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The Building

One thing everybody notices - we have an amazing building!
About the church building....

The "New Churches" for London
The inspirational and forward-thinking Bishop of London, Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram (pictured, right, in a Vanity Fair "Spy" print of 1901), had a vision for expanding the Church of England in London to make provision for the spiritual needs of the suburbs. This was a new concept, but one which he saw coming - during his episcopate (1901-1939) he planned to 'plant' forty new churches around the outskirts of London, in what were to become the great suburban districts of the capital. Forty mission huts were built, and forty priests appointed - they were given the new title and status of "London Diocesan Home Missionary" (LDHM) and were known locally as "The Missioner". These forty mission huts attracted congregations, who raised funds, and eventually forty new church buildings rose up with forty new church congregations. St Gabriel's, North Acton, is one of Bishop Winnington-Ingram's "new churches". The mission was launched in 1923, church construction took place in 1930 and 1931, and the church was opened and consecrated on 18th July 1931.

Ernest Shearman, architect
St Gabriel's Church is one of the six London masterpieces of architecture designed and built by the architect Ernest Charles Shearman. Sadly, one of his six London churches was destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War, but the other five remain in use. All are broadly similar in style, though different in detail. Shearman built large and lofty churches, with high ceilings, and sweeping gothic arches and arcades of red brick.

One of his signatures was the elaborate rose window - always with plain glass, as the detail was in the tracery of the stonework. Each of his London churches had a rose window, except St Silas, Kentish Town, which had a half-rose. St Gabriel's was designed with two rose windows. Sadly, only one was built (on the south transept, at high level - see photograph). The transepts (north and south) give the church a traditional cruciform look from the air, but are in fact false-transepts; inside the church they exist only at high level - where they would make splendid meeting rooms, but alas there is no staircase to either, rendering them redundant space.

Unfinished design
The other rose window was to have been massive, and in the west wall, which remains unfinished. There are other unfinished parts of St Gabriel's. The tower to the east of the transept in the photograph (left) should have been topped with a spire, as should the matching tower on the other side of the building. A planned ambulatory around the eastern apse was also never built. Only one side chapel was provided - Shearman usually provided two or three side chapels in his church designs. Most significantly, the parish halls and offices planned for the north side of the church were never built - the church still owns the land beside the church building where these facilities should have been constructed, and we hope that one day the funding will be available to provide them.

Using the building today
Today the nave of St Gabriel's is used for Sunday worship, with a nave altar, although increasingly we make use of the high altar for festivals. The chancel and sanctuary are maintained in good order, and the high altar is used regularly for benediction, as well as festival masses. The chancel is wide and spacious, and dominated by the very large high altar, and three hanging red sanctuary lamps. The nave is also used for social activities and for community functions, such as the Noel Road Toddler Group. It may be hired for concerts and other meetings. There is a large gallery at the west end, which is currently out of use. There is also a large western narthex which serves as more than just an entrance hall. Being the size of a large room in a domestic dwelling, it now doubles up as a Junior Church area for children on Sundays.
Looking around the chapels....

The Chapel of St Mary (Lady Chapel)
The beautiful Lady Chapel (Chapel of Our Lady - St Mary) is used regularly. Much of our mid-week worship takes place in this chapel. The chapel has a neatly carved wooden altar, above which Shearman provided an aumbry for the reservation of the blessed sacrament. The aumbry is still in place, but is now redundant owing to the installation of a tabernacle above it. The former wooden reredos has been moved from this altar to the church's shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and its place is now taken by a magnificent modern work of art - a painting of the Annunciation by John Pelling (see details at art and devotion for more information). This chapel is also home to a large statue of St Anne (the mother of the Virgin Mary). Beautifully carpeted, and with comfortable seating, this chapel is a haven of peace, and we encourage visitors to use it as such. Even on a Sunday morning the Lady Chapel is reserved as a place of quiet for private prayer, before, during, and after the main services.

The Chapel of St Francis (of Assisi)
On the south side of the nave, 
and featuring the second-largest window in the entire church (second only to the great rose window) is the Chapel of St Francis of Assisi. The extraordinary Francis, a deacon and a friar, founder of the Franciscan movement, had a huge love of nature. He regarded all animals, plants, and everything else in creation as his brothers and sisters. He engaged with the "green agenda" centuries before it was a political issue, and urged Christians to practice careful stewardship of God's creation. The Chapel of St Francis, which includes a two-foot tall statue of the saint, is a spiritual focus for us not only in devotion, but also in terms of our determination (as a church family) to engage with environmental issues, and to discover ways of reducing our carbon footprint, in support of the Church of England's national campaign, "Shrinking the Footprint". As part of the London Diocese we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint. The Chapel is used for private prayer, and for the celebration of mass on weekdays, including St Francis' Day (4 October) each year.

The Chapel of St Michael and All Angels
On the north side of the nave sits the Chapel of St
Michael and All Angels. This little chapel is a focus for private prayer, and a place where many visitors to our building choose to pray and light a candle. The attractive altar (made of wood, with an inset altar stone) is dedicated to the great Archangel Michael and all the heavenly host. A large statue of our patron, the Archangel Gabriel, stands in this chapel, and is much loved by our congregation. Weekday masses are sometimes said in this little chapel, where there is also a particular focus of prayer for prisoners, and for all in the criminal justice system.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
There is an active Walsingham Cell in our church, and the Walsingham Shrine is a focus of prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham. There is a lovely statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, donated by a former church member who died in 2010. Our parish engages in regular pilgrimage to Walsingham, both privately, and on corporate pilgrimage days. There is a small altar, and mass is very occasionally offered here.