This imposing church is of interest particularly because of its history, having been built as an Anglican church, and later 'converted'. This gives it some interesting architectural features which are perhaps uncommon in Catholic churches.
First, a little more about the history. St. Patrick's parish was established in the Nineteenth Century, principally to cater for the growing Irish community in the area, which had developed in response to the need for labour in nearby Woolwich Arsenal, and also with the large amount of speculative house building that was taking place locally in the late Victorian period. A permanent church was constructed in 1893 in Griffin Road. By the 1960's the original building had become too small for the needs of the parish at the time, and, serendipitously, at the same time the local Anglican diocese was looking to sell the redundant St. Paul's church, a grand-scale Victorian building, which was now too large and expensive for them to maintain. A deal was done, and in 1968 St. Paul's became the new St. Patrick's. The original St. Patrick's was converted to a hall for the parish primary school, and survives in this role today.
|The original church, now part of the St. Patrick's Primary School|
The church is large and constructed of red brick, and the brickwork remains exposed in the interior, to pleasing effect. The sanctuary retains its High Altar of marble with a simple, but dignified wooden reredos. Given the date that the church was converted to Catholic use, this must have been built by the Anglicans, suggesting that the Anglican worship here must have been quite 'High Church'. There are interesting sedilia on the Epistle Side, consisting of 3 niches with stone seats, which are at graduated heights - presumably the intention would be for the Celebrant to sit at the top, with the Deacon on his left, slightly lower, and the Subdeacon in turn below him, although this is hard to say since the sedilia have probably never been used in the church's Catholic days. The organ occupies a niche on the Epistle Side of the Choir. The font is located centrally at the West end of the church. All of these features being more typical of Anglican than Catholic church design.
|View from the Altar, looking West|
In the 1990's, the Sanctuary was reordered and relocated outside the original Choir, with an Altar on a platform with some seating around it, effectively putting the old chancel at a distance from the congregation, although the Blessed Sacrament remained on the old High Altar. Some years ago, this change was reversed, I believe under the direction of Fr. Michael Branch, the then Parish Priest, now P.P. of St. Peter's, Woolwich, and the table Altar moved back into the chancel, Liturgy being in the Novus Ordo, versus ad populum. It would, of course, be nice to see the original Ad Orientem High Altar used.
|The Sanctuary during an Episcopal Mass - note the High Altar in the background, and the arches of the triple sedilia on the right. The organ is behind the server wearing an alb|
Over the last few years, there has been a considerable reordering of parishes within Southwark Archdiocese, and St. Patrick's, formerly a secular parish is now in the care of the Salvatorians. More recently, the former parish of Holy Cross, Plumstead Common, has been merged with St. Patrick's, its church becoming a chapel-of-ease.
|Holy Cross Church, Plumstead Common|