Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Gregory, Warwick Street, London, is the central Church of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It was dedicated to the life of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham by the Archbishop of Westminster in 2013.
The Ordinary, Monsignor Keith Newton, is in residence in the Presbytery and the Priest in Charge is Father Mark Elliott Smith.
The London (Central) Ordinariate Group is based at the church of Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Gregory.
Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Gregory
Warwick Street, London W1B 5LZ
Vigil Mass: Saturday: 6pm
Sunday Mass: 10.30am (Ordinariate Use) and 5pm
Holy Day Mass: 8am, 12.45pm
Monday to Friday: 8am and 12.45pm and as announced
Monday to Friday: 12.15-12.35pm
The article below, on the history of the church at Warwick Street, was written by a member of its congregation, Nicolas Ollivant, for the Friends of the Ordinariate Newsletter.
If you happen to be walking from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus and decide to take a short cut through Soho, you may find yourself on a quiet street which runs between Brewer Street and Beak Street. This street, formerly Dog Lane then Marylebone Street, has since 1681-2 been known as Warwick Street. As you head onwards you will likely end up in Carnaby Street before reaching Oxford Circus. On your way you may fail to notice a modest red-brick façade weathered by 220 years of rain and soot. You might mistake the building, if you pause to look at it, for a non-conformist chapel. If so, then the designers of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory will have succeeded in what they set out to do. The church you see was built on the site of a Catholic chapel which was pillaged during the so-called Gordon Riots of 1780. These riots were in fact the last manifestation of violent anti-Catholic sentiment in London and were the result of the lifting in 1778 of the Penal Acts which caused Catholics to be treated as second-class citizens in their own country. Catholics would still have to wait until the Catholic Emancipation Act of April 1829 before being able to enter the House of Commons or sit in the House of Lords but 1780 was the last time that Catholic property in London was destroyed by rioters.
The church in Warwick Street is attached to a grand Georgian house in Golden Square, Soho. This house and its neighbour were originally occupied by the Portuguese Ambassador the Marques de Pombal from 1724 to 1747. The Ambassador had a chapel constructed at the back of his house for the use of his household. All Catholic embassies had the right to have their own chapels in a city where Catholic churches and chapels were not permitted. When the Portuguese moved out of numbers 23 and 24 Golden Square the lease was taken over by the ambassador from Bavaria, Count Haslang. He represented the Elector of Bavaria, later the King of Bavaria. The Bavarians occupied the embassy in Golden Square until 1788. So it was the Bavarian ambassador’s chapel that was destroyed during the Gordon Riots. This seems strange when you think that the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Bavaria had excellent relations in the 18th century. However, a look at the list of the 44 priests who served the chapels in the 18th and century reveals something very interesting. All but three of them have English or Irish names. These priests were in fact taking care of the surrounding Catholic community which had become established in Soho. In a sense they were missionaries to the Catholics of London carrying out a re-evangelisation. What would be more appropriate than that the Ordinariate should, from Palm Sunday 2013, be establishing its own base in Warwick Street for its ongoing task of re-evangelisation?
The current church was built in 1789-90 on the site of the Bavarian chapel by the Bishop of the London District, Bishop Talbot. At the time of the departure of the minister from Golden Square in 1788 the bishop obtained eight- and nine-hundred-year leases of the two vacant houses in Golden Square, together with the chapel and other outbuildings. In September 1788 he assigned the ground behind the houses to six trustees for the erection of the new church. He also obtained the patronage of the Elector of Bavaria and, in the latter part of 1788, he and a committee of twenty-two prominent Catholics appealed for funds for the erection of a new chapel. Building began in the spring of 1789 and the new church was opened on 12 March 1790, the feast of St. Gregory the Great, to whom it was dedicated. The architect was Joseph Bonomi. The connection with the Royal House of Bavaria has been maintained to this day and there is a memorial in the church to the late Crown Prince Albrecht of Bavaria who died in 1955.
The little church in Warwick Street has now entered a new phase in its life. It started its life as a centre for Catholics who were excluded from public and religious life in in the 18th century. Now it has become the centre for those Anglicans who have responded to the generous call of Pope Benedict XVI to reunite with the Catholic Church, bringing with them an important part of their Anglican patrimony. It is a happy coincidence that Pope Benedict XVI who established the Ordinariate is Bavarian.