About this church
The mission 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 HJ Hansom opened.
A new, permanent church was in planning by 1925, when AJ Sparrow ARIBA prepared designs for a church. Lack of money delayed the building 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 style is Italianate. The church is built using purple brick laid in Flemish bond, over a plinth of black brick. At the west end of the north elevation is a fibreglass sculpture of Our Lady with the Christ Child. 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.
There are two small west windows with stained glass depicting St John the Evangelist and St Frederick. In the gallery stairwell at the southwest is a circular stained glass window dedicated to St Joseph with the saint, the Flight into Egypt and his death.
Directly below the gallery is a confessional. In the northwest corner, beside a door to the presbytery, is the baptistery with tall iron gates and the large font of yellow Sicilian marble with a square bowl with chamfered corners. Two of the windows in the north aisle have stained glass depicting saints. The aisle has a skylight of glass bricks. At the east end of the north aisle is the Lady Chapel with a marble altar with a 19th century French white marble statue of the Immaculate Conception, originally from the convent of the Daughters of Charity, Mill Hill.