Holy Cross Church

History of Holy Cross church


HOLY CROSS CHURCH was consecrated on 1st November 1888. It came to be built following the assassination in 1874 of Commodore James Goodenough on the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. The Goodenough family negotiated for a new church to be dedicated in his memory and to The Holy Cross. (The Commodore had been speared to death on the Island of Santa Cruz; Holy Cross Island. This dedication is the only one of its kind in the Church in London. Behind the font you can see a small brass plaque which commemorates these things. The church bell which hangs at the west end of the exterior of the church is the bell from the Commodore’s ship, ‘The Pearl’, which is rung to call people to prayer and to the Parish Mass to this day.


THE PEOPLE OF THE PARISH contributed to the church’s building and many of the local poor each paid one old English penny to cover the cost of a single brick! The English nobility, including Princess Mary of Teck, later to become Queen Mary, attended theatre productions in the West End to raise money for the building of Holy Cross Church. The Church was built for the then princely sum of £10,000. It was built with a crypt, which is now a social centre welcoming many people through its doors.


The High Altar

THE CHURCH’S ARCHITECT Joseph Peacock was to design a building fit for what he called “...the more ‘advanced’ kind of religion…” It was Anglo-Catholic and distinctly ritualistic, and you can see this in the way he raises the sanctuary. Standing at the head of many steps, the high altar meets the visitor at eye level. The two principal Sacraments of the Church; The Eucharist and of Holy Baptism are strongly expressed in this Church in the raised positions of the Altar and the Font. 


THE FONT lies at the west end of the church near the entrance to the building, marked by the west door. It was designed by the famous Victorian architect, J.L.Pearson, who also designed Truro Cathedral and St Augustine’s Church, Kilburn. It imitates the ‘zig-zag’ lines or water waves which are figures for the waters of Baptism, most famously seen on the pillars of Durham Cathedral. 


THE WALSINGHAM CHAPEL lies beyond the font at the South-West corner of the church. It is significant for the strong link which the Church of Holy Cross maintains with one of its former curates, Father Hope-Patten. This famous priest was called to re-build and re-institute The Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in North Norfolk. He was given a medieval image of the Holy House of Nazareth from Father Stanton at nearby St Albans, Holborn and then felt a strong call to rebuild the shrine. This call became a reality in the mid-1920s, and today Walsingham is England’s premier pilgrimage destination and its spiritual Nazareth. Holy Cross Church honours both the existence of the shrine and its founder’s early inspiration during his time as priest in this church.


The Good Shepherd Window (Detail)

THE GOOD SHEPHERD WINDOW in the south aisle was designed by the distinguished church artist and designer, Martin Travers. We can see from a very small inscription in Latin that he both designed this window and made it. It dates from 1920. Note the fine amber colour of the cloak, and the lantern which Christ carries, an exact likeness of the lamp we see in Holman Hunt’s picture ‘The Light of the World’. The window was erected in memory of Arthur Crane, a parishioner.


THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS are arranged around the church and form ‘A Way of the Cross’. They mark the singular moments in the Passion narrative of Our Lord Jesus Christ from his judgement by Pontius Pilate to his  suffering, his death on the Cross and his burial in the tomb. These so-called still points or ‘stations’ form part of one single act of solemn worship which takes place in this church on the first three days of Holy Week. The Stations themselves are made of beautiful coloured Italian marble, with gold figuring in the form of small fragments or tessera which bring the colours of marble into bright yet solemn relief. Each Station has its own personal dedication, and these are moving in themselves. There are many inscriptions in memory of beloved sons and brothers of The First World War who lost their lives. 


The Pietà

THE PIETÀ This beautiful piece was cast at Malling Abbey, and was given by the Vincent and Maryon-Wilson families to St Mary’s Church Somers Town. At Father Maryon-Wilson’s request, the Pietà was subsequently brought to Holy Cross Church in 1951, and formally given over to this Church. 


‘MARY MAGDALENE’ by Reginald Gray. This small painting was gifted to the church by the artist in 2006 and is placed above the Credence Table in the St Peter Chapel in the south east corner of the church. The artist had a premonition that the painting should come to Holy

St Pancras, Soldier and Martyr, North Aisle.

Cross Church, and acted on it! St Mary Magdalene was the woman in whom ‘seven demons had been cast out’ (Luke 8.2) She was also the first witness to the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24.10). 


ST PANCRAS was a boy soldier put to death in the early fourth century for his allegiance to the Christian Faith. St Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the church of Old St Pancras (situated behind the St Pancras International Station) in the late sixth century. This district of King’s Cross falls into the ancient parish of St Pancras. The Church in London has roots stretching back a very long way! This saint reminds us of the costliness of the early Christian witness. It also marks this church’s identification with its wider surroundings. King’s Cross is a newly revitalised part of Central London, and has now become the nation’s gateway to Europe. 



download Faithful Cross