St Saviour’s Priory, Haggerston, London E2

The Haggerston area of east London is first recorded in the eleventh-century Domesday Book as Hergotestane. In the mid-eighteenth century it is recorded as Agostone, but by the middle of the nineteenth it had become Haggerston/e, an area famed for furniture making, filled with timber yards, French polishers, enamellers, cabinet factories, mirror frame factories, wood carvers and a plethora of associated trades. All these skilled trades are now mostly gone, and the area is marked by large swathes of humdrum, mass-produced post-war public housing estates, although here and there attractive earlier nineteenth-century terraces and streetscapes can be found.

J. M. Neale

Rev. J. M. Neale (1818–66). [Source: Public Domain,]

Haggerton’s St Saviour’s Priory on the Queensbridge Road is an Anglican religious community of women belonging to the Society of St Margaret. The Society of St Margaret was founded in 1855 at East Grinstead (UK) by the Anglican cleric Rev. John Mason Neale (1818–66).

The Priory of St Saviour was established in Haggerston in 1866 with the aim of combining a life of prayer with providing practical help for those living in poverty and isolation. More than 150 years later poverty and isolation remain pressing concerns in the area and are still being actively addressed by the sisters.

At first the sisters took over a set of dilapidated buildings on the current site. Most were demolished in 1887 to make way for a new a new conventual building designed by C.H.M. Mileham (1837-1917). Shortage of funds delayed completion of Mileham’s design. Work recommenced in 1925 to the design of J Harold Gibbons (1878-1958) and continued up until the late 1970s with additional work by Lawrence King (1907–81). This is the priory we see today.

At the heart of the priory is the chapel. At the west end the entrance is separated from the main body of the chapel by a screen with organ gallery over and at the east end – above and behind the sanctuary – is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, designed for private devotion and from where Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament can be given.

Perhaps most immediately eye-catching is the intricate woodwork of the choir stalls whose forty-two misericord seats depict native British flora and fauna. These usually hidden images were carved by Sister Laetitia (b.?–d.?) who learned her craft while living at the Priory; a reflection of the area’s woodworking history.

The pipe organ

The present pipe organ was transeferred here in 1962 by the firm of N. P. Mander from the short-lived, post-war Brasted College – aka Brasted Place College – at Brasted in Kent (Rochester Diocese), an Anglican theological college that closed c.1961.

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