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Roman Catholic Church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea including its forecourt wall and gate piers

A Grade II* Listed Building in Greenwich, London

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Latitude: 51.4761 / 51°28'34"N

Longitude: -0.0061 / 0°0'22"W

OS Eastings: 538566

OS Northings: 177126

OS Grid: TQ385771

Mapcode National: GBR L1.P42

Mapcode Global: VHGR7.V537

Plus Code: 9C3XFXGV+FG

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea including its forecourt wall and gate piers

Listing Date: 8 June 1973

Last Amended: 13 February 2015

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1358941

English Heritage Legacy ID: 200316

ID on this website: 101358941

Location: Greenwich, London, SE10

County: London

District: Greenwich

Electoral Ward/Division: Greenwich West

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Greenwich

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Greenwich St Alfege

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Tagged with: Church building

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Roman Catholic Church c1846-1851. Designed by William Wardell for Canon Richard North in Decorated Gothic style, with a landmark spire. Many fittings and decorative elements were designed by A W N Pugin and E W Pugin.


Gothic Revival church of c1846–1851 by William W Wardell in a C14 Decorated style. Interior decoration and furnishings are largely by A W N Pugin, with some work by E W Pugin. The church is part of a group with nearby C17 and C18 buildings. The tower with its spire is an important local landmark.

MATERIALS: coursed Kentish ragstone with Caen stone dressings and roof coverings of natural slate.

PLAN: the building is not orientated correctly; the liturgical east end lies to the south west. The following description uses liturgical directions. The plan is of a conventional Puginian type with a west tower and spire, six-bay nave with a pitched roof and lean-to aisles, with a small chapel off the south aisle, a chancel with one south and two north chapels and a north east sacristy, all under pitched roofs.

EXTERIOR: the substantial west tower has corner buttresses rising to pinnacles, a pierced parapet and an octagonal spire with two tiers of lucarnes. There is a pinnacled stair turret at the northeast corner. The main entrance in the west face of the tower has a pointed moulded and shafted arch. Above is a four-light traceried window and an image of our Lady in a canopied niche. The bell stage has a two-light traceried window on each face. The side elevations have six two-light windows to the aisles. There is a gabled doorway in the second bay of the north aisle. Clerestories of four foiled circles to each side are set irregularly to the aisle windows beneath. There is a bellcote on the east nave gable. The lower chancel has flanking chapels and a five-light traceried east window. The forecourt walls are of coursed rubble with ashlar coping. Five gate piers have dressed stone cross-gabled tops, with a wrought iron overthrow with lampholder across the main entrance (present from at least the C19 and possibly original). The railings [somewhat incongruously Georgian in style] are modern and are not of special interest.

INTERIOR: the base of the tower was originally open to its panelled ceiling with a double-height moulded arch to the nave. There is now a modern timber narthex structure installed in 1965; this is not of special interest. The tall nave has six-bay arcades of pointed moulded arches with octagonal capitals carried on octagonal piers of Purbeck marble. The stops of the hood moulds are carved with heads of saints. The small triangular clerestory windows have quatrefoil tracery. The soffits of the nave and aisle roofs originally had painted decoration but were panelled with tiles in 1965 (which are not of special interest). The timber principals and wall-posts of the aisle roofs are still exposed. The original encaustic tile floors to the nave and aisles were covered with cork tiles in 1965 (which are not of special interest). The north aisle has a baptistery at the west end with an octagonal Caen stone font carved with symbols of the evangelists; the baptistery is enclosed by a pierced traceried stone screen with metal gates. The south aisle has the Sacred Heart Chapel formed in 1891 with the cenotaph of Fr O'Halloran d.1921. The C19 timber nave benches are of simple design, with pierced quatrefoils in the ends.

The tall pointed chancel arch is on shafted responds with floral capitals. Against the north respond is a tall canopied niche with a stone statue of the Virgin with Child, designed by A W N Pugin and carved by George Myers. Beside the niche hangs a silver votive lamp in the shape of a ship. This was given by Sir Stuart Knill, one of the church’s benefactors, designed by Pugin and made by John Hardman. The stone chancel screen is also by A W N Pugin, of Caen stone with marble columns supporting three arches. Above is a rood of painted oak. The chancel has stilted arched openings to the side chapels, a sedilia on the south side, a five-light traceried east window with Pugin glass made by Hardman, two-light side windows, a waggon roof with carved cornice and bosses and a Minton tile floor designed by A W N Pugin with an inset brass to the North brothers (now under the modern nave altar). The high altar of Caen stone with a carved and painted front, was designed by Wardell, possibly with help from Pugin and Myers, and made by Boulton & Swailes, and was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The south east chapel dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament has a panelled waggon roof stencilled with circles and quatrefoils and a carved cornice with Latin inscriptions. The wrought iron gates are by Hardman. The altar and tabernacle is by A W N Pugin and the two-light traceried window has glass by Hardman. The north east Lady Chapel (originally dedicated to St Joseph) has a panelled waggon roof. The marble and stone altar and the large carved reredos are by A W N Pugin. There is a double arched opening with a screen (now glazed) to the vestry space originally intended as an oratory. Under the arch between the Lady Chapel and the sanctuary is a tomb chest with the effigy of Canon Richard North, the church’s founder, with his feet resting on a poodle. It was designed by E W Pugin and executed by William Farmer.

Architectural History Practice, ‘Our Ladye Star of the Sea, Greenwich’, Taking Stock: RC Archdiocese of Southwark, 2011

Atterbury, P, and Wainwright, C, Pugin: A Gothic Passion, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 146–8

Cherry, B and Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1984

Church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea. Short History and Guide [no date]

Dunn, E, The Story of Catholicism in East Greenwich. A bi-centennial history, 1793–1993, 1993

Evinson, D, ‘Wardell, William Wilkinson (1823–1899)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/38106]

Evinson, D, Catholic Churches of London, 1998

Hyland, G J, ‘Chronological gazetteer of the works of E.E. Pugin – architect, 1834–1875’, (2010), http://www.pugin-society.1to1.org/LL-gazetteer.html

Kelly, B W, Historical Notes on English Catholic Missions, 1907, pp. 194-5

Martin, C, A Glimpse of Heaven. Catholic churches of England and Wales, 2006

The Builder, 18 August 1849, 390–1


After several short-lived chapels in the area, the Roman Catholic mission at Greenwich was established in 1793, making it one of the oldest in south London (after Bermondsey and St George’s, Southwark). The mission served around 500 Catholic pensioners in the Royal Naval Hospital. The first chapel was built by the architect James Taylor in the back garden of his own house in Park Vista and opened on 10 November 1793. In 1795 a 999-year lease was signed, as well as a deed of trust which stipulated that when no longer in use as a chapel, the building should revert to Taylor, his heirs or assigns.

The chapel building soon became inadequate and fundraising began for a new church. According to tradition, Mrs Abraham North vowed to build a church dedicated to Our Lady when her two sons were rescued after a boat accident on the Thames. Both sons became priests and served the Greenwich mission. The older, Richard Michael North (1808-60), was responsible for building Our Ladye Star of the Sea, Greenwich, thereby fulfilling his mother’s vow. (He also designed the church at Deptford.) The younger brother, Joseph Edward North (died 1885), was mission priest at Deptford and became priest at Greenwich after his brother’s death. Both are buried in the church. The North family apparently donated the site on Crooms Hill. Canon Richard North devoted himself to the task of fundraising. The Admiralty donated £200 for the pensioners, and the members of the congregation contributed over £1,000. The final cost of the building was over £8,000.

The architect was William Wilkinson Wardell (1823–99), an architect and engineer, who was a friend and follower of A W N. Pugin. The decoration and furnishings are largely by Pugin. The high altar by Wardell was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

In c1863, the Perpendicular-style marble tomb and effigy for Canon Richard North was installed between the north east chapel and the sanctuary (designed by Edward Welby Pugin, and executed by William Farmer). A brass in the sanctuary commemorates both brothers.

In 1855 E W Pugin had drawn designs for a chapel off the south aisle to Sir Stuart Knill, a relative of A W N Pugin’s third wife and the first Roman Catholic Lord Mayor since the Reformation, who lived nearby at the Grange, Crooms Hill. These plans remained unexecuted but a chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart was opened on the site in September 1891. Another later addition was the baptistery formed at the west end of the north aisle. The original pulpit of Caen stone (attributed to Pugin) has been removed.

A major refurbishment was carried out in 1965 by Myles and Deirdre Dove. The work included the insertion of a timber choir loft with a new organ, and a porch below, the panelling of the nave and aisle ceilings, and the addition of confessionals, as well as repainting and laying cork tiles over the original encaustic floor tiles.

Reasons for Listing

The Roman Catholic church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea, Crooms Hill, Greenwich, of 1846-51 by William Wardell, and its forecourt wall and gatepiers, are listed at Grade II* for the following reasons:
* Architectural interest: a textbook example of a Puginian Gothic church with a richly decorated and furnished interior; the church, and particularly its tower and spire, is a local landmark;
* Authorship: designed by William Wardell, whose town churches rang among the finest Catholic churches of the mid-C19; also many furnishings by A W N Pugin, the most important and influential designer of the mid-century Gothic Revival;
* Historic interest (origins): the church was partly built as a thank offering for the saving of two brothers (later priests) from drowning in the Thames; and partly funded by the Admiralty - an early example of government funding for Catholic worship;
* Historic interest (Catholic mission): one of the earliest Roman Catholic missions in South London catering both for the local populus as well as Catholic pensioners in the Naval Hospital.

External Links

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