From the website of Taking Stock:
“In the early 1880s, a small Congregational community based at Robert Street (now Weighhouse Street) was looking for a site to build a new chapel. The Duke of Westminster provided a site for a peppercorn rent (on part of the present site). In 1883, a limited competition was won by John Sulman with a Gothic design. Work was to start in 1887 but fundraising proved to be very difficult. The solution was a merger with the congregation of the King’s Weigh House Chapel in 1887. Established in the City of London in the late seventeenth century, the Weigh House congregation was forced in 1883 from their site in Fish Street Hill to make way for the building of the Metropolitan and District Railway. Awarded £37,450 in arbitration, they became the senior partner in the negotiations surrounding the new site. The Duke of Westminster agreed to provide an enlarged site stretching between Binney and Duke Streets, again at a peppercorn rent. (In 1892, he presented the freehold of the church to the congregation.)
In April 1888, Alfred Waterhouse was asked to prepare designs. In May 1889, the tenders were received – all of which proved to be too expensive. Waterhouse made some savings, including reducing the amount of terracotta to be used. The final agreed amount came to £24, 815. The builders were John Shillitoe & Son of Bury St Edmunds. The terracotta and faience for four columns came from the Burmantofts works of the Leeds Fireclay Company. In July 1891, the completion of the church was marked by the meeting of the first International Congregational Council. By 1894, just over £30,000 had been spent on the building and fittings.
Originally, the gallery nearly formed a complete ellipse with an organ by Brindley & Foster of Sheffield at the east. Below it was the minister’s desk flanked by choir stalls. However, alterations carried out in 1903 by J. J. Burnet & Son of Glasgow changed this arrangement slightly, if skilfully and sympathetically. This presaged the liturgical changes carried out during what Stell calls ‘the idiosyncratic ministry of W. E. Orchard (1914-32)’. Burnet created a chancel at the east end without disturbing the exterior. He removed the original organ and replaced it with a new one by Henry Willis & Sons, whose two parts were placed on either side of the gallery which was slightly cut back. The original curving east wall was hidden behind a terracotta wall (with matching terracotta by the Leeds Fireclay Company), above which three windows were created. These were filled with stained glass by Robert Anning Bell. The chancel was remodelled with a marble floor and seven steps to the communion table. A new wooden pulpit was installed, together with new stalls. The cost of the alterations was £2,934 excluding the organ. John Shillitoe & Son were again the contractors.
In 1927, a new reredos designed by A. E. Henderson and made by Allan G. Wyon was installed. The church suffered some damage from a bomb on 20 October 1940. The damage was made good in 1953 in a ‘skilful and conservative’ restoration (Survey of London).
In 1965, the congregation merged with the Whitefield Memorial Church in Tottenham Court Road and the freehold of the church and the leasehold of the adjacent buildings were sold to the Ukrainian Catholic Church (an Eastern Rite Church with its own hierarchy but in full communion with the Holy See) for use as their cathedral. This entailed limited alterations, including the removal of the organ (its cases remain on either side of the chancel); the removal of the pulpit and some of the choir stalls; the introduction of pews in the place of chairs; a screen by W. Borecky (c.1980); and a confessional made to a design by J. F. Bentley (on loan from Westminster Cathedral).
The basement, which originally housed the Thomas Binney Institute, named after the chapel’s most famous minister, is now used as offices by Sovereign Tourism Ltd.
The church is fully described in the list description (see below).
The following list includes additional detail and furnishings not mentioned in the list entry:
- There is an additional stained glass windows in the clerestory (third window from east on south side) depicting St Matthew, installed as a memorial to Alexander Sandison (1854-1921), minister between 1880 and 1901.
- The remaining windows have the original tinted glass with delicate patterns.
- The timber confessional on the north side is that made in the 1920s to a design of c.1910 by Bentley, Son & Marshall (on loan from Westminster Cathedral).
- At the northeast corner is a large relief of the Holy Family with St John the Baptist, said to come from the Ukrainian Catholics’ previous home, a now-demolished Catholic chapel of c.1855 in Saffron Hill.
- The sanctuary screen designed by W. Borecky in c.1980 is of timber and includes numerous icon paintings on gold backgrounds. It completely screens off the chancel created in 1903. Placed in front of it are a plain timber altar and lectern. Behind it is the high altar with the tabernacle.”