History of Our Ladye Star of the Sea

Views: Our Ladye Star of the Sea by Luke O'Rafferty

In 1793 the Roman Catholic chapel of St. Mary was built at Park Vista, Greenwich. It catered mainly for Catholic seamen at the nearby Royal Hospital. Irish-born seamen at the Hospital formed most of the congregation, though Portuguese-speaking seamen from the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, India and Portugal often came to services here. The building of our present church, Our Ladye Star of the Sea begun in 1846 and was completed in 1851. It was designed by William Wardell and has furnishings by Pugin, including the stained glass window and the tomb chest of Canon Richard North. It is surmounted by a tower completed by an ornate spire which in turn is complemented by the pinnacle spire of the adjacent stair turret.

Read more about Our Ladye Star of the Sea on VictorianWeb: exterior, fittings, stained glass windows and tomb chest of Canon Richard North.

For more information about Our Ladye Star of the Sea, please read our visitor guide.

I have found that which I sought

“Inveni Quod Quaesivi” translates as “I have found that which I sought”. This is the motto adopted by the young architect and, engineer, William Wilkinson Wardell, at the time of his reception into the Catholic Church, in London, in 1844.

Wardell was a pupil and admirer of Augustus Welby Pugin, the most prominent architect of the Gothic Revival movement. Wardell felt strongly that that Gothic architecture, as symbolized by the great medieval cathedrals of England, was the only form of architecture worthy of God and fostered a spirituality that made it easier to communicate with God.

While Catholics were not actively persecuted in Britain at the time, there was still open discrimination against the faith.

Architecture as a means of praising God

Wardell’s conversion to the Roman Catholic faith was the result of a period of deep internal reflection. For the remainder of his life he saw architecture as a means of praising God. He always had a room in his home set aside as a chapel for personal devotion which he visited several times during the course of a day. Dominating this room was an ancient carved wooden French cross. He frequently prayed for help and guidance when working on plans of church buildings.

By the time of his marriage aged 24, Wardlle was becoming recognised as an able architect. Between 1846 and 1858 he designed over 30 churches in England, at the rate of over two a year. This was a period not only of church restoration but also building of many new Roman Catholic Churches. Wardell’s work wasn’t just limited to England though. He was commissioned to build a church for the growing Roman Catholic community of Galashiels in Scotland.  Our Lady & Saint Andrew’s is still in use as the Parish Church to this day.

St Patrickss Melbourne

St Patricks Melbourne

By 1858, aged 35, Wardell was in poor health, and felt that the warmer climate of Australia would be more beneficial to his health. After emigrating with his family Wardell obtained the position of “Government Architect” to the city of Melbourne. He designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne and went on to design the second St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney in a similar style, even larger than St Patrick’s, but with a completely English square East End.

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