial to their father, who was also a canon of Westminster Abbey.
The church is constructed of brick, with dressings of
stone, marble, and alabaster, and it consists of a nave, side aisles, a
semi-circular apse, and a lofty tower and spire. The roof of the chancel
is groined, and is a combination of brick and stone. The interior is
elaborately detailed. The chancel is surrounded by screens of brass and
iron, and over the chancel arch is a well-executed fresco. Since 1961,
the church has been surrounded by the Lillington Gardens estate.
Holy Trinity Vauxhall Bridge Road stood on the
south-west side of Vauxhall Bridge Road, opposite John Islip Street.
The church was built in 1849-1852 to designs by J L Pearson on land
donated by Thomas Cubitt. Also known as Holy Trinity Bessborough Gardens,
it was burnt out by enemy bombing during the Second World War. Closed in
1953 it was demolished a year later. Its parish was united with St James
the Less (above) and the site is now Bessborough Gardens.
St Saviour Pimlico stands on the south-east corner
of Lupus Street and St George's Square in Pimlico. This Anglo-Catholic church
was constructed between 1863-1864 to a design by Thomas Cundy (who was also
responsible for St Gabriel's). The build was part of Thomas Cubitt's development
of the area on behalf of the marquis of Westminster. The Gothic church was built
in ragstone to emphasise the contrast with the classical stucco of its secular
The foundation stone was laid on 16 June 1863. It has a
spire which is just under fifty-two metres high (170 feet), making it one
of the tallest in London. The present organ was installed in 1871, and the
church was heavily restored in 1882, which saw the galleries removed, the
arcade work added to the sanctuary, and stained glass fitted to the east
window (shown in the previous photo). A clock was added to the tower in 1895,
and today the church is Grade II listed.
Holy Apostles Catholic Church sits on the southern
side of Winchester Street, just a few metres south-east of the junction with
Sussex Street. Although in the heart of London, Pimlico was built only
relatively late. Holy Apostles began life as a chapel of ease in the former
Claverton Street Methodist Chapel from 1917. This was destroyed by
bombing in 1941 and initially after the war there was some trouble in gaining
a new site, until the present one was built upon in 1957.