Thanks to Dr Ruth Siddall for a preview of her account of a site visit to be published in the 2024 Edition of the Newsletter of the Welsh Stone Forum. Photographs by the Victorian Web's Contributing Photographer Dr. John Salmon. [You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer or other source, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. Click on the thumbnails for larger pictures.]

St Luke's. Kentish Town, by Basil Champneys

St Luke’s Church, Kentish Town – Basil Champneys’ first commission. This Grade II*-listed church was built in 1868-69 to replace St Luke’s, Euston Road, which the Midland Railway Company had demolished to make way for St Pancras Station. Much to the consternation of John Johnson, who had designed the Euston Road church and hoped to design its replacement, the Rev. William Weldon Champneys, Dean of Lichfield, and former vicar of St Pancras, appointed as architect his son, Mr. Basil Champneys (1842-1935), who had recently been articled to John Prichard in Llandaff before setting up his own practice in London. The building contract was awarded to Thomas Williams, whose work with Prichard on Llandaff Cathedral was acknowledged to have been of the highest quality.

interior of St Luke's, Kentish Town, by Basil Champneys

Interior of St Luke's, looking east.

With much of the cost defrayed by the railway company and additional funds to be raised by subscription, the design was ambitious, and the final cost was said to have been about £14,000. The appointment of an unknown inexperienced architect for such a prestigious project was of course highly controversial and doubtless the engagement of a Welsh building contractor rather than a local one must have caused further consternation. However, although the design attracted some adverse criticism, it was stated to be “highly creditable when considered as his first work,” and the construction work by Thomas Williams was described as being of “remarkable excellence….. due to [his] honesty, zeal, and artistic knowledge" ("St Luke’s Church, New Kentish Town," 21).

Interior of St Luke's, looking through to the north aisle

Interior of St Luke's, looking through to the north aisle, and showing the original Victorian Willis organ, as well as one of the internal pillars.

The main structure of St Luke’s is built in red Suffolk brick with Tisbury stone, a light buff coloured Jurassic oolitic limestone, for the dressings. The internal pillars of the arcade are of Radyr stone, a red conglomerate quarried near Cardiff (apparently these have always been painted white), whilst a greenish grey sandstone quarried in Bridgend, Glamorganshire, was used both externally and internally for the chancel arch and other features, such as small columns, mostly to doorways, windows, and corbels. Another point of interest is that the frame of the piscina on the right hand side of the apse is constructed of alabaster quarried in Penarth near Cardiff.

It is notable that the construction of St Luke’s coincided with work at the church of St Margaret of Antioch, Roath, Cardiff, where Prichard was the architect and Williams the contractor. Here a combination of light and dark coloured brickwork, the marble-like white and golden, grey-veined Penarth alabaster, greenish grey Bridgend stone and dappled red Radyr stone were used to create such a stunning polychromatic effect.

Links to Related Material


Briggs, M.S., rev. Michael W. Brooks. "Champneys, Basil (1842-1835)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 27 October 2023.

"Church of St Luke with St Paul. Historic England. Web. 27 October 2023.

"St Luke’s Church, New Kentish Town." The Building News. 14 January 1870: 21.

Created 27 October 2023