Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.
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CHAPTER XXIV - Churches
The narrow boundaries of the area described in this volume have contained very few places of worship and only two Anglican churches. Those two, however, are the works of ecclesiastical architects of the first rank and display severally the force and the refinement of the Victorian Gothic school.
St. Augustine's Church, Queen's Gate
St. Augustine's owes its inception to a group of wealthy High Churchmen, presided over by the Reverend Prebendary W. J. Irons, vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, who in June 1865 offered the Ecclesiastical Commissioners a 'benefaction' of £100 per annum 'towards making better provision for the cure of souls' in a new district to be called St. Augustine's: the curate at Holy Trinity, the Reverend R. R. Chope, was to be the first incumbent. (fn. 3) They were probably hoping to find a site in the vicinity of Hereford Square, where a temporary iron church seating four hundred had already been opened in May, in the garden of Chope's house at the south corner of Gloucester Road and Clareville Street. (fn. 4) The services here were soon to become notorious for their 'high ritualistic tendency': for one writer they were 'the nearest approach to Romanism we have yet witnessed in an Anglican Church . . . if indeed it be not very Popery itself under the thinnest guise of the Protestant name'. (fn. 5)
But the committee's proposals failed to gain the support of the Bishop of London, A. C. Tait, because he had already accepted an offer from the builder C. J. Freake to erect a church and parsonage (later St. Peter's, Cranley Gardens) within the district now envisaged for St. Augustine's. (fn. 3) St. Peter's, which was erected in 1866–7, (fn. 6) was the second church to be built in the vicinity by Freake, the first having been St. Paul's, Onslow Square (1859–60), (fn. 7) where the services were low, while at St. Peter's they were intended to be high—a fact, probably already known to Bishop Tait, which made the projected St. Augustine's all the more superfluous. (fn. 3) There was certainly no lack of church provision in the neighbourhood, for in addition to Freake's two churches there was Holy Trinity itself, and St. Mary's, The Boltons (built 1849–50), while in Gloucester Road St. Stephen's was already in prospect (built 1866–7).
Nevertheless the committee for the building of St. Augustine's deposited a capital sum of £3,000 in the Bank of England for the maintenance of the incumbent, while the Ecclesiastical Commissioners granted a perpetual annuity of £50 for the endowment, and by December 1866 some £2,000 had also been raised for the building of the church. (fn. 3) The committee now consisted of a number of the inhabitants of Queen's Gate and Princes Gate, including J. D. Chambers, Recorder of Salisbury, Edward Charrington, the brewer, and J. G. Hubbard, a Russia merchant and Member of Parliament. The honorary treasurer was J. A. Shaw Stewart, who assisted Gladstone's philanthropic enterprises and played an active part in the foundation of Keble College, Oxford, where he was later to be bursar. (fn. 8) Possibly it was through Shaw Stewart's influence that William Butterfield was subsequently chosen as the architect of the new church. An appeal for more funds was issued, while the immediate acquisition of a site, 'before property has attained its maximum value', became the committee's most urgent task. (fn. 3)
Bishop Tait remained obdurate, however, and in December 1866 he stated categorically that he had no intention of ever consenting to the formation of a district for St. Augustine's which included any of Freake's property in the vicinity of Onslow Gardens. (fn. 3) Undeterred, the committee continued to look for a suitable site, and in June 1867 they found one, acceptable to Tait, on Captain Gunter's lands to the west of Hereford Square. But by August this had been superseded in favour of a plot 'at the end of Prince Albert's Road' (now Queen's Gate). The site was provided at his own expense by Shaw Stewart, who had agreed to buy half an acre of the Mills' Charity Trustees' land here for £3,000. The sale did not take place immediately, probably because Tait objected to the site, which was in the district of St. Paul's, Onslow Square, and it was not until after Tait's elevation to Canterbury early in 1869 that a district for St. Augustine's was agreed with his successor. It consisted of some forty acres, and was formed out of the districts of St. Mary's, The Boltons, and St. Paul's, despite the protests from the vicar of the latter, and from Freake himself, who was both the patron and one of the churchwardens of St. Paul's. The new district was gazetted in July 1869, (fn. 3) and in the following September the site was conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 9)
When purchased the site did not have a road frontage. Queen's Gate at this time terminated just south of the present intersection with Harrington Road and Stanhope Gardens, and until its proposed extension to Old Brompton Road was laid out, access to the site was to be by way of a new road or footway which the Charity trustees undertook to make where Reece Mews is now. For some reason the plot was aligned to this road rather than to Queen's Gate where the principal front was intended (see plan B in end pocket). (fn. 9)
A further appeal for building funds issued not later than July 1868 shows that William Butterfield had already been appointed architect of the new church. (fn. 3) The fund then stood at just over £2,000, a long way short of the sum needed to execute Butterfield's designs, which was later estimated at about £18,000. (fn. 10) St. Augustine's was accordingly erected in two stages, the nave and adjoining aisles being built first. Work began in the summer of 1870 when, it was claimed, £5,000 of the whole cost had yet to be raised. (fn. 11) (When the nave was finished, however, more than half the total cost had still apparently to be found. (fn. 12)) The principal contractor was George Myers and Son: the carver was a Mr. Smith of Clapham, and Messrs. Hart, Peard and Son made the ornamental wrought ironwork. (fn. 13) By November 1871 the nave was 'ready for service'. (fn. 14) A few years later work started on the chancel and east end, the contractor for this part being Joseph Norris of Sunningdale, and the first service was held there on 26 May 1876. (fn. 15) The church was not consecrated until 20 December 1886, when its internal embellishment had been largely completed. (fn. 3) It seated 853 worshippers.
The vicarage (No. 117 Queen's Gate), which stands behind the church, was also designed by Butterfield, and built by Norris in 1881. (fn. 16)
R. R. Chope, the first incumbent of St. Augustine's, held the living until his resignation in 1916, aged eighty-six. By this time the congregation was 'very attenuated' and the general condition of the church and parish (the population of which was even now only 3,200) in some disarray, further aggravated by acute shortage of money. In 1917 urgent repairs were made to the fabric of the church, and again in 1920 after falls of plaster from the ceiling, much of this work being supervised by Sir Charles Nicholson. (fn. 3) Further repairs were carried out in 1954–5 after the organ had been entirely destroyed by fire. (fn. 17)
The church consists of a five-bay clerestoried nave with lean-to aisles (the westernmost bay being narrower than the others), and a two-bay chancel with one-bay aisles. It is built of bands of red Suffolk and stock bricks and Bath stone, with blue Staffordshire bricks and panels of buff-coloured Pether's patent moulded bricks used for decoration (Plate 115b). (fn. 13)
Two striking aspects of the exterior are the contrast in colour and texture between the church and the adjacent houses, and the oblique alignment breaking the continuity of the Queen's Gate frontage (Plates 115a, 118b). Although the first may have been intentional on Butterfield's part, the houses were built later than the church, which stood isolated for some years (see Plate 77b). The second aspect is largely determined by the dependence of the site on the line of Reece Mews at the back, and the narrowness of the site that permitted no adjustment of the church within it. Butterfield was involved with the project from an early date but the siting (unless he was consulted about it) presumably confronted him with an awkwardness that he may indeed have relished and took no steps to alleviate.
For the rectangular west front (Plate 115), which Charles Eastlake thought 'very peculiar', (fn. 18) Butterfield's inspiration seems to have been the great brick churches of northern Germany, and in particular the Klosterkirche at Chorin. (fn. 19) But the large gabled bellcote with its two bells, is derived from medieval examples at Villefranche and other churches in the vicinity of Toulouse. (fn. 20) Four prominent gargoyles originally placed at the corners of the bellcote and two more lower down on the front have been removed.
The interior has suffered badly from changes due to the vicissitudes of taste and almost all of Butterfield's colour scheme is now obliterated by whitewashing (Plate 116b). (fn. 1) One result, perhaps, has been to emphasize the proportions of the church which is wide and high, but not particularly long. In the nave stout columns of alternate layers of red Mansfield and Bath stone (now painted white) support bold but simply modelled arcades. The spandrels are filled with large cusped quatrefoils containing tile pictures (also painted white), and over the arches between the quatrefoils are diaper panels of Pether's bricks. Above the nave arcading a stone cornice marks the beginning of the clerestory where the four full bays are each pierced by coupled lights with cusped heads and a quatrefoil light over. The narrow west bay has no clerestory light. The original open-trussed rafter roof in the nave was boarded-in after the fall of plaster in 1920. (fn. 3)
At the west end the large central door, divided by a trumeau, is flanked by two recessed panels containing glazed tile pictures of the 'Last Supper' and 'Christ cleansing the Temple', probably designed by Butterfield and put up in c. 1890. Above is a shallow gallery carried on four large stone brackets. The tall west windows consist of a central two-light opening surmounted by a quatrefoil flanked by single lights.
Along the aisle walls, which are unfenestrated except at the west end, there are wide shallow niches, containing more of Butterfield's glazed tile pictures, constructed in c. 1890. The pictures were called 'frightful' in 1920, (fn. 22) and were later boarded-up, but are now being uncovered.
The low chancel arch supports a considerable expanse of wall pierced by two pairs of traceried openings on either side of a marble cross, through which the chancel ceiling is visible from the nave. This unusual feature is made possible by the fact that the nave and chancel roof are at the same level. The latter has a ribbed ceiling enriched at the east end. An elaborate metal chancel-screen designed by Butterfield was erected in front of the arch in c. 1886 (Plate 116a) but removed in 1928. (fn. 23) At the same time much of Butterfield's work in the chancel, including his reredos of inlaid marble and alabaster, was covered over to accommodate the present large reredos, designed by Martin Travers in an inappropriate Baroque style (Plate 116b). (fn. 24)
Apart from the fittings already mentioned Butterfield designed the font, the pulpit, the lectern, the original stained glass and the clock (now in the west gallery). (fn. 25) The glass was made by Alexander Gibbs, that of the chancel dating from 1876 and the remainder from 1880–6. (fn. 26) Some still survives in the chancel clerestory. The stained glass in the west windows was designed by Martin Travers and made by Laurence Lee in c. 1928. (fn. 27) The font is made of various marbles with inlays and consists of a bowl carried on a central column with eight peripheral colonnettes. Its wooden cover is surmounted by a carving of the Pelican in Piety (Plate 116c). The alabaster pulpit, donated by the parishioners in 1876, was originally placed beside the chancel arch, but is now attached to a column one bay to the west. (fn. 28) It has open traceried sides except under the preacher's desk where a vesica-shaped panel contains a crucifixus surmounted by an angel. The tester is an addition.
Under the chancel is a basement-room, approached from the north aisle, where the richly coloured vaulted brickwork, carried on one central column, gives a hint of the original appearance of the church itself.
Holy Trinity Church, Prince Consort Road
In the 1890's blocks of expensive flats were rising in the northern part of the area described in this volume, and at that time more seemed likely to be built on vacant sites in Prince Consort Road. In 1899, therefore, it was decided to establish a new church in that road to replace Holy Trinity, Knightsbridge, and to be financed in part by the sale of the site of that church. (fn. 29) The vicar of Holy Trinity, Knightsbridge, H. B. Coward, was active in getting the new church built and became its first vicar. There was some opposition—the authorities of Holy Trinity, Brompton, for example, thought that 'the small, well-to-do population near the Albert Hall' did not need a church of its own—and Coward was disappointed with the contributions from 'the millionaires in the district, of whom there are many'. (fn. 30) But although the slow accumulation of funds retarded the work it was not allowed to lessen significantly the richness and refinement of the architect's aspiration. He was G. F. Bodley (1827–1907), whose last major work in London this was (Plate 117; fig. 100).
The site extends north to south and therefore required that the church should not be conventionally oriented. Containing just over 12,000 square feet, the site was bought from the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for £6,000 in August 1901, (fn. 30) and in the same year Bodley exhibited at the Royal Academy his preliminary design, which was published as 'an important church' in The Building News. (fn. 31) The foundation stone was laid in December. (fn. 32)
The population of the proposed parish was thought to be about 2,500, (fn. 30) but Coward anticipated a population of some four or five thousand 'when all the existing flats and dwelling houses are occupied, and all the vacant land built over', and the church was designed to hold about 800 worshippers. The church as built differs a little from the original design, particularly in the omission of a chancel screen, but conforms generally to the announcement made in 1901 that 'the character will be that of a town Church in the style and manner of the 14th century. It will be strictly English in conception and in detail, treated in a broad and somewhat original manner ... The edifice will be an example of our beautiful English Gothic architecture when it was at its best.' (fn. 33) The whole site was to be built over, and the windowless 'south' wall that resulted makes the interior even more like that of a 'town' rather than a suburban church. (fn. 2)
The nave, chancel and 'south' aisle were built first, by Stephens, Bastow and Company of Bristol, and this part of the contract amounted to some £20,100. (fn. 32) The fabric was sufficiently complete for consecration in October 1903. (fn. 30) A consolidated chapelry was assigned to the church in January 1904. (fn. 34)
The two 'north' aisles, including a side chapel, were built by William Saint and Company of Cambridge at a contract price of £5,500, and were consecrated in October 1906. (fn. 32)
The structural fabric, all faced externally in Bath-stone ashlar, was complete, together with some fittings, by the time of Bodley's death in October 1907. The total cost to that date had been some £35,200. (fn. 32) Despite the fact that Coward could report to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that his parish contained 'no poor' (fn. 30) it had required some effort to maintain the cashflow: in fact, the organ-builder told him 'your fine church is a standing monument to your genius for finance'. (fn. 35)
The furniture and fittings were incomplete. Bodley's altar, pulpit and chancel stalls were in place, made by Rattee and Kett of Cambridge, (fn. 36) but the great reredos of Bodley's designing remained to be provided in 1911–12 (at a cost of some £1,100) as a memorial to him (Plate 117b). (fn. 37) The organ case, to house the instrument recently built by Brindley and Foster and enlarged by them on its removal from the Knightsbridge church, (fn. 38) was made by Rattee and Kett in 1908–11. The design is said to have been by Bodley's former assistant, Cecil Hare, who carried on the work in the church after Bodley's death, and to have been approved by Bodley: but a design by the latter was in existence, (fn. 32) and was presumably in essentials that executed. (The organ was rebuilt by Rushworth and Dreaper of Liverpool in 1958–9.) The chancel panelling was erected in 1908–14, that on the 'north' side at least, with the bishop's throne, being (like the organ screen of 1911) designed by Hare and made by Rattee and Kett. (fn. 39) The parclose screen was erected in 1911–12.
The three stone angels on the piers of the inner 'north' aisle were carved (for some £95) by Farmer and Brindley in 1906. (fn. 40) The painting over the 'east' window was executed, like the ceilings of the vestry, sacristy and parish hall, by F. A. Jackson of Ealing to Hare's design. (fn. 41) Bodley left a design for this window, (fn. 32) which was made in 1909 by Burlison and Grylls for £880, and presumably this was used, although Hare was paid for the design. (fn. 42) The 'east' window of the Lady Chapel was installed by Burlison and Grylls, to Bodley's design, in 1907. (fn. 43) The 'west' window was installed as a war memorial in 1925 by the same firm to Harry Grylls's design. (fn. 44)
Designed in the Gothic style of the fourteenth century, the church consists of a five-bay nave and lean-to aisles, with an extra four-bay aisle on the liturgical north side; a chancel, the choir of which occupies the 'easternmost' bay of the nave; and a Lady Chapel to the 'north' of the chancel, situated in the 'eastern' bay of the lean-to aisle.
The tall, gabled 'west' front is divided into four distinct elements (Plate 117a). The first of these is the dominant wall of the nave, pierced by a small doorway over which is a huge traceried window flanked by two pairs of superimposed niches of predominantly Flemish style, and crowned by a gabled double bellcote. The second and third are the two 'west' walls of the aisles, marked off from the nave by tall gabled buttresses, and pierced by small doorways above which are traceried windows. Over each of the doors is a small niche. The fourth element is the 'west' wall of the extra 'north' aisle: its traceried window is placed low to light the font. The wall on the 'north' side of the church is divided into bays by gabled buttresses, is pierced by large traceried windows, and is crowned with a battlemented parapet.
The exterior is a preparation for the arrangement of the interior, but hardly for the richness and architectural quality of this beautiful church (Plate 117d). The very refined stone arcades, consisting of tall, slender columns, quatrefoil on plan, support pointed arches carrying the nave roof. The latter has a pointed barrel-vault that continues uninterruptedly over the chancel. The moulded ribs are coloured crimson, with black and yellow decorations, while the panels are painted cream, enriched with repetitive stylized motifs in crimson. The opening words of the Te Deum are inscribed in black and crimson Gothic lettering immediately above the springing of the wooden vault over the sanctuary and choir.
The chancel itself is illuminated by a tall, finely proportioned 'east' window with curvilinear tracery filled with exquisite glass, and by windows on either side, piercing the 'north' and 'south' walls of the sanctuary. On each side of the 'east' window are two crocketed niches containing statues of saints.
The climax of the church is undoubtedly the altar and reredos (Plate 117b). The frontal is decorated with five panels surrounded by both naturalistic and stylized foliage containing representations of the four Evangelists on either side of a central panel depicting the displayed Crown of Thorns surmounted by a crown. The reredos is exceptionally ornate, and is mostly gilded, with green, blue, and red colouring. The centre panel contains a Crucifixion of moving intensity set between figures of Our Blessed Lady and St. John the Evangelist. The lower panels depict the Nativity and the Annunciation, sensitively carved. The lower panels of the folding doors of the reredos contain angels in low relief, those on the upper panels being the guardian angels of the four Kingdoms of Britain and those of the lower bearing musical instruments.
The parclose screen dividing the Lady Chapel from the choir, the choir stalls, and the screen under the organ-loft in the 'easternmost' bay of the 'south' aisle, are all of carved oak, in the late fourteenth-century Gothic manner. The organ-case itself owes much to Dutch Renaissance examples, with sparing Gothic detail. The panelling of the organ-loft is of the linenfold type, and here the emphasis of style tends towards the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, so giving the interior in some measure the appearance of accretion over a long period.
The Lady Chapel is illuminated by finely traceried 'east' and 'north' windows filled with elegant stained glass. The reredos is not nearly so successful as that behind the High Altar, the detail being somewhat unsubtle and flat.
A constructional feature of this church that is worth noting is the series of stone arches used as abutments above the lean-to aisles. These help to support the nave walls over the very high and slender arcades. Even deeper abutments are provided at each bay over the outer 'north' aisle. The latter has traceried windows at high level, set above six blind panels with cusped heads. Each window consists of six lights set under curvilinear tracery. The 'south' aisle has blind walls relieved by wide arches, one to each bay. Evidently further structural precautions were necessary over the nave, for metal tie-bars are provided above the arcading.
The arches of the nave end in thick piers abutting against the 'west' wall, and flanking the door and window. The latter contains stained glass commemorating the fallen of the war of 1914–18. On either side of this window are single niches set over a stringcourse above the door.
There are doors to each lean-to aisle, and the 'west' ends of the aisles are pierced by traceried lights. The roof of the outer 'north' aisle is flat and panelled, painted in dark colours, with gilding. The roofs of the lean-to aisles are painted crimson, with yellow and black arrowheads on the rafters, and texts emblazoned at wall-plate level, influenced no doubt by the colouring of St. Jacques at Liège.
Set under the 'east' window on the wall of the outer 'north' aisle is a curious and highly successful monument to Bodley designed in 1910 by his pupil E. P. Warren in the Jacobean manner. Made by L. A. Turner, of alabaster and red and black marble, it is basically an aediculated niche, containing a bust of Bodley in academic robes by T. Murphy, junior. It must be regarded as a major Edwardian work in the genre of Jacobean pastiche. (The cost was some £265.) (fn. 45)
Among other fittings, the magnificent brass chandeliers in the chancel must be mentioned. The pulpit of 1904 contains representations of the four Doctors of the Latin Church within its panels. The font, by Bodley, is of stone, with a wooden cover of 1962 designed by John Haywood.
The Hyde Park Chapel of the Mormon Church, Exhibition Road
This church, built of reinforced concrete with Portland stone facing, was designed by T. P. Bennett and Son and dedicated in 1961. It occupies the site of the former Nos. 64–68 Princes Gate. The general contractors were McLaughlin and Harvey. The main body of the building is four storeys high with a six-storey tower at its north end. A thin spire rises from the west face of the tower. Beneath this spire is a stained glass window designed by Pierre Fourmaintraux and made in the Whitefriars Studio. At the time of the opening the supervising architect of the building committee in Salt Lake City attributed the use of a 'contemporary' design here and in other recent Mormon churches to 'spiralling construction costs'. The total cost, including land and furnishings, was £330,000. (fn. 46)
The use of modern materials and techniques is also evident in the interior, where many varied functions are ingeniously provided for in the planning. The ground floor, which is of doublestorey height, consists principally of the chapel and a 'cultural' or 'recreation' hall, divided by folding partitions. At mezzanine level is a 'cry gallery' for children, and in the upper storeys are accommodated a children's chapel, a boy scouts' meeting-room and some eighteen classrooms.