Exhibition to mark the 175th anniversary of Farm Street Church

May 9, 2024

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair, otherwise known as Farm Street Church.

To celebrate, the British Jesuit Archives, located next to the church, will be exhibiting material from the church’s history on Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 May. The exhibition is open to all and will be repeated in July and October.

Entrance to the Church of the Immaculate Conception

The opening of the church, on 31 July 1849, is demonstrative of the new-felt confidence that Catholics in Britain felt after the Catholic Relief Act of 1829. Over the course of the 1830s and 1840s the Jesuits opened several new schools and churches in quick succession, cementing themselves in everyday British life, including St Ignatius, Preston, St Francis Xavier (College and Church), Liverpool, Mount St Mary’s School, and the scholasticate at St Beuno’s. They also sought to build a church in the heart of London.

The foundation stone was laid 31 July 1844 by the Provincial, Fr Randall Lythgoe SJ

Initially, they faced fierce opposition from the then Vicar Apostolic of the London region, Thomas Griffith, who argued that such a church would take away revenue made by nearby Catholic parishes from baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The matter was taken to Rome and permission was finally granted, on various conditions, by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide in April 1843. The foundation stone was laid 31 July 1844 by the Provincial, Fr Randall Lythgoe SJ.

The church is itself striking, designed by the architect, Joseph John Scoles, in the neo-gothic style, and has a capacity of nearly 500. The building continued to evolve over the next 50 years in response to the growing congregation and support for its clergy, and was completed in 1903 with the construction of the west aisle. On 1 January 1966, over 100 years after the church’s opening, Farm Street became a parish church to allow baptisms, marriages, and funerals to take place. Today Farm Street is known as a community welcoming converts to Roman Catholicism, famous writers, and for challenging preaching and beautiful music and art.

The exhibition will look at the early history of the church and the development of the building, at the effects of the Second World War and aspects of parish life, as well as notable Jesuits associated with the church. In the church itself, in the Sacred Heart Chapel to the right of the Sanctuary, is a display on four of the church’s architects: Joseph John Scoles, Augustus Pugin, Henry Clutton, and W. H. Romaine Walker. This will remain in the church until the final exhibition in October.

Exhibition dates and times:

13-14 May: 10:00-13:00 and 13:30-16:00

5 July: 13:30-16:00

6 July: 10:00-12:00 & 13:00-15:00

7 July: 10:00-12:30

22-23 October: 10:00-13:00 & 13:30-16:00

Access:

Access to the exhibition is via the church. Please speak to the steward at the back of the church, who will direct you.

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