St Catherine’s convent established

January 1, 1866

In 1866, the Dominican Sisters of Walthamstow were sent by Archbishop Manning to undertake teaching work in the Bow area. Alfred House in Bow Road became St Catherine’s convent; adjacent to this a chapel was built for their use. The site also had a private and public school, and a large laundry facility.

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The foundation stone of the church laid

July 20, 1869

The foundation stone of the church was laid by Manning in 1869.

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Church opening

November 1, 1870

The building was later opened by him in November 1870. The architect was Gilbert Blount (1816-76), and the builder was a Mr Perry of Stratford. Original plans by Blount indicate that the church incorporated the earlier nuns’ chapel. The organ by Norman, Hill & Beard came from Holloway Prison, Islington. Blount (1819–1876) began his career as a civil engineer under Isambard Kingdom Brunel, working as superintendent of the Thames Tunnel works. Following a period of…

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Diocese of Westminster transfer

January 1, 1923

Diocese of Westminster transfer

In 1923, the Dominican sisters departed for Stone (Staffordshire) and the church was transferred to the Diocese of Westminster. Following the departure of the nuns the convent adjoining the church became the presbytery.

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II World War damage and changes

September 2, 1939

During the Second World War the nave and the major part of the presbytery were bomb damaged, but services continued in those parts of the church still standing. The nave was rebuilt as a faithful reconstruction of the original, under the supervision of architect JE Sterrett and utilising Kentish ragstone, with dressings of Portland stone. Due to the scarcity of large timbers after the war, the roof beams were made from Glulam (an engineered wood product comprising multiple layers of timber bonded together with structural adhesives), and sit on steel shoes inserted in to the masonry, rather than as previously, on the corbels. Probably at this time, statues were also added to the niches on the south elevation, and the flat roofed extensions added to the east which house a confessional booth and toilets. Internally, the Sacred Heart altar has moved from a former north chapel (which is now a lobby to the sacristy) to the north-east chapel, which formerly contained the nuns’ altar and the entrance to the old sacristy. At some time, the metal altar rails were removed.

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A new presbytery built

January 1, 2000

A new presbytery with linking corridor was built, c2000, to the north-west of the church.

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