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Church of St Bede and Institute

A Grade II Listed Building in Mitcham, London

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Latitude: 51.466 / 51°27'57"N

Longitude: -0.1298 / 0°7'47"W

OS Eastings: 530005

OS Northings: 175767

OS Grid: TQ300757

Mapcode National: GBR HX.0N

Mapcode Global: VHGR5.PFQ1

Plus Code: 9C3XFV8C+93

Entry Name: Church of St Bede and Institute

Listing Date: 24 November 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422538

Location: Lambeth, London, SW9

County: London

District: Lambeth

Electoral Ward/Division: Larkhall

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Lambeth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Clapham Christ Church with St John

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Church and institute, by Edward Brantwood Maufe for the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb; designed 1923, institute completed 1924, church completed 1935.


Church and institute, by Edward Brantwood Maufe for the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb; designed 1923, institute completed 1924, church completed 1935.

MATERIALS: brown Hackenden brick with Clipsham stone dressings

PLAN: the building occupies the former site of a pair of villas on the west side of Clapham Road. The institute is on the lower ground floor, with the worship space above. The main east doorway opens into a small entrance hall, from which twin flights of stairs lead down to the institute and up to the church. The latter is reverse-oriented, with the entrance to the east and the high altar at the western end. It comprises a broad aisleless nave and a narrower raised chancel with a short sanctuary. To the south is a Lady chapel, and to the north a vestry. The space beneath the nave forms the institute’s main hall, with a projection room at the back and a raised stage at the front, beneath the chancel. The other spaces were originally kitchens, offices and a billiard room.

EXTERIOR: this displays Maufe’s characteristic pared-down Gothic manner, influenced by contemporary Scandinavian church design (e.g. Ivar Tengbom’s Högalidskyrkan in Stockholm), and having strong affinities with contemporary British work by Charles Holden, Giles Gilbert Scott and others. The institute building forms a low podium, with simple mullioned windows, flat roofs and stepped, ziggurat-like massing – particularly emphatic around the main east doorway, a segmental brick arch with splayed sides and sturdy oak doors. The rainwater heads bear the date 1924, the initials SB (for St Bede) and a sunburst emblem.

Rising from the podium is the sheer rectangular mass of the church. Its east front, behind and above the main entrance, has a tall three-light window with stylised Gothic tracery featuring prominent crosses in the upper tracery lights; this is framed by shallow pilaster-buttresses and a low-pitched gable. The flank walls are of sheer brick, with slender two-light windows. Transept-like projections, taller than the institute but lower than the church, contain the Lady chapel and vestry. Canted walls mark the transition to the narrower chancel, whose blind end wall features a simple cross in relief.

INTERIORS: the main east doorway opens into an ENTRANCE HALL, a double-height space with a rib-vaulted ceiling. From here, twin flights of stone stairs ascend, via several small landings and switch-backs, to the entrance to the church, which contains double hardwood doors with little cruciform windows inset.

The CHURCH itself is a single tall volume about 60 feet long. Its design reflects an order of service whose principal medium was visual rather than auditory; the recurrent solar and stellar imagery refers to the same fact, although the 'light from heaven' motif is also one of the symbols of St Bede. The internal walls are of whitewashed brick, with tall, deeply recessed windows and a wood-block floor slightly raked from east to west to give the clearest view for the entire congregation. The windows are of translucent white glass to minimise glare; the east window (behind the congregation) has a five-pointed star at the apex of each of the main lights, while the north and south windows have little sunbursts. Above is a polygonal boarded roof with king-post trusses, painted green, pink and blue and enriched with gold crowns and stars; from it hang reflective light-fittings in the form of golden sunbursts. Over the entrance is a shallow gallery, its plaster front bearing a triple wave motif, and its soffit set with star-shaped lights. Beneath the gallery are built-in bookshelves and an octagonal stone font with a relief carving of a fish by the sculptor Vernon Hill.

A double archway to the left of the chancel steps opens into the Lady chapel, which has a vaulted ceiling and three-light shoulder-arched windows. The altar is set in a shallow pointed recess containing a tiny star-shaped window; in front are altar rails with turned oak balusters, their mouldings picked out in gold. A corresponding doorway on the left of the church leads to the vestry, which has been damaged by fire but retains its plaster ceiling and built-in cupboards.

The transition from broad nave to narrower chancel is formed by canted sections of wall, and is marked at ground level by a flight of four steps; these, like the chancel floor, are of polished travertine, and rise between twin polygonal ambones or pulpits – one for the preacher, and one for use (e.g. in the case of a visiting speaker) by a sign-language interpreter. These can be illuminated by spot-lights concealed in the walls. On either side are oak clergy stalls with tall shaped backs emblazoned with gold chi-rho monograms. The ceiling over the short sanctuary is painted with a golden sunburst. At the sanctuary step are oak altar rails with a repeating design of gilt crosses. Behind, in place of a window, is a shallow arched recess hung with a very long green dossal curtain.

The INSTITUTE hall occupies the space immediately beneath the church, and has a sloping ceiling corresponding to the latter's raked floor. The hall floor is of wood blocks, with a raised proscenium-arch stage at one end. The original strap-hinged internal doors survive here and in the other rooms; other fittings and finishes are utilitarian. The projection room, accessed directly from the entrance hall, retains its original sliding shutters.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the site boundary to Clapham Road is marked by sturdy iron railings with cross finials and square brick piers. In the centre is a little gate bearing a star-and-saltire motif. All these features are included in the listing.

The modern former vicarage to the rear of the church (No. 412a Clapham Road) is not of special interest and is excluded from the listing.


St Bede's is one of a small number of churches built and run by the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb (RADD, now the Royal Association for Deaf People), an organisation founded in 1854 to continue the work begun in 1841 by the Institution for the Employment, Relief and Religious Instruction of the Adult Deaf and Dumb. The Association’s spiritual work, under the chaplaincy of the Revd Samuel Smith, proved extremely successful, and in 1870-3 a purpose-built deaf church was erected at the junction of Oxford Street and Lumley Street to designs by AW Blomfield.

This building fell victim to redevelopment plans by the Grosvenor Estate and was demolished in 1923. The RADD, having received £15,000 compensation for the early surrender of the lease, acquired two replacement sites at Acton and Clapham - in the western and southern suburbs respectively - and obtained two very similar sets of designs from the architect Edward Maufe, in each case comprising a hall and social facilities at ground level and a worship space above. Acton was the senior foundation, inheriting the dedication (St Saviour's) and some of the fittings of the Oxford Street church, and was completed by the middle of 1925. Its sister foundation at Clapham, dedicated to St Bede, was begun earlier, with the institute building opened in July 1924, but the church itself was not completed until 1935. The building contractors were EA Roome & Co., and the total cost was £12,700. The church suffered serious bomb damage in 1941, but was afterwards restored to its original appearance by Maufe.

Edward Brantwood Maufe (1882-1974) was an important late practitioner in the Arts and Crafts tradition and one of the leading church architects of the C20. He served his pupillage with the London architect William Alfred Pite, and also studied at Oxford and the Architectural Association. His two buildings for the RADD made his reputation. They show the influence of early-C20 Swedish architecture with its delicate balance of tradition and modernity – an influence likewise felt in his other churches, including St Thomas the Apostle, Ealing (1933-4), All Saints at Esher in Surrey (1938-9), and above all in his masterpiece, the new cathedral at Guildford (1932-61). Although best known as an ecclesiastical architect, Maufe also designed various houses, banks, theatres and collegiate buildings at Oxford and Cambridge, and was responsible for much of the post-war rebuilding of London’s bomb-damaged Inns of Court. From 1943 he served as architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission, for which service he was knighted in 1954.

Reasons for Listing

St Bede's church and institute, of 1924-35 by Edward Brantwood Maufe, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a key early work by this major C20 church architect, showing his refined, Scandinavian-inspired modern Gothic idiom to good effect in its dramatic composition and cool, harmonious interior;

* Expression of function: Maufe's design incorporates sundry features geared towards the specific needs of a deaf congregation, including the sloping floor, twin pulpits and use of indirect lighting;

* Historic interest: built by and for what is now the Royal Association for Deaf People, a pioneering disability group in existence since the 1850s, St Bede's has been a mainstay of deaf religious and social life in the capital for nearly a century;

* Intactness: notwithstanding Second World War bomb damage, St Bede's as a whole remains very much as built, the church interior being almost completely unaltered.

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