Place to Remember – English Martyrs Church

 
Place to Remember was Art in the Park’s heritage project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund exploring the history of four local buildings in Walworth and Camberwell.

Here are some of the histories and images collected about English Martyrs Church.
 

Interviews

 

Pauline Ranson Cook 2015


 

David Hicks 2015


 

Philomena O’Gorman 2015


 

Doreen Weston 2015


 

Sarah Weston 2015


 

Workshops and Artwork with 4 Corners and Waterside Care Home

Artwork created by our Four Corners group and residents from Anchor’s Waterside Care Home in sessions focusing on English Martyrs Church.

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English Martyrs Church and its setting

 
The north-east side of Walworth was once referred to as Locks Fields.The street now called Rodney Road appears on some maps as Locksfields, and as late as 1880 a Methodist chapel was opened there and named Locksfields Chapel. The northern end of this area came to be defined by New Kent Road, which was built under an Act of Parliament of 1751, but it was not until the 1780s that development began in earnest. Local names recall that era: Rockingham Row after the Marquess of Rockingham (the Prime Minister who died in 1782); Rodney Buildings in New Kent Road (after Admiral Rodney’s victory of the Battle of the Saints in the same year); and Amelia Street (after Princess Amelia, who was born in 1783). The early development was that of a grand suburb with well-to-do residents moving from the City of London. In 1808 a writer said of Walworth Road that it was ‘lined by ‘elegant mansions’. This would have meant tall Georgian terraced houses, of the sort that you can still see in Camberwell Road, south of Albany Road.

Development away from the main roads came later and was not completed until the second half of the 19th century. The area then gradually declined. Smaller terraced houses without front yards appeared in new back-streets, and later multi-storey tenement blocks were built, chiefly near New Kent Road. A prosperous Georgian suburb became a poor Victorian district.

The population by the later 19th century included many Irish residents, who had previously lived nearer the river. The nearest Catholic church to the north was St. George’s Cathedral in Lambeth Road (opened in 1848 to replace a smaller church in London Road, which had existed since 1786) and to the south, Our Lady of Sorrows in North Peckham (founded in 1855). A survey conducted for the Catholic Bishop of Southwark in 1889 led to the foundation of the Walworth Mission in 1890. A school which served also as a chapel was built that year in Northampton Place, off Flint Street. It was designed by Leonard Stokes and cost £4.740. It was a sizeable building and served its dual purpose for 13 years. A presbytery was then built on the sites of two shops at Nos. 142-144 Rodney Road in 1894. The architect was F.A. Walters.

Plans were made early on for a permanent church. F.W.Tasker made drawings in 1892 and land was bought in 1893, but building did not start until 1902. The church was to be a ‘Thanksgiving Church’ in honour of local martyrs in the persecutions of Tudor times, and in thanksgiving for numerous Victorian conversions to the Catholic Faith, especially in connection with the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom.

The foundation stone of the church was laid on February 15th, 1902, by the future Cardinal Bourne. It was formally opened on September 29th, 1903 and consecrated in 1919, after the debt had all been repaid. Much of the drive to get it built came from Peter Amigo, parish priest from 1901 to 1904, who then served as Bishop of Southwark (and later Archbishop) until he died in 1949.

The population was large and almost entirely poor until the Second World War. Evacuation and bombing then caused a sharp reduction, but the area remained broadly the same, with many Irish (and some Italian) residents until the 1960s. Large-scale redevelopment then brought great change in the townscape, though the area remained the same socially. More fundamental changes have taken place in recent years, which are still in progress today.

Stephen Humphrey, Southwark Historian 2016.

Images

 
English Martyrs Church c1922 with the kind permission of the Southwark Local History Library & Archive
English Martyrs Church c1922 with the kind permission of the Southwark Local History Library & Archive

English Martyrs Church c.1922 with the kind permission of the Southwark Local History Library & Archivee
English Martyrs Church c.1922 with the kind permission of the Southwark Local History Library & Archive

English Martyrs Church c1922 with kind permission of the Southwark Local History Library & Archive
English Martyrs Church c1922 with kind permission of the Southwark Local History Library & Archive

English Martyrs Interior 2016
English Martyrs Interior 2016

English Martyrs Procession c1961
English Martyrs Procession c1961
Image with the kind permission of Pauline Ranson Cook

Pauline Ranson Cook
English Martyrs School 1961
Image with the kind permission of Pauline Ranson Cook

I go to Mass
I go to Mass
I go to Mass
Images with the kind permission of Pauline Ranson Cook

Prayer Card
Prayer Card
Prayer Card
Images with the kind permission of Pauline Ranson Cook

From Martyrs To Modernism Place To Remember Heritage Walk and Talk

 
Southwark Historian Stephen Humphrey speaking at English Martyrs Church Hall 2015
Southwark Historian Stephen Humphrey speaking at English Martyrs Church Hall 2015

Stephen Humphrey speaking in English Martyrs Church 2015
Stephen Humphrey speaking in English Martyrs Church 2015