The north-London catholic church of St Paul the Apostle in Wood Green has perhaps the least kerb-appeal of any church I know. The forbidding (unforgiving) single-storey facade of plain, repeating concrete arches facing onto a busy traffic route gives the building a rather Moorish appearance, there being no obviously Christian signifiers except for a tiny cross high a-top a towering narrow pylon. Indeed I supsect many people driving past might even mistake the place for a mosque in this typically multi-cultural London borough.
A Catholic presence was first established in Wood Green in 1884 with a new church in Romanesque-style (1904) designed by Edward Goldie (1856–1921). Alas, I can find no images of this building. In 1971 Goldie’s church was replaced by a new church with hall, school and presbytry attached, all designed by John Rochford and Partner of Sheffield.
The shape of the church is a pentagon, with the sanctuary at the apex. The interior is plain, even austere, all of brick and concrete, lit from above by clerestory windows. Colour is priovided by a series of stained-glass windows, a number brought from the previous church. Most striking are the huge panels of modern stained-glass that almost completely fill the top half of the wall facing the altar. They were commisioned in 1982 from the Maltese artist Carmel Cauchi on the theme ‘Pilgrim Church’. The interior of the church is larger and loftier than one might have imagined before entering, seating over 600, and yet despite its scale it conjours a quiet and prayerful aura.
The pipe organ was built (1975) by the now defunct local firm of Monk and Gunther. The pipework on the cantilevered gallery – with console at ground level – makes an impressive visual impact in the buidling. This is not matched by its tonal impact because of its poorly conceived ‘extension’ design, which provides little variety in terms of colour or power, being weak and barely sufficient for accompanying the liturgy in this bustling, well-attended church. Sadly, the instrument seems to have been well built and well maintained, with no signs of needing replacement any time soon.
- The organ specification in National Pipe Organ Register, online resource accessed 10 October 2017
- Parish website, online resource accessed 10 October 2017
- ‘Tottenham: Roman catholicism‘ in A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 5 (Victoria County History: London, 1976), online reource accessed 10 October 2017
- ‘Wood Green – St Paul the Apostle‘ in Taking Stock, Catholic churches of England and Wales, online resource accessed 10 October 2017