Church of Christ The King, Bloomsbury - History - Construction and Design

Construction and Design

Early English Neo-Gothic in style and cruciform in plan, the church was built from 1850 to 1854 (with its interior designed by Raphael Brandon in 1853) for the Victorian church movement the Catholic Apostolic Church (also known as "Irvingites"). It is built of Bath stone, with a tiled roof. The structure is incomplete, lacking two bays on its liturgical west side (which prevented the construction of a planned façade - the west end remains unfinished, in brick apart from entrance in stone) and (like the abbey) a crossing tower (including a 150 ft spire - the tower base that was built has mostly blind arcading). Its cruciform plan (Westminster Abbey in miniature) is made up of a nave with full triforium and clerestory, side aisles, sanctuary and Lady Chapel. All of the church's exterior corners have octagonal corner turrets with gabled niches and terminating in spires with gablets. The facade has pinnacled buttresses and corbelled parapets.

The main entrance is at the east end, from Gordon Street, through a gabled porch with angle buttresses (with mouldings, a pointed-arch door and a two-light and oculus plate tracery window above the door) which links onto the Lady Chapel via an octagonal turret and two-light room. (There is also a north side entrance approached by a cloister walk from the porch.)

The five-bay nave (only 13 feet lower than that of Westminster Abbey) has a gabled east facade with three large lancets below five smaller ones - on the inside, it has a timber hammer beam roof with angels and central bosses of snowflake design, as well as a double-arcaded triforium. It also contains a cathedra for its Angel (roughly equivalent to Bishop) of the Catholic Apostolic Church.

The crossing is made up of roll-moulded arches on clustered columns. The transepts are gabled, with two layers of three lancets below a rose window. The south transept's windows (the originals) are the most notable - the lancets have Christ in Majesty with ranks of saints, apostles and angels and earth below, whilst its rose window is by Archibald Nicholson and has a dove in the centre surrounded by musician angels and cherubim and seraphim.

The church's three-bay sanctuary has a roof with stone rib-vaulting and foliated bosses, along with a sanctuary lamp by Augustus Pugin. The three-bay Lady Chapel (formerly the English Chapel) is beyond this sanctuary, separated from it by a screen behind the high altar with open traceried window to the chapel. The chapel itself has a richly painted timber roof and stone angel along with an east facade with arcaded lancet windows below a small rose window and gable, along with gabled and pinnacled buttresses.

Annette Peach, in her entry for Brandon in the Dictionary of National Biography, writes:

"The Catholic Apostolic Church in Gordon Square, London, was built between 1850 and 1854 and, though reproducing features recorded by the Brandon brothers in their scholarly works, this extremely large church was criticized by a contemporary for its lack of originality of design. Recent scholars, however, have drawn attention to the combination of 13th- and 15th-century Gothic precedents in its design, which offer a tangible record of the Brandon brothers' study of ecclesiastical architecture."

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 10 June 1954.

Read more about this topic:  Church Of Christ The King, Bloomsbury, History

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