Our Lady Immaculate and St Frederick, Tower Hamlets, London

A. J. Sparrow
Date Built
Completed 1934
Island Row, Commercial Road, Limehouse
The "taking-stock.org.uk" website, dedicated to assessing the historical and architectural importance of every Catholic church and chapel in England and Wales, describes this building as, "An Italianate inter-war church with a fine interior and several original or early furnishings of note. The northeast tower and the statue of Christ at the west end are landmarks in the St Anne’s Church Conservation Area, designed to be seen from the Limehouse Basin and the Thames."

It goes on to explain that the church's original mission in the area was, "...founded in February 1881 to serve the large Irish population around Limehouse. Initially, Mass was said in a room over a chandler’s shop and then in the priest’s house in 9 Turner’s Road. Later that year, a temporary church by H. J. Hansom opened."

This building was to become the congregation's permanent home.  A. J. Sparrow, who was involved in the design of the Poplar Baths was responsible for drawing up the plans in 1925.   However, as the website explains, "... Lack of money delayed the building of the church and the mission priest Fr Higley acted as his own contractor, clerk of works and foreman, supervising just five skilled workmen as well as volunteers who worked in the evenings. Cardinal Bourne laid the foundation stone on Whit Monday 1927. The church and presbytery were completed in 1934; the convent adjoining the presbytery was never built. Galleries over the aisles were planned but remained unexecuted."

"The church is built using purple brick laid in Flemish bond, over a plinth of black brick. The plan is rectangular, comprising an aisled nave, a northeast tower and an apse. There is a basement below the church ... . The nave roof is pitched, and the aisle roofs are flat. The street elevation consists of the blind semicircular apse with red brick banding and a cross of red brick. Alongside this is the five-stage tower, also with red brick bands, with a niche containing a statue of the Virgin Mary and a clock to the north. .....

.... The belfry stage has three small round-headed louvred windows under a larger arch. The pyramidal tower roof is covered in copper. At the base of the tower is a granite tablet in memory of Fr Higley (1888-1934), founder of the church. ....

... In front, is a cruciform sculpture of Christ Crucified on a brick plinth (1997, Sean Henry, made by Bronze Age, a nearby foundry)."

"Above roof level at the west end is a tall chimney-like brick plinth supporting a statue of the Sacred Heart, sometimes known locally as ‘Christ the Steersman’, carved of oak in the manner of a ship’s figurehead. It was designed to be seen from the Limehouse Basin and the Thames."

Close Window