History in Structure

Roman Catholic Diocesan Seminary Chapel, Allen Hall

A Grade II Listed Building in Chelsea Riverside, London

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Latitude: 51.4836 / 51°29'0"N

Longitude: -0.1742 / 0°10'27"W

OS Eastings: 526873

OS Northings: 177653

OS Grid: TQ268776

Mapcode National: GBR 5Q.2B

Mapcode Global: VHGQY.XZR1

Plus Code: 9C3XFRMG+C8

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Diocesan Seminary Chapel, Allen Hall

Listing Date: 12 September 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1430539

ID on this website: 101430539

Location: Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3

County: London

District: Kensington and Chelsea

Electoral Ward/Division: Chelsea Riverside

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Kensington and Chelsea

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: All Saints (Chelsea Old Church)

Church of England Diocese: London

Tagged with: Chapel

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The Diocesan Seminary Chapel was built in 1959 to designs by Hector Corfiato, to replace an earlier chapel. Refurbishment works have been ongoing since 2013, and are nearing completion at the time of writing (June 2015). The building is part of the earlier Allen Hall Seminary complex.


The Diocesan Seminary Chapel was built in 1959 to designs by Hector Corfiato, to replace an earlier chapel. Refurbishment works have been ongoing since 2013 and, as far as is known, completed in 2015. The building is part of the earlier Allen Hall Seminary complex.

MATERIALS: the chapel is of concrete portal frame construction, with Matlock grey brick to the internal and external walls. The roof is clad in copper. Glazing is plain throughout, and interest is articulated through geometrical configuration of glazing panels, rather than surface decoration.

PLAN: the plan is a longitudinal layout with a central aisle, flanked by narrow corridors to either side of the nave, in the place of aisles. There is no narthex, but an organ gallery is located over a porch to west entrance.

EXTERIOR: the chapel is constructed on a reinforced concrete portal frame clad in two-inch Matlock grey bricks for the external and internal wall surfaces. The shallow-pitched roof is clad in copper. The west elevation (facade) is dominated by a full-height grid of reconstituted stone below an overhanging roof. Stronger mullions divide the elevation into a wider central part and two narrower sections. The lintel over the central west door is inscribed with ‘VENITE ADOREMUS’. Above, Saupique’s aluminium crucifix has been restored to its original position. The south elevation is entirely of brick, apart from a band of small clerestory windows under the eaves, and the sanctuary is lit by full-height vertical windows divided by a series of obliquely angled mullions placed to throw light directly onto the original high altar (that to north is truncated over the adjoining building, but the mullions continue internally at this side, maintaining the symmetry of the sanctuary). The east elevation is entirely blind, with a canted wall in a shallow V-projection which internally appears as an apse.

INTERIOR: the downward-tapering ribs of the portal frame divide the interior into five nave bays and two sanctuary bays. The ceiling has a shallow pitch and is painted with grey rectangular panels. Below the raked organ gallery is the timber porch with small statues of St Thomas More and St John Fisher on either side. Set in front of the porch is an oval marble font whose Latin inscription includes the date ‘1821’. Each nave bay has two rectangular, stone-framed openings into the narrow, flat-roofed side aisles which are lit by circular skylights. Set between these openings are flush blue ceramic panels by Endre Hevezi, depicting ecclesiastical symbols. The sanctuary consists of a regular-sized bay with full-height grid windows to the south and north. Beyond it is a flat-arched chancel arch to the four-sided canted apse. Above a dado zone, which still has the raking outline of the former high altar steps, are two vertical ‘friezes’ (probably of fibrous plaster) incised with floral patterns (by Harry Warren Wilson). A temporary hanging crucifix* is suspended from the chancel arch. The ceiling of the apse is flat, with two-tone blue-coloured diagonal grid coffering. The foundation stone is set into the north side of the apse. A copper tabernacle sits on a timber pedestal in front of the socket left by the former reredos (covered by a new panel in summer 2015). The current (temporary) altar* is of timber and was made by a former student. The lectern is also of timber. Beneath the glazing strips at the north side of the sanctuary is a screen, intended to provide a viewing gallery for sick sisters.

* Pursuant to s.1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest


Beaufort Street was built in the C18 over part of the site of Thomas More’s house (later called Beaufort House) in Chelsea. In 1886, No. 28 Beaufort Street was purchased from the Earl of Cadogan by Fr Kenelm Vaughan (brother of Cardinal Vaughan) for the Brotherhood of Expiation, which he had founded. Two artists’ studios behind No. 28 Beaufort St (designed in 1879 by William Burges for the painters Louise and Joe Jopling) were converted into a chapel. It had been Msgr Vaughan’s intention to establish a male monastic community for prayer, but these plans were not successfully realised, and so in 1898 the building was offered to the Sisters of Adoration Réparatrice, a French contemplative Congregation (founded 1848) who had been invited to England by Cardinal Vaughan, following his visit to their Mother House in Paris. The convent chapel was served by priests from Our Most Holy Redeemer, Chelsea. On 5th October 1910, the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Amyela for a new chapel in the Romanesque Revival style, designed by Charles George Keogh (1848–1943). The chapel was opened on 21st March 1912 by Cardinal Bourne. It was dedicated to the Most Holy Sacrament and the Blessed Thomas More. Around the same time the L-plan courtyard building behind the original No. 28 was erected. The Sisters, and the Convent, played a significant role in the cause for the Canonisation of St Thomas More.

The chapel was nearly completely destroyed by bombing in 1940 and was still in ruins by 1948. By 1957, the west end was used as a garden. It was replaced by a new chapel in 1958, designed by Hector Othon Corfiato (1893–1963) and built within 12 months. Following his studies at the École des Beaux Arts, Corfiato came to England in 1922, in order to teach at the Bartlett School of Architecture, whose director he became in 1946. He built relatively little and his largest works are university buildings in Nigeria. Among his works in England are an extension to University College London and three churches and two chapels, all Roman Catholic. These include a Carmelite chapel in Blackburn; and the listed churches of St William of York, Stanmore (London Borough of Harrow), and Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square (City of Westminster).

Archbishop (later Cardinal) Godfrey laid the foundation stone for the new chapel in Beaufort Street on 8th April 1958. It was opened and consecrated on 7th November 1958 by Bishop Cashman, Auxiliary of Westminster. The consulting engineer was Ove Arup & Partners, and the general contractor was CP Roberts & Co Ltd. The furnishings included artworks by Professor Georges Saupique of Paris, with whom Corfiato also worked on Notre Dame de France; Harry Warren Wilson of the Bartlett, who made the ornamental designs in the sanctuary; and the Hungarian-born artist Endre Hevezi who designed blue ceramic panels in a Chagall-like manner. Corfiato designed the nave to be segregated with the nuns occupying the eastern section near the sanctuary, which was screened from the laity who occupied an area behind them.

In 1975, the Sisters left for London Colney and the buildings were bought by the Archdiocese of Westminster for use by Allen Hall, the Diocesan Seminary. This is the successor institution to the English College founded in 1568 by William Allen (later Cardinal) in Douai, Flanders (now in France), which in 1793 moved to England as St Edmund’s College in Old Hall Green, Ware (1793-1975). Some alterations took place to the chapel during conversion for use by the seminary, c1980, including the relocation of Saupique’s aluminium crucifix from the main façade to the apse. Re-ordering of the sanctuary also took place in the 1980s, entailing the removal of the marble altar, rear steps, suspended canopy and likely the marble communion rails. The original timber pews were removed, and were temporarily replaced by chairs. At the time of writing (2015), seating is provided by C19 bench pews, although the programme of ongoing works is likely to involve their replacement with more suitable seating.

A general refurbishment programme has been ongoing under Molyneux Kerr Architects since 2013, which has been intended to ameliorate some of the previous changes. Saupique’s aluminium crucifix has been restored to its original position on the main façade, and the simple, uncluttered interior aspect has been restored with a new underfloor heating system, stone floor and lighting system. A new wall screen by artist Stephen Foster was, as far as we are aware, installed in summer 2015, flanked by simple stone benches along the apse wall, framing the rear of the sanctuary. A new tabernacle stand and altar will replace the current temporary timber installations. Original decoration including the ceramic panels and vertical ‘friezes’ have been retained, although the latter have been redecorated with a simplified monochrome colour scheme.
The associated red brick garden wall dates from the C16 and C17 and is listed Grade II.

Reasons for Listing

Allen Hall, the Westminster Diocesan Seminary Chapel of 1958 by Hector Corfiato, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: the Diocesan Seminary Chapel is a building of considerable architectural merit by the highly regarded Professor of Architecture at the Bartlett School, Hector Corfiato, who designed few buildings, and is comparable in quality to his listed churches;
* Architectural interest: it is a fine example of structural rationalism, dominated by a dramatic concrete-grid façade, and using the internal portal frame to fine dramatic and spatial effect;
* Artistic: the interior is enhanced by the survival of fine ceramic panels by Endre Hevezi, to the side walls, and the unusual aluminium crucifix which adorns the exterior;
* Historical interest: the site has multi-faceted associations with the development of Catholicism in London, particularly with regard to its historic international links;
* Group value: with the listed C16 and C17 garden wall thought to be associated with the home of St Thomas More formerly located on this site.

External Links

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