Kensington, London

Brompton Oratory, Kensington, London

Properly known as the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, this vast Roman Catholic Church dominates Brompton Road, even with the massive Victoria and Albert Museum next door.

The first British Oratory was founded in 1845 in Birmingham by John Henry Newman. An Oratory, rather than a regular church, being distinct because an Oratory signifies a place of prayer, but technically it means a structure other than a parish church, set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and the celebration of Mass.

An Oratory was founded in London near Charing Cross but space was a premium and so land was purchased in the semi-rural west of London from Holy Trinity Church, Brompton and a competition was launched to design a new Oratory. The 29-year old Herbert Gribble won the competition in March 1876 and in June 1880 work began on building the Oratory. It took just four years to complete and was, until 1903 when Westminster Cathedral opened, the largest Catholic Church in London. For many London based Catholics the Oratory holds a very special place in their hearts having formed the heart of their community in its early years (after the Catholic Church building ban ended with the Catholic Emancipation in 1829).

Inside the dominating exterior is reflected in the massive scale of the décor, it certain has the feel of a Cathedral but, of course, it isn’t even a parish church – merely a place for people to pray.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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