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Roman Catholic Church of The Most Holy Trinity

A Grade II* Listed Building in Southwark, London

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Latitude: 51.5001 / 51°30'0"N

Longitude: -0.0719 / 0°4'18"W

OS Eastings: 533930

OS Northings: 179664

OS Grid: TQ339796

Mapcode National: GBR WJ.ZF

Mapcode Global: VHGR0.PKVF

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of The Most Holy Trinity

Listing Date: 25 September 1998

Last Amended: 27 April 2015

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1376609

English Heritage Legacy ID: 470615

Location: Southwark, London, SE1

County: London

District: Southwark

Electoral Ward/Division: Riverside

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Southwark

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Bermondsey St James with Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Roman Catholic church, built in 1957-60 from designs by H S Goodhart-Rendel. The church was completed by the successor practice of F G Broadbent & Partners after Goodhart-Rendel's death in 1959.


Roman Catholic church, 1957-60 by H.S. Goodhart-Rendel. The church was completed by the successor practice of F.G. Broadbent and Partners after Goodhart-Rendel's death in 1959.

MATERIALS: yellow and red brick in polychrome patterns with some blue brick. Slate roof to the eaves.

PLAN: a longitudinal plan with a nave, chancel, short sanctuary and tall passage aisles under a pitched overall roof and transepts, with a pitched roof oversailing the nave roof.

EXTERIOR: the church is dominated by paired polygonal western towers with the main entrance and a five-light transomed window above set in a tall arched recess between the towers. Horizontal stripes decorate the lower parts of the towers, contrasted with diagonal stripes to the walls of the recess. There are low conical roofs to the towers, which have segmental louvred openings to their top stages. The main entrance has a green slate, square-headed surround with a projecting hood and nine small square openings with quatrefoil glazing. There is large-scale petal decoration to the double entrance doors. The brickwork of the flank walls of the building has a large interweave pattern to the lower walls and a hexagon pattern above, with a pattern of red headers on a yellow background between. Semi-circular mullioned windows are placed high in the wall on the north flank; there are similar windows to the south side, but three of these have five-light windows below. The transept end walls have nine-light segmental headed windows with pent-roofed single storey passages below. The short sanctuary walls are blind apart from a single five-light segmental window high in the east wall.

INTERIOR: The nave has round-headed transverse arches and barrel vaults to each bay and tie-rods in the roof. Tall semi-circular headed arcades with transverse barrel roofs open onto semi-circular headed openings for the passage aisles. At the west end an organ gallery over the entrance vestibule is enclosed by a part-glazed timber screen with small panes of leaded glazing and central doors. The sanctuary is barrel-vaulted, its north and south aisles half-barrel vaulted. There are parquet floors throughout, and the windows are all clear-glazed with leaded lights. A raised projecting half-round pulpit of green and buff stone is attached to the wall on the north side of the nave, with triple openings behind. The altar rail at the base of the sanctuary steps is in the form of a low wall of moulded green stone. There are full-width steps up to the sanctuary, encompassing the side chapels also. The lower walls of the sanctuary are lined with contrasting grey and buff stone with two tiers of pilasters beneath a cornice. Set into the upper tier over the site of the former high altar is a triptych (Nativity, Christ with St Peter, and Pentecost) in high relief glazed ceramic, by Atri Cecil Brown and installed in 1958.The church now has a marble forward altar, with a tabernacle stand and gradine against the east wall in similar style to the altar; these belong to a post-Vatican II reordering. A gilded mahogany canopy with hexagonal coffering on the underside is placed over the original high altar. Other fittings in the chancel include a pair of timber benches. Fittings in the nave include the Stations of the Cross, high relief glazed ceramic designs by Atri Cecil Brown installed in 1971, a polygonal stone font now at the west end of the nave and simple timber bench seating which is probably original.

Architectural History Practice, ‘The Most Holy Trinity, Dockhead, Bermondsey’, Taking Stock: RC Archdiocese of Southwark, 2011
Cherry, B. and Pevsner, N., The Buildings of England, London 2: South, Penguin, 1983
Evinson, D., Catholic Churches of London, Sheffield Academic Press, 1998
Summerson, J, ‘Goodhart-Rendel, Harry Stuart (1887–1959)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Catholic Building Review. Southern edition, 1958, pp. 92–3; 1960, pp. 76–7
Catholic Herald, 14 June 1957; 23 October 1959; 18 March 1983


A mission was established in Salisbury Row, Bermondsey, as early as 1773, possibly the earliest mission in the present Archdiocese of Southwark. The chapel built at that time was destroyed by the Gordon rioters in 1780. It was rebuilt but was soon inadequate for the needs of the growing Catholic population, and was replaced in 1837-8 by a new church by Sampson Kempthorne, built in the Early English Gothic style and with a galleried interior. Adjoining it, a convent for the Sisters of Mercy was built in 1838 from designs by A W N Pugin, his first convent commission.

The Kempthorne church and Pugin’s convent were destroyed by a V-bomb in March 1945. The foundation stone of its replacement, built in a prominent location on the corner of Jamaica Road and Dockhead, was laid by Bishop Cowderoy in June 1957 and the completed church was consecrated in May 1960. The attached new presbytery was completed by 1958. The architect for both was H S Goodhart-Rendel PPRIBA, of Goodhart-Rendel, Broadbent and Curtis, and the building was completed after his death in 1959 by the successor practice of F G Broadbent & Partners. The church was designed to accommodate 490 worshippers. A new convent for the Sisters of Mercy was built in the 1960s.

The church remains substantially as built, although the sanctuary has been reordered, probably in the 1970s. The interior was originally lit by pendant light fittings, which have been removed.

Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel (1887-1959) began to engage in architectural practice after leaving university (where he had studied music), generally working in a Regency revival idiom. After war service in the Grenadier Guards, Goodhart-Rendel resumed architectural practice and in the course of the next twenty years became one of the most prominent and interesting figures in the profession. This was due less to his buildings than to his vivid personality and willingness to devote himself to professional affairs. He was president of the Architectural Association in 1924-5, and of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1937-9. In 1933-6 he was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1924. Goodhart-Rendel's most important buildings between the wars were Hay's Wharf, London (Grade II*, 1929–31), a rationalist building with sparse contemporary ornament, and St Wilfrid, Elm Grove, Brighton (Grade II, 1932-4, now converted into flats). After 1945 he was concerned mainly with Roman Catholic churches, and built St John the Evangelist in St Leonards, East Sussex (Grade II, 1946-58), Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, Liverpool (1951-4) and The Sacred Heart, Cobham, Surrey (1955-8). Holy Trinity, Dockhead, Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone (Grade II) and the Friary church of St Francis and St. Gregory in Crawley, West Sussex (Grade II) were in progress at the time of his death. His Westminster College in Vincent Square, London (1950-5) is listed Grade II*.

Reasons for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity, 1957-60 by H S Goodheart-Rendel, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: this is a large and striking church which develops the austerity of Goodhart-Rendel's earlier church of St Wilfrid, Brighton; it is an exercise in reconciling modernism with tradition, with an underlying Romanesque inspiration, but also recalling C20 continental models;
* Quality of materials: the quality of the patterned brickwork and brick detailing to the exterior of the church is noteworthy;
* Interior design: the interior is a scholarly and original essay; simply articulated, with round arches over the nave and narrow passage aisles and wider arches over the sanctuary. This is lined with banded marbles in a polychromy which recalls both Victorian and Romanesque precedents;
* Group Value: with the Grade II-listed presbytery and boundary wall which were designed as a piece with the church.

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