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St Joseph's Church and Retreat Gardens Islington


The Roman Catholic church of St Joseph was established at Highgate in 1858, the current church replacing the first church of 1859-61, to which St Joseph's Retreat was added in 1874-5 for the Fathers of the church. Terraced gardens were laid out below the Retreat, overlooked by the tall statue of St Joseph. The garden contains notable horse chestnut, oak and plane trees and remnants of terraces and steps.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
St Joseph's Retreat

Site location:
Dartmouth Park Hill/Highgate Hill

N19 5NE ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Private Garden



Listed structures:
LBII*: St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. LBII: St Joseph's Retreat


Site ownership:
Diocese of Westminster

Site management:
St Joseph's Retreat

Open to public?

Opening times:
Has opened for London Open House

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Rail: Upper Holloway. Tube: Archway (Northern) then bus. Bus:143, 210, 271, W5

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2008
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

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:

Conservation Area name:
Highgate Hill & Hornsey Lane

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:
Shopping Policy Area. Local Landmark

Fuller information

The parish of St Joseph was established in 1858 by the Roman Catholic Passionist Congregation, a monastic community. The original church of 1859-62 by E W Pugin was replaced by the current church of 1888/89, which was designed by architect Albert Vicars in a mixture of Romanesque and Byzantine styles. The Italianate interior has a fine baldachino over a high altar of Sicilian marble, with a vaulted ceiling of 250 hand-painted panels by Nathaniel Westlake. Its green-patinated copper dome is a landmark for miles around, 130 feet above the cross on the dome of St Paul's Cathedral (q.v.). South of the church is St Joseph's Retreat, built for the Fathers of the church in 1874-5, and resembling 'a rustic Italian villa' according to Nikolaus Pevsner. With panoramic views over London, below this are the remains of terraced gardens of the Retreat, raised above street level on the east and west sides. The OS Map of 1870-73 shows a formal layout of paths down the hill leading to St Joseph's RC Primary School, with a central avenue of trees. Although there are remnants of stone terraces and steps, the grounds were reduced by expansion of the school buildings in the latter C20th. The garden is overlooked from the top terrace by the large statue of St Joseph, which was erected in 1861, facing towards the south-east. There was an old burial ground on the site, and when this was built over the remains transferred to Islington Cemetery (q.v.).

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998), p661/2

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