St Joseph's Church, East Greenwich

North side of the church.

The Catholic church of St Joseph on Pelton Road, East Greenwich, was built by Henry John Hansom (1828-1904) between 1880 and 1881. Hansom, eldest son of Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-82), was trained by his father with whom he was in partnership between 1859 and 1861. After this he formed his own practice, at one stage in tandem with the post of District Surveyor of Battersea. His Greenwich church was built in Early Decorated Gothic style, using brick with Bath stone dressing, and lit by clerestories. Special features are the traceried window in the west front, the marble altar and tabernacle, and Gothic details portrayed in the two side chapels, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart and the Lady Chapel.

With an estimated cost of £4,335, the church was opened by Cardinal Manning on 25 May 1881. It provided for 600 people, serving the large dockside parish of Irish people, as well as Catholic pensioners of the Greenwich Hospital and Catholics from the nearby Workhouse (see "St Joseph, East Greenwich"). The mission priest at the time, the Rev. Augustine Marie Boone, was of Belgian origin, and the altar and the reredos "with painted panels of the Nativity, Trinity and Redemption" were the work of a Belgian sculptor and church decorator, M. Zeus, while the gilt brass crucifix was designed by the famous Belgian Gothic Revival architect, Baron Jean-Baptiste Bethune (again, see "St Joseph — East Greenwich"). Baron Bethune had worked with E. W. Pugin on the Castle of Loppem in Belgium.

Left: The Priest's House. Right: West front.

The tower intended for the church was never built due to lack of funding. Nevertheless, as the 2010 Conservation Area Appraisal points out, St Joseph's is still one of the "[n]otable landmarks in the street scene" since "[t]he simple brick mass of the church is impressive, hard up against the pavement, and the steeply pitched slate roof has a powerful effect when approached from the neighbouring streets"; moreover, "[i]t forms a group with the neighbouring Priest's House" (9, 51).

Ten years prior to the opening of the church, Hansom had built St Joseph's School, also in Pelton Road. First relegated to a social club, and then abandoned, the old school has finally been sold and will be converted into eight flats within the original shell. The capital realised will assist with much-needed repairs to the church.

Text by Penelope Harris. Photographs, captions, and additional material from the web sources given below, provided by Jacqueline Banerjee. Many thanks to Father Kevin Robinson, priest-in-charge of both St Joseph's and Our Ladye Star of the Sea, Greenwich for bringing us up to date on the original school building. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Sources

"East Greenwich Conservation Area Appraisal" (downloaded from here). Greenwich Council/English Heritage. Web. 10 August 2014.

Evinson, Denis. Catholic Churches of London. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998.

"Greenwich Catholic." Web. 10 August 2014.

Harris, Penelope. The Architectural Achievement of Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-1882), Designer of the Hansom Cab, Birmingham Town Hall, and Churches of the Catholic Revival. New York and Lampeter: Edwin Mellen, 2010.

"St Joseph — East Greenwich." Taking Stock: Catholic Churches of England and Wales. Web. 10 August 2014.


Last modified 10 August 2014