Not far from Marylebone can be found an austere looking church building, that has a surprisingly light and open interior. This is the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone, and was built by a prolific architect, H.S. Goodhart-Rendel.

There had been a church next to this one for nearly a century, but with a growing congregation, expansion was needed, and as it happens, a large office block stood next to the old church – an employment exchange, which they were able to buy in 1929. It was to take a few decades to raise the rest of the money to start building the church though — wars tend to have an effect on the finances — but work finally started in 1959.

Designed by Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, who apart from being President of RIBA in the late 1930s and a noted lecturer on Victorian architecture, was maybe surprisingly, therefore, an architect in the modern style.

Many of his churches still survive, and here in Marylebone is one of his finest. He didn’t live to see it completed though, dying shortly after construction had started, and the works were completed by DA Rud & H Lewis Curtis.

The design is said to be neo-Romanesque, and was inspired by French Romanesque churches such as those at Tournus and Le Puy. The front of the church is unusual in having a full-width tower dominating, with a single window in the centre, and louvered openings at the top for the bells. Inside, the dark brick is swiftly replaced with soaring white-painted concrete arches.

The white appearance is not what the architect planned though, as the arches were to have been built from light brick, but the need to build the arches from concrete led to the white plastered finish. I think it’s a lot better this way as the church is far brighter and the structure feels thinner than had it also been made from brick.

Clamped between two buildings on either side, the church is lit by roof lights rather than windows in the walls, which also gives the church an unusually plain appearance for a Catholic church, with little in the way of stained glass windows or ornamentation.

There are lanterns hanging from each of the arches, and simple stations of the cross on each arch face.

Along the side are tiled panels showing the Mysteries of the Rosary, designed by Joseph William Ledger, who had previously worked with Goodhart-Rendel, and they were painted by Phyllis Butler.

The church organ is the same as from the old church, dating from 1865.

At the far end, the altar space has thin glass slat windows and a deep simple blue ceiling above tiled walls.

The new church was opened on 7th June 1964.

Historic England described it as “A grand church which displays Goodhart-Rendel’s manipulation of spaces and planes to great effect. His last work and one of his best.”

The old church sitting next to the new one was originally intended to be demolished to create a garden, but in the end, they decided a parish hall was more practical.

Being a Catholic church, it’s usually open through the day if you want to pop inside, as the interior is certainly not what most people expect if all they’ve ever seen is the forbidding brick tower frontage. You can find it on Old Marylebone Road, a short walk from Edgware Road tube stations.

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3 comments
  1. mikeH says:

    What an unusual and exceptionally lovely interior to this church, I must make a effort to visit soon. Thanks for the write up.

  2. Jeremy Buck says:

    Close to Edgware Road stations, not Edgware?

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