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The Chapel at St Saviour's Priory

A Grade II Listed Building in Haggerston, Hackney

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Latitude: 51.5322 / 51°31'55"N

Longitude: -0.0691 / 0°4'8"W

OS Eastings: 534028

OS Northings: 183242

OS Grid: TQ340832

Mapcode National: GBR X4.MX

Mapcode Global: VHGQT.RRB9

Plus Code: 9C3XGWJJ+V9

Entry Name: The Chapel at St Saviour's Priory

Listing Date: 2 November 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1445097

Location: Haggerston, Hackney, London, E2

County: Hackney

Electoral Ward/Division: Haggerston

Built-Up Area: Hackney

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London


Chapel at St Saviour's Priory 1925-1959 by J Harold Gibbons.


The chapel to St Saviour’s Priory is at the north-east of the complex. The Priory was built for the Society of St Margaret 1925-1976 on a site defined by Queensbridge Road to the west, Dunloe Street to the south, Yorkton Road to the east and Haggerston Park to the north. The chapel is of c1925 by J Harold Gibbons, completed 1959, with furnishings by William Bainbridge Reynolds, Laurence King and Martin Travers.

MATERIALS: yellow and red brick with red tile dressings, and tiled covering to the roof.

PLAN: the chapel is at the north-east of the priory complex accessed from the cloister to the south and west. It has a narthex accessible from the west range of 1976, and an organ loft at the west end, and an upper chapel at the east end.

EXTERIOR: the chapel has a hipped roof. The north elevation, facing Haggerston Park, is in part-rendered, yellow brick laid in English bond. The south and west elevations, also in yellow brick, are partly obscured by the cloister. The south elevation has four round-headed windows with red tile dressings. The west elevation has two upper square openings lighting the organ loft within, between which is a crucifix. The main entrance to the chapel is from the south at the west end; a second entrance from the 1976 west block leads into the narthex.

At the east end of the chapel is a projecting squat ‘tower’ that contains the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (also known as the upper chapel) within at the top floor. It has a hipped roof surmounted by a slender, metal cross. On the south side of the roof is a brick bellcote beneath a gablet attached to the chimney of the adjoining priest’s house. Beneath the tower's moulded eaves is a carved stone rood group, the central crucifix of which is set within a semi-circular niche with a brick surround and tile dressings. At the ground floor is a triple-light with vertical tiles set into the tympanum. To the right there is a squat planked door, probably for coal deliveries or storage.

INTERIOR: the chapel has fixtures and fittings dating from 1925 through to 1959. The narthex is accessed from the cloister to the south, or through modern doors inserted in the west wall. There is wooden block flooring to the narthex and nave, but a tiled covering to the sanctuary. The narthex has timber wall panelling and a carved statue of St Margaret of Antioch in a cartouche on the north wall. The screen between the narthex and the nave is panelled to half-height and open with mullions above. The central door surround has intricate carving of the vine. At the top of each opening are carved strapwork panels with foliation and angels; the nave side of the screen has carving to all surrounds. The nave has a barrel-vaulted roof painted blue, pinched in at the west end to accommodate the west hip; it has five bay arcades, blind to the north and with windows in round-arch openings to the south. The windows have mullion and transoms, decorative leading and stained glass panels. At the west end is the organ loft, the organ of 1962 is by Noel Mander, with a carved and panelled balustrade with pendants, beneath which are stalls with pairs of misericords; the carved timber bench ends depict St Cecilia and King David. The north and south walls have carved stalls for the sisters in the three middle bays; these have intricately carved strapwork to the canopies topped with figures of angels and pendants, foliate details to the backs and uprights, and carved misericords featuring birds and animals. The latter were done by one of the sisters, but the artist for the other carvings is unknown; it is unclear whether Gibbons designed them.

At the east end is the raised sanctuary with the high altar by Laurence King, above which is a tester (canopy) painted blue with gold stars, a sunburst and a carved dove, also by King in 1959. At the north wall is the statue of the Virgin and Child by Travers on a silvered pedestal. At the rear of the altar, the wall has a central, round-arched opening, blocked to approximately half-height then open above, screened by painted and gilded wrought iron gates by William Bainbridge Reynolds. Each gate is adorned with cherubs holding wreaths, surrounded by crowned shields bear the Instruments of the Passion. Above is a flying cornice with decorative uprights supported by brackets, surmounted in the centre by a figure of Christ with outstretched arms flanked by crowns. There are round-arched openings at either side of the sanctuary; that to the right leads to the priest’s house, and that to the left accesses the transverse stairs to the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament or upper chapel at the first floor. This chapel has a groin-vaulted ceiling, painted blue with gold stars and ribs with a central sunburst. The semi-domed apse at the rear of the chapel is painted gold, has orange marble wall panels and a white marble frieze at the springing of the dome carved with cherubs, hens and chicks; at the centre is a white marble canopy beneath which is a black marble altar illustrated with a Crown of Thorns and three nails.


The priory was established as a daughter house of the Society of St Margaret, East Grinstead, both founded by Reverend Dr JM Neale in approximately 1865-6. The highly impoverished Haggerston area of Hackney was selected as the mission field for the priory. Mother Kate (the Mother Superior at that time) moved the community to buildings on the current site in 1866 but the houses they occupied were unfit for human habitation, so from 1882 the community sought to build permanent accommodation. The freehold of the site was purchased and, in 1887, most of the buildings on the site were demolished. The foundation stone of a new conventual building, designed by CHM Mileham (1837-1917) was laid by Father Stanton of the Church of St Alban in December 1887, and dedicated by the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles in October 1888. Plans to build a further conventual range, incorporating a grand chapel on the south side of the site, also designed by Mileham, were abandoned because of financial pressures. A memorial fund to Mother Kate, who died in 1923, was established to gather money, but by the time sufficient funding was amassed, Mileham was dead. A young architect, J Harold Gibbons (1878-1958), was commissioned for the task, his scheme relocating the chapel to the north, quieter side of the priory. Gibbons placed a cloister to the south of the chapel, leading to a small sacristy to the east; east of the chapel was a priest’s house fronting Yorkton Street.

The foundation stone was laid in December 1925 and the chapel was blessed in October 1926. Gibbons was responsible for the scheme, but the chapel’s fixtures and fittings were added over time as funding allowed. Initially the benches from the nearby Church of St Augustine, the altar and tabernacle from the old chapel and the crucifix from the Brother’s chapel at Ash Grove were used in the new chapel. The only ornament was the statue of St Margaret of Antioch, carved at Oberammergau, Bavaria some years before, facing the door leading from the cloister, and above the altar, an ironwork screen and gates by William Bainbridge Reynolds. Fixtures and fittings were added in a piecemeal fashion thus it is unclear whether Gibbons had a hand in their design. The oak stalls were one of the earliest installations, the 42 misericords carved by one of the sisters. A wooden copy of the medieval statue of the Our Lady and the Holy Child held in the Victoria and Albert Museum was commissioned from Martin Travers by Father Whitby of the Church of St Mary in Graham Street, and given to the priory. The upper chapel was completed in instalments, finished by the time Gibbons died. The high altar, by Laurence King, was consecrated in 1959.

Gibbon’s 1925 plan included a range built on the south side of the complex, accommodating a mission room, covered entrance into the complex, a dispensary, parish stores and offices, but this range was not constructed until the late 1930s and seemingly not in accordance with this plan. The priory commissioned Gibbons to design a hostel, new refectory and visitor’s chapel at the north-west of the site between 1929 and 1932. A further sacristy and priest’s house were added to the east in 1937-38. At the south-east corner of the priory site are the Mother Kate homes for the elderly, designed by Gibbons and built in 1940; each of the six units had a sitting room and curtained-off alcoves for a bed and small kitchen. Approximately at this time, a two-level walkway from the ground floor and first floor of the south range, led north to the chapel entrance at the ground floor and organ loft above, dividing the cloister gardens into two. Gibbon’s hostel range and Mileham’s conventual buildings were demolished and replaced with a 1976 building designed by Laurence King. The Mother Kate homes have been remodelled internally to provide a refectory, kitchen and drop-in centre at the ground floor and new accommodation units at the first floor. The priory entrance is through a 1990s building which links the Mother Kate homes block with King’s west range; historic photographs suggest that part of the mission room range was taken down to accommodate the west range and link. The sacristy now serves as an art room.

John Harold Gibbons (1878–1958) was an ecclesiastical architect working in the Gothic revival tradition. Beginning his career with his architect father, John, in Manchester, Gibbons was articled to the Manchester firm of Thomas and Percy Worthington, before working in the office of Temple Moore in 1902-03. In 1907 Gibbons established his own practice at Victoria Street in London. Best known for a series of inter-war churches for the London suburbs, Gibbons’ mature work varied between a stripped, modelled interpretation of Gothic and a round-arched style derived from early Christian and Romanesque models. Gibbons contributed to a number of listed churches, but was the sole designer of seven churches on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE), of which two are listed at Grade II*: the Church of St Mary, Kenton of 1935-36 (NHLE 1254054), and the Church of SS Peter and Paul, Bromley of 1949-57 (NHLE 1084373). William Bainbridge Reynolds, Martin Travers and Laurence King were noted ecclesiastical designers, their pieces featuring in the descriptions of many listed churches.

Reasons for Listing

The chapel at St Saviour’s Priory, Haggerston, London, designed by J Harold Gibbons and completed between 1925 and 1959, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* Thoughtfully designed by J Harold Gibbons, a noted church architect and designer. The interior has a distinctive upper chapel and there are well-crafted furnishings throughout, including the stalls, screens and misericords, and pieces by renowned ecclesiastical designers and artists;

* Richly adorned with good quality materials including marble, wood and wrought iron, meticulously used to maximum effect.

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