Sitting next to what was once the West Ham football club, and is now a generic housing development is a one-hundred(ish) year old Catholic Church.
The Our Lady of Compassion Church, Upton Park was built in 1911 to an Italian Romanesque style by the local architect, Robert Leabon Curtis, and sits in a plot of land that had been a Catholic School.
In 1869, Cardinal Manning bought the Boleyn Castle Estate to provide a school for Catholic Boys, and a “tin tabernacle” was built on the site for prayer in 1901.
That a Catholic facility would be built on a site allegedly named after Anne Boleyn probably caused much sniggering at the time, although there’s no evidence to think the Boleyn family were associated with the mansion house the estate was named after.
Much of the site closed in 1907 when the land was let to a maternity home and sold to the football club, but a couple of years later, it was decided to erect a decent sized church, and that’s what we have here.
An anonymous female donor provided £3,000 towards the church’s construction, which was a considerable amount of money at the time.
The exterior of the church looks a bit austere, and not at all Catholic in style, but once you go inside it’s fairly obvious this isn’t an Anglican space, with several spaces for veneration and the confession boxes.
The tall nave with its wooden ceiling gives the church an appearance of something somewhat older, but the brickwork is fairly decently late Victorian style (even if built in the Edwardian age), and the altar is surprisingly plain.
What’s rather impressive though, and make the church worth a visit are the Stations of the Cross that line both sides of the wall.
The church was badly damaged during WW2, and later restored, if there were stained glass windows, they were not replaced. Like most Catholic churches, it’s open all day to go in for a look, or if so minded, to pray. But keep an eye on your belongings.
Location map and local interesting places
- 15] Old stone Parish Marker
- 16] Robert, a steam train
- 17] A bridge to nowhere
- 18] Blackwall Tunnel plaque