Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury

Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury
Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury

Contemporary photo of the church

Country United Kingdom
Denomination Catholic Apostolic Church, Anglican

The Church of Christ the King is a church belonging to the Catholic Apostolic Church which is situated in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, beside Dr Williams's Library and near University College London. The church is currently used by the Anglican organisation Forward in Faith. It has been a Grade I listed building since 10 June 1954.



Construction and design

Westminster Abbey from a comparable viewpoint - note the central tower and transept rose window.

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[citation needed]) 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.

View of the south side of the east end of the Church of Christ the King.

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 [1]. Recent scholars, however, have drawn attention to the combination of thirteenth- and fifteenth-century Gothic precedents in its design, which offer a tangible record of the Brandon brothers' study of ecclesiastical architecture."[2][3]

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 10 June 1954.[4]

University Church

From 1963 to 1994 it was known as the University Church of Christ the King and served the Anglican Chaplaincy to the Universites and Colleges of the Diocese of London. In practice it was a worship centre for students living in the university halls nearby, but was also used occasionally for London-wide events, with a very strong emphasis on music in worship (under the successive musical directorships of Ian Hall, Alan Wilson and Simon Over). The last chaplaincy Sunday service was held on 28 June 1992 but a weekday service continued until Ash Wednesday (16 February) 1994. The chaplaincy returned the lease on the church to the Catholic Apostolic Trustees on 30 June 1994. There was a popular student café in the crypt for several years until the church closed.

This new role was begun with a morning Eucharist at which the Bishop of London, the Right ReverendRobert Stopford, celebrated and an Evensong with the former Bishop of London, J. W. C. Wand, preaching), both on 6 October 1963. During this period, a Thanksgiving Eucharist was celebrated on 27 November 1988 for the 25th anniversary of this role, with the Right Reverend Michael Marshall preaching and, on 6 December 1983, the memorial service for Nikolaus Pevsner was held here.[5] In July 1992, the chaplaincy decided to stop holding weekly services there.

Forward in Faith

The church's current user is the conservative Forward in Faith movement.


  1. ^ RIBA Sessional Papers, 10
  2. ^
  3. ^ G. Stamp and C. Amery, Victorian buildings of London, 1837–1887: an illustrated guide (1980), 40–41
  4. ^ Details from listed building database (477365) . Images of England. English Heritage. accessed 22 January 2009
  5. ^ Pevsner service - JSTOR access required

External links

Coordinates: 51°31′25″N 0°07′54″W / 51.5235°N 0.1316°W / 51.5235; -0.1316

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