Inventory Site Record

St Raphael's Church Garden (Kingston)

Brief Description

St Raphael's Church was built in 1846-48, designed in Italianate style by Charles Parker, and was the first Catholic church in Kingston since the Reformation. Largely as a result of this the Catholic community expanded in the area. St Raphael was founded by Alexander Raphael of Surbiton Place, on whose estate it was built. Raphael initially delayed the consecration of the church until 1850, having had a premonition that he would die soon after, and he indeed died later that year. The church faces Queen's Promenade and the river and an old postcode shows the church with has a garden to the front and sides, with some mature trees, grass and perimeter beds.

Practical Information
Site location:
Portsmouth Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Kingston. Bus:
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.straphael.org.uk

Full Site Description

Alexander Raphael (1775-1850) was a Catholic Armenian whose family were from India. He held a number of significant positions in both religious and secular life, including Bailiff of Kingston Court of Assembly in 1831, Coroner in 1832, the first Catholic Sheriff of London in 1834-5, the first Roman Catholic to hold the post since the Reformation, and in 1847 he became MP for St Albans. Around this time, Alexander Raphael acquired the Surbiton Park Estate from former Lord Mayor John Garratt. The mansion had been built in the mid C18th for William Roffee, a wealthy distiller, and was known at different times as Surbiton Place, Surbiton House and Surbiton Hall. When Roffee died, the estate was bought by Thomas Fassett, who extended both the house and grounds, which he later sold to Henry Paget, who became Earl of Uxbridge. It was inherited in 1812 by his son, also Henry Paget, who became the Earl of Uxbridge. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Waterloo, then becoming the first Marquess of Anglesey. After his mother died in 1817, Anglesey sold the house to John Garratt. It was in the parkland surrounding the house that Alexander Raphael eventually built St Raphael's Church.

It is said that in the mid 1840s, during a serious illness, Alexander Raphael made a vow to Our Lady that if he recovered he would build a church. He did recover and the story goes that he refused to pay his doctor on the grounds that his recovery was due to Our Lady and not to his physician. True to his word, he built the church. There is a further story that Alexander had a dream that when the church was finished he would die; he therefore delayed the opening as long as possible. Catholic newspaper, The Tablet, commented: ‘the admirable church and adjoining house were left uninhabited with paper falling off the walls and other signs of decay visible’. It appears he cancelled several appointments with Dr Wiseman, the then Vicar Apostolic (later Cardinal Wiseman), to come and bless the church. However, in 1850 it seems he overlooked an appointment and the bishop arrived with his secretary and chaplain to find the church locked and Alexander away. We are told that the frustrated bishop obtained the keys from the butler at the house and proceeded to bless the church with just his secretary and chaplain in attendance. Alexander returned home and was furious. He died shortly afterwards on 17 November 1850, aged 75 and was buried in the family vault beneath the high altar, where other members of the Raphael and Savile families were later laid to rest. Following Alexander’s death, the estate passed to his nephew Edward who, in accordance with Alexander’s wishes, undertook substantial restorations and opened the church to the public as the first Catholic place of worship in Kingston since the Reformation. Following Edward’s death in 1889, the estate passed to his sister Anne Raphael, who died in October of the same year, and then to her sister Agnes. Through Agnes’s marriage to the Earl of Mexborough, the church passed into the hands of the Savile family, who continued to live at Ditton Lodge; both the fourth and the sixth earls are interred in the church crypt. The estate later passed to Captain the Hon. George Savile, brother of the 6th Earl of Mexborough, who is commemorated on a memorial in the form of a mosaic of the Nativity, and is credited with paying for the high altar in Westminster Cathedral, a 12-ton block of Cornish granite. Following WWII, the Catholic Diocese of Southwark purchased the church from the Mexborough family for the sum of £1000.

In addition to the church Alexander Raphael had also commissioned a school for deprived children, which was originally known as the Small Hall. In 2003 this was renamed Alexander House and an expanded building was completed in 2010, linked by a cloister to the church. It was formally opened on 27 May 2011 by Bishop Paul Hendricks, as the new parish centre. The church was also extensively restored when the new hall and presbytery were added in c.2011/2012. The new building won a Tony Leitch Townscape Award from Kingston upon Thames Society.

An early postcode shows the church with trees and planting in the surrounding garden. By c.2021 part of the garden area has been paved over to provide car parking.

Sources consulted:

Shaan Butters 'The Book of Kingston', Baron, 1995; B Cherry and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1983; Edward Walford 'Village London, The Story of Greater London Part 4: South West', first published 1883/4 and reprinted in 1983 by The Alderman Press; https://straphaelsurbiton.org.uk/about/history/

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ178683 (517890,168357)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Site management:
Listed structures:
LBII*: St Raphael's Church
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Policy Area; Area of Special Character; Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:

Click a photo to enlarge.

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