Church building work starts

24 May

Work commenced and the first payment to the builders Myers and Wilson made. The contract for the building (not including the steeple, sanctuary and side chapels at this stage) was £4,033.

Church foundation stone

Wednesday 26 October

The foundation stone was laid at twelve o’clock.

As reported in The Tablet, "Around 1500 respectable persons assembled on the piece of ground where the church is to be built. A large wooden cross was erected on the spot where the altar is to be placed. A temporary out-building was employed as a Sacristy, where the Right Rev. Dr Griffiths, Bishop of the London District and the Right Rev. Dr Morris, Bishop of the Mauritius, were robed in due form. The ceremony commenced by blessing alternately salt and water. Next the stone itself was sprinkled with holy water, and with the trowel marked it in various places with the sign of the cross. The Bishop placed the stone in its destined position, striking it three times with a silver trowel. Dr Griffiths imparted a solemn benediction to all present. The sermon, by Dr Morris, was delivered shortly after the ceremonies had begun. A great number of Catholic soldiers were present, for whose accommodation the new church is to be principally erected, as the present one is far too small. Some agents of the Exeter Hall clique were busily employed during a part of the day in distributing 'Anti-Popish' tracts about the town."

This was the first time in London, since the Reformation, that the ceremony of laying a Catholic church foundation stone was performed openly. Just a year earlier, the foundation stone for Pugin’s St George’s Southwark was laid at 7 am, in virtual secrecy, since a Protestant backlash was feared. The knowledge that there would be a large number of Irish soldiers attending the ceremony at Woolwich probably gave Father Coles the confidence to proceed in full public view.