Survey of London: Volume 41, Brompton. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1983.
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CHAPTER IV - The London Oratory of St. Philip Neri and the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
At the opening of the great church in 1884 The Tablet commented that it would ‘bring home vividly to many that thought can find expression in other forms than words’, (fn. 1) and it is easy to feel that the building does indeed assert the ultramontane trend of thought in Victorian Roman Catholicism—especially, perhaps, that of Catholics not born into the Church. In its demonstration of the Romanizing tendency of converts the late-Victorian Congregation of the London Oratory conformed to its origins, when in 1848 the community established by Newman at Maryvale near Birmingham was joined by another society of recent converts under Frederick Faber. The following year Faber led a Congregation of Oratorians to London, where they established a house and church in King William Street, Strand. A year later, with the Catholic Hierarchy newly restored in Britain, the Oratorians aspired to ‘a good, large and stately church’, of Italianate style, in a better position. A committee of rich Catholic laymen under Lord Arundel (later the fourteenth Duke of Norfolk) looked for a site. By 1852 the aim had declined from St. James's to Pimlico or Argyll House east of Regent Street. (fn. 2) Then in the late summer the Fathers of the Oratory suddenly settled on a site at Brompton, although its comparative remoteness rather went against the tradition of urban evangelism of the Congregations of St. Philip Neri. (fn. 3) Newman, who had advocated a grand and central metropolitan position, was not impressed by Faber's apologia for Brompton as ‘the Madeira of London’, and thought the site ‘essentially in a suburb… a neighbourhood of second-rate gentry and second-rate shops’. (fn. 4) One of the Fathers wrote jestingly (to his mother) that they would be ‘far enough from Chelsea chapel [St. Mary's, then on the site of the present No. 105 Cadogan Gardens] to seem not to interfere with it, and just near enough to draw away the rich part of its congregation’, but the avoidance of proximity to other Catholic chapels was in fact a motive for going to the suburbs. (fn. 5)
The site of three and a half acres had, as copyhold of the manor of Earl's Court, been sold in 1768 by the Reverend John Erskine and his wife Mary (see page 40). The purchaser was David Barclay, an insurance broker, on whose death two years later the land passed to a nephew, Alexander Barclay, wax-chandler. It accommodated a house and wax-bleacher's establishment when the Barclays sold it in 1819 for £4,000 to Robert Pollard, who set up a boys’ boarding school there, known as Blemell House. (fn. 6) He promptly extended the buildings greatly, (fn. 7) as can be discerned on Plate 11c. Enfranchised in 1830, (fn. 6) the site was sold by Pollard to the Congregation of the Oratory in November 1852 for £16,000. (fn. n1) This was through the agency of George Godwin, architect and editor of The Builder, who later said the price was calculated to give the same return in interest as the site's anticipated yield as building land, and thought it a notable instance of Brompton's rising land values at that time. The recipients in trust for the Congregation were Mrs. Bowden, a widow and benefactress, and the architect J. J. Scoles, a Catholic by birth. (fn. 9)
The southernmost part of the site was soon being sold for £2,000 to the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851. (The sale was concluded in January 1854.) They had great plans for their own land immediately to the west, and threw the ground into Brompton Lane (now Thurloe Place) to widen the approach to the projected Cromwell Road. (fn. 10)
An attempt early in 1853 by the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, to prevent the establishment of a Catholic community so close to his church was unsuccessful, (fn. 11) and during that year an Oratory House with its own chapel and library was built for the Congregation, together with a temporary public church that nevertheless survived in use until 1880 (Plate 33a, 33b). (fn. 12)
Possibly influenced by the hostility felt from Holy Trinity, Brompton, on the east, the first intention was to place the public church on the west side of the Oratory House, with the private chapel of the Congregation on the east. Then, by April 1853, it was decided to transfer the latter to the west wing of the house and make it serve also as a public church, pending the erection of a larger place of worship on the eastern part of the site. (fn. 13) By July or August, however, this idea was in turn modified to allow the building of a temporary public church on the eastern part, within the future site of the nave of the great church. (fn. 14)
The designer of the Oratory House, as of the temporary church, was J. J. Scoles. Like the Oratorians’ residence at Birmingham and the London Congregation's country villa at Sydenham, the Oratory House is in a very restrained Italianate (a ‘giant haystack petrified’, according to one contemporary versifier (fn. 15) ). The pedimented south face of the western range was meant to be finished with statues of saints that were never added, and neither were the papal arms in the tympanum, where the stone still awaits carving. (fn. 16) Preparations for ashlaring the east front are also apparent. This range (paid for by the fourteenth Duke of Norfolk (fn. 17) ) contains the Congregation's chapel, known as the Little Oratory, and above it the library—both of them (especially the chapel) elaborated subsequently. Within the residential part of the house the well-proportioned refectory is notable, and so are the long high corridors, which were, as a periodical said, ‘well adapted for exercise in wet weather’. (fn. 18) (fn. n2)
The contractor was William Jackson of Pimlico, a native of Ireland and a Catholic. He had speculative interests nearby as a house-builder, and was said in the Illustrated London News to have himself provided half the purchase-money given to the Fathers for the land to widen Brompton Lane and afford improved access to the new developments by him and others westward. (fn. 19) One of the Fathers wrote (to Lady Arundel) that the house was ‘not to be run up by contract [evidently meaning, rather, competitive tendering] in the usual way of houses that are to stand only 99 years while the lease lasts’ but at Jackson's ‘fair estimate of what it will cost to build it really well and substantially’. (fn. 20) Nevertheless the contract seems to have been let by Jackson to another builder, Charles Delay, and the plastering, for example, further subcontracted. (fn. 21) And however well the work was done, it was not completed without alarms at Jackson's own finances. These fluctuated during a chequered career, so that early in 1854 they brought him, ‘highly excited and very much out of temper’, near to bankruptcy. (fn. 22) (Jackson's trouble was probably caused by the delay of the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851 in concluding their purchase of his leasehold interest in Lord Harrington's estate west of the Oratorians' land. (fn. 23) ) The contract for the house had, it seems, been made at about £18,020. (fn. 24) Eventually the total cost, including furnishings and fittings, was £29,316. (fn. 25)
The Oratory House would in any event have absorbed most of the money available for building, agreeable to Newman's advice that it would subsequently be easier to collect money for a church than a residence. (fn. 26) Jackson's contract for the church was evidently made at only £3,500, (fn. 27) the final cost, with furnishings and fittings, being £5,549. (fn. 28) Long, low, and narrow, of the plainest brick externally, the church was given an acceptable interior by Scoles, with a thirty-foot-deep sanctuary and an open wooden roof of dull red or chocolate and dark blue. It held 1,200 worshippers. (fn. 29)
In 1858 the roof had to be lifted off and replaced on heightened walls to accommodate a large Bishop organ presented by the Dowager Duchess of Argyll: at the same time Scoles introduced a flat, many-panelled ceiling over clerestory windows, additional chapels were made, and the sanctuary deepened to some forty-seven feet (Plate 33c, 33d). Much of the cost of this was met by the Duchess, who also gave the stalls and sanctuary pavement of variegated woods put in place by Messrs. Holland in 1863–4 and later adapted by the same firm for use in the present church. (fn. 30) Still very plain externally, the church had internally, The Building News thought, ‘the proportion and somewhat the appearance of an ancient Roman Basilica.’ The chapels, decorated by an Oxford Street tradesman, Charles Nosotti, deserved study by students of polychromy. (fn. 31) By the 1860's the added chapels made the original church almost unrecognizable on plan (fig. 10). (fn. 32) (fn. n3) A later comment, that the effect of the interior was made by the simulated marbling of the walls and pilasters, suggests that the Fathers already aimed in paint at something of the all-over colouring achieved in the present church by a wonderful variety of stones. (fn. 33)
Within the Oratory House Scoles added an organ gallery in the Little Oratory in c. 1858. (fn. 34) In 1871–2 the organ was transferred to a new case and gallery at the north end as part of the elaborate scheme which includes the new altar, apsidal sanctuary, longitudinal stalls, and ceiling decoration (Plate 34a). The designer was J. Hungerford Pollen, then connected with the Science and Art Department next door at the South Kensington Museum. (fn. 35) The south or entrance end of the chapel retains Scoles's organ gallery on its arcaded screen and now communicates with the southward extension of this range made about the same time by the building in 1872–3 of St. Wilfrid's and St. Joseph's Halls. Who the responsible architect was here is not known, but the plans were approved by J. A. Hansom as ‘consulting architect’. (fn. 36) St. Wilfrid's Hall, on the first floor, is a dignified room, generally in the sober style of the Oratory House but with decoration on the doorcase (and formerly also on the now-lightened wall-pilasters) rather of the Italian-Renaissance type favoured at that time in the Science and Art Department.
In May 1874 the Congregation, conscious that the exterior of the temporary church was ‘almost contemptible’, issued an appeal for funds for a permanent church, to which the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk subscribed £20,000. (fn. 37) (Newman's advice was being justified by munificent donations which recurrently augmented the building funds; but it may be remarked that various works of construction and adornment have also been paid for by individual Fathers.)
In May 1875 the Fathers accepted ‘as the ground work of a plan for the new Church’ a ‘Fergusson-Moody’ design. (fn. 38) This signifies that they had again turned to figures in the art-world associated with the Science and Art Department next door, where a style deriving from the Italian Renaissance was being cultivated in a convinced it idiosyncratic manner. The names referred to are those of an instructor in decorative art there, F. W. Moody, in conjunction with James Fergusson, architect as well as theorist and historian of architecture. Fergusson had recently been a Professional Examiner in Art to the Department, (fn. 39) and had made illustrated suggestions for a non-Gothic domical cathedral in the 1873 edition of his History of the Modern Styles of Architecture. (fn. 40) In October a larger plan by Moody was under consideration. (fn. 41) Already a dome is referred to, and a chapel and sacristy of similar lengths flanking the sanctuary, as in the church that was built. (fn. 42) Hut it was later recalled that many of the Fathers now developed ‘a fever for architecture’, so that ‘there were almost as many plans as Fathers’, and the ‘Fergusson-Moody’ scheme was finally rejected in December 1875. (fn. 43) Moody was paid £155 for his designs, of which he exhibited an interior view, admired by the British Architect, at the Royal Academy in 1877. (fn. 44) (fn. n4)
The future architect of the church had, however, appeared in public by March 1876. In that month The Building News published a design for the church ‘about to be erected’, in the Renaissance style ‘for which the congregation have a strong predilection’, and basically similar to what was ultimately built (Plate 35a). A week later it printed a disclaimer from the architect, that the design was ‘merely a suggestion of what he thought suitable’. (fn. 45) The author of the design in question was Herbert Gribble (1847–94), a twenty-nine-year-old Devonian living nearby in Chelsea. He had himself been a pupil at the National Art Training School of the Science and Art Department in the neighbouring Museum, and then from about 1867 a pupil of J. A. Hansom. Despite this last hint of a Catholic background he is said to have been a recent convert of the Fathers. (fn. 46) He had certainly been in touch with them in a matter of design so early as April 1874, when he had been sketching a ‘banner’ in the room of Father Keogh (the Father Superior at the time the church was begun). (fn. 47) One of the Fathers later said Gribble had prepared the design published in The Building News ‘at the private instigation of one or more of the Fathers’ but had made it public without authority. (fn. 48) Gribble's connexion with the Fathers may well have owed something to his work for Hansom on the church of St. Philip Neri at Arundel in about 1868–73. This is likely already to have brought him in contact with the Oratorian-educated fifteenth Duke of Norfolk and to have predisposed the Fathers to an architect associated with their great friend and patron.
Late in 1877, however, it was decided to hold a competition for the design, announced in January 1878. (fn. 49) It was not limited to Catholics, and offered prizes of £200 and £75. The chief requirements were two. The style was to be ‘that of the Italian Renaissance’, and the sanctuary, at least sixty feet deep, was to be ‘the most important part of the Church… Especially the altar and tabernacle should stand out as visibly the great object of the whole Church.’ (fn. 50) The nave was to be of a minimum width (50 feet) and maximum length (175 feet). The subsidiary chapels were to be ‘distinct chambers’, not mere side altars. Choice of material was unrestricted and although estimates of cost were required no limit in that respect was stated—an omission criticized by architectural journalists and disgruntled competitors, whose designs called for expenditure ranging from £35,000 to £200,000.
Apart from Gribble himself, the thirty pseudonymous competitors included Henry Clutton, H. B. Garling, E. W. Godwin, George Goldie, Temple Moore (aged twentytwo), G. G. Scott junior, and J. D. Sedding. (fn. n5)
In May 1878 it was decided to employ Alfred Waterhouse at a fee of £105 to report on the designs but not to determine the Fathers' choice. (fn. 51) The following month Waterhouse submitted his report. (fn. 52) One general comment of his was that many entries were so much in the prescribed style as to be under-fenestrated for a northerly latitude. Of the thirty, he identified twelve as worth particular consideration: the designs of Garling, Godwin (Plate 35c), Temple Moore and Sedding were among those excluded. The chosen twelve were by A. J. Adams, Adams and Kelly, Edward Clarke, H. Clutton, G. Goldie, Gordon and Flockhart, G. E. Grayson, H. Gribble, G. G. Scott junior, Bernard Smith, Tasker and Bonella, and Vicars and O'Neill. From these Waterhouse himself calculated the cost of executing four ‘as being most likely to repay the trouble’. They were by Adams and Kelly (£97,702 by Waterhouse's reckoning), Gordon and Flockhart (£169,865), Gribble (£91,775) and G. G. Scott junior (£64,660). For an unknown reason and perhaps simply in error Waterhouse took Gribble's own estimate to have been close to his, at £91,000, whereas Gribble had in fact claimed his design would cost only £35–40,000 unashlared or £65–70,000 ashlared. The impression conveyed by Waterhouse's comments on the individual designs is of greatest liking for those of Gordon and Flockhart (‘ … the work of a Master [sic]. The interior seems to me to be very nearly perfect…') and G. G. Scott junior (a design ‘of no ordinary merit… I feel that it is impossible to speak too highly of its beauty, its quiet dignity, its absence of all vulgarity and its concentration of effect around the high altar …’). Adams and Kelly had produced ‘a pleasing and refined design’ with acoustical hazards. Gribble's design showed notable merits and defects. Chiefly it was his planning—very close to his 1876 scheme—that Waterhouse admired. ‘The design appears to me a very sensible one, well thought out and well proportioned. Indeed in all its arrangements it shews exceptional excellence, as e.g. the position of the Confessionals; the openings into and the accessibility of the side chapels; the admirably contrived passage round the church for proces sions and for gaining access to the different parts of the Church when the Nave might be crowded …’ Judging from Waterhouse's general comments on the designs he was also doubtless pleased by Gribble's avoidance of harsh lighting and of the placing of windows behind the altars. (fn. 53) The pulpit was under the dome—‘a position I should be rather afraid of’—and there were one or two remediable ‘weaknesses of construction’. It was Gribble's elevations, however, that displeased Waterhouse. ‘They lack dignity and breadth and are embellished with so much extraneous ornamentation as to be almost vulgar and commonplace.’
Nevertheless it was Gribble's design that was chosen by the Fathers for their first prize and for execution. (fn. 54) Their second prize they gave to a competitor not among Water house's select four, Henry Clutton (Plate 35b). This latter choice was not altogether unreasonable, however, in the light of Waterhouse's own comments on this ‘good design’, which found nothing badly amiss and merit in the ‘some what severe’ exterior. (fn. 52) It seems, from the rejection of Scott's design, that the likely cost of execution as estimated by Waterhouse was not the factor telling for Gribble: but perhaps the Fathers put their faith in Gribble's own lowest estimate for completion without ashlaring. Gribble was a skilful draughtsman and his interior perspectives may also have helped him, although Waterhouse had said their colouring was ‘to me most unpleasing’. (fn. 52)
The Fathers' decision drew criticism in the architectural press. (fn. 55) The similarity of Gribble's design to his earlier offering suggested the competition had been an expensive nullity, and there was disquiet among architects when it became known that the Fathers had not followed Water house's preferences. There seems no foundation for the suspicion that the Fathers had departed from any under taking in that respect. Some of the objections were certainly groundless. Nevertheless a statement from Waterhouse's office designed to make clear his limited role coupled this with a plea that future public competitions should be definitively judged by a professional referee. Furthermore, Clutton, as second prizeman, soon announced he had ‘since had reason to decline that honour’. (fn. 56) Evidently, therefore, unhappiness at the outcome was felt in respected quarters.
The two designs that were liked by all three of The Builder, The Building News and the British Architect were by Gordon and Flockhart and G. E. Grayson—the latter a competitor who had, as it happens, been only mildly praised by Waterhouse (‘a sensible design’). (fn. 57) (fn. n6) Generally the periodicals regretted a lack of originality, so that ‘souvenirs of tit-bits have been transported from nearly all the famous Italian churches’. (fn. 58) The absence of centralizing plans, theoretically permitted by the specified dimensions, was noticed, but the longitudinal space available almost enforced the usual oblong plan.
The Fathers decided that in carrying out his design Gribble should be associated with another architect, and after considering C. A. Buckler (evidently a non competitor, unless he was the sole unidentified entrant), Clutton, Goldie and the obscure J. T. Walford decided on the last, whose design was one of the five that had gone unnoticed even in The Builder's lengthy review of the competition. (Temple Moore's was another.) (fn. 59)
Adjustments were made to Gribble's design in 1878–9, when many quite small changes were submitted for the Fathers' approval. A little ornamentation was removed from the exterior. The intended realization of the church in brick was changed to Portland-stone ashlaring. (fn. 60) An important change was to the dome. The competition design would have provided for a single, shallow concrete shell, but this was replaced by a design for a higher dome of double, inner and outer, construction, that would nevertheless still have been of low silhouette compared with that of the dome actually built after Gribble's death (Plate 36a, 36c). (fn. 61)
Gribble's original competition design was not published, but his modified design was published, as being his ‘selected design’, in May 1879. (fn. 62)
Although the interior and general effect of the church very fully met the Fathers' Italianate requirements (Front ispiece), it may be observed that Gribble gave the lower part of the exterior and particularly of the façade a smooth, neat, rectangularized treatment that seems to show Wrennish and French influences rather than Italian.
In September 1879, after competitive tendering, a contract was concluded with the builder George Shaw of Westminster for the carcase less the outer dome and façade. (fn. 63) (The architect's clerk of works was Joseph Seed and the builder's foreman Tinckam. (fn. 64) ) At the same time a temporary iron church, to be built in front of the Oratory House to Gribble's design, was contracted for with Messrs. Croggan: at 113 by 76 feet it was thought one of the largest of iron churches. (fn. 65) The total cost arising from its construction was £2,679. (fn. 66) (fn. n7) In March 1880 the foundations of the permanent church were begun. (fn. 68) Gribble decided not to carry them down thirty feet to the gravel, but to build on dry, compacted sand. (fn. 69) The found ation stone was laid in June—the ceremony being, according to The Builder, ‘a perfect muddle’. (fn. 70) The church, still lacking its outer dome and façade, was consecrated and opened in April 1884. (fn. 71)
A notable constructional feature was Gribble's use of concrete vaulting, by the example, he says, of the ‘temple’ of Minerva Medica at Rome. In the nave it was seven to fourteen inches thick and in the inner dome it was (or was intended to be (fn. 72) ) one to two feet thick. An account of the building of the church published by Gribble in 1885 reveals with candour the element of personal experimenta tion and tentative, anxious pragmatism in a Victorian architect's approach to his constructional problems. Of the wrought-iron trusses in the roof, for example, he wrote, ‘whether this scheme will turn out satisfactory or not, time will show… ‘The cost was sleepless nights for Gribble, and, at first, tie-rods across the nave itself. (fn. 73) Gribble used Devonshire ‘marbles’ extensively inside, from near his native Plymouth. (fn. 74) These were supplied, ready for fixing, by J. and E. Goad of that city, where Gribble designed their premises. (fn. 75) (fn. n8) The building stone was specified as best brown Portland, the roof-slates North Wales Duchess, the timber Baltic, and the wrought iron best Swedish or its equivalent. (fn. 76) It was announced that the caps and or namental parts of the interior would be in carton pierre and fibrous plaster. (fn. 77) The Oratorians’ neighbour, the Science and Art Department, evidently regarded Gribble as an expert on building materials, and employed him in 1886 to improve its ‘construction collection’. (fn. 78)
The cost of the work rose eventually, by the end of 1885, to vindicate Waterhouse's judgment at a total of some £93,302. This was made up of £69,682 to the contractor, £10,352 to the marble merchant, £4,777 to the architects, £1,098 to their clerk of works and £7,393 for fittings and sundries. (fn. 65) The Builder had, however, prophesied that it would be a ‘costly’ design, (fn. 79) and Gribble was pleased to have held the expense to less than 7d. a cubic foot. (fn. 80)
By the end of 1881 his association with Walford had become disharmonious, and in February 1882 the Fathers had shown their confidence in him by his appointment as sole architect: Walford was evidently aggrieved. (fn. 81) In 1885 the Fathers gave Gribble an honorarium of £100. (fn. 82) In the same year, however, an alternative scheme for the sanctuary by J. H. Pollen was evidently being considered, (fn. 83) and in 1888 its decoration was given to J. Cosgreave, who removed pediments from Gribble's doors and designed the present wall-treatment (for foreign, not Devonshire, marbles). (fn. 84)
In 1890 it was decided to add the façade at the south end. Of thirteen Fathers five voted against Gribble's employment as architect, and his design was only adopted after a split vote. (fn. 85) It was an amended version of his competition design, a little closer in its pedimented finish to the Oratorians’ Chiesa Nuova at Rome, and crowned by a statue of the Virgin, not, as in the competition design, St. John the Baptist. (fn. 53) A tender was accepted from D. Charteris in 1891–2, but some breach, probably caused by a misunderstanding about the estimates, opened between Gribble and the Fathers. (fn. 86) This was patched up: in 1893, however, when Gribble was probably already afflicted with a fatal sickness, his services were dispensed with and the upper part of the facade, less the superstructure of the flanking towers, was completed to his design under the supervision of the clerk of works, Peter Shaw (Plate 37b). (fn. 87) Who carried out the excellent ornamental stone carving on the exterior is not known: one sculptor employed by Gribble at the Oratory in 1891 on unidentified work connected with ‘tablets’ was Alfred Toft of Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea. (fn. 88) In the years 1890–5 some £14,302 was spent on the building. (fn. 89) Shaw in 1896 designed the pleasant, cylindrically chimneyed lodge, built in the following year, and also the paving in front of the portico, curtailed for road-widening in 1971–2. (fn. 90) (In 1897 he called himself ‘architect’ and lived at Bedford Park. (fn. 91) )
Gribble, who died in 1894 aged forty-seven, had greatly regretted the failure to construct his outer dome. (fn. 92) The want was, in a manner, supplied when ‘a Client of Saint Philip’ (Mrs. Daglish-Bellasis (fn. 93) ) offered to pay for it on the saint's tercentenary in 1895. The design was to be provided by the architect George Sherrin, who in 1894 had suggested an alternative domical finish to the flanking towers, (fn. 94) but the lantern was designed by his young assis tant, E. A. Rickards (Plate 37a). (fn. 95) The steel-framed dome was built in 1895–6 to the silhouette, higher and steeper than Gribble had proposed, which shows so effectively from some of the quiet streets north of the Brompton Road. (fn. 93) The influence of Pietro da Cortona is evident. (Stanley Adshead thought Sherrin had impaired Rick ards's design by elevating the lantern in relation to the dome—‘let us push it up a foot or so’. (fn. 95) )
At the same time Cardinal Newman's memorial was erected by a committee under the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk in front of St. Joseph's Hall (Plate 41c). It was designed by Bodley and Garner and made by Farmer and Brindley, whose artist, L. J. Chavalliaud, modelled Newman's statue. (fn. 96)
The last external work of consequence was the facing of St. Wilfrid's and St. Joseph's Halls with stone to a design by Leonard Stokes in 1911 intended to rise one storey higher. (fn. 97)
Within the Oratory House the delightful library (Plate 34b) has been fitted up and decorated, particularly above gallery level, at various dates since 1859 (for example, in 1910 (fn. 98) ). The beautiful private chapel of the Little Oratory still chiefly shows Pollen's work of 1871–2, augmented in 1954 by grisaille and trompel'oeil paintings by Edgar Ritchard to the architectural design of Adrian Brookholding-Jones (Plate 34a). (fn. 99)
In planning his great church Gribble's generally Italian effect had been perfectly deliberate, ‘so that’ (he said) ‘those who had no opportunity of going to Italy to see an Italian church had only to come here to see the model of one‘. (fn. 100) His original coloured interior perspective of the competition design for the nave (fn. 101) shows a perhaps rather light-weight decorative scheme employing arabesque motifs and grotteschi. By 1885 his proposals for the sanctuary, at least, were strongly coloured in red marbles. (fn. 101) With internal walls in Keene's cement, however, the church in its early days lacked its full intended richness, (fn. 100) although at the opening the Lady Chapel and St. Wilfrid's Chapel already displayed their fine old altars from northern Italy and Flanders (see below and Plates 40b, c, 41a). In 1895 the twelve marble apostles carved by Giuseppe Mazzuoli c. 1679–95 for Siena Cathedral and ejected thence by Gothic zeal in 1880 were acquired to adorn the nave (Plate 41c, 41d). (fn. 102) In many of the subsidiary chapels as well as in the sanctuary much of the early decoration and painting was by J. Cosgreave and the Spanish artist V. Codina-Langlin respectively. (fn. 103)
The present interior (Plates 38, 39) takes much of its character from decoration in 1927–32 by Commendatore C. T. G. Formilli, an Italian architect long resident in Kensington, who was on occasions employed by the Italian and British governments. (fn. 104) He was here both the designer and contractor, at an estimated price of no less than £31,000, which was, furthermore, to be considerably exceeded. His versatility extended to designing the suspended scaffolding for his workmen. He provided the high-relief figures in the spandrels and over the keystones of the arches in the nave, the Stations of the Cross between the pilasters in the nave, and other panels in relief (all in stucco, and some or all of it executed in Milan); the yellow Siena marbling between the pilasters in the nave and at the crossing (which was adopted when Formilli failed to find a marble of the bright green colour he would have preferred)-, the Venetian-made mosaics under the dome, flanking the windows, and in the ceiling; much of the gilding throughout; some painting in the ceiling; the coloured motifs in the windows; and (extra to the main contract) the great mahogany pulpit (Plate 40a). Formilli's declared aim was by his colouring to make the interior ‘still more in keeping with the traditions of the Catholic Church’, and it seems that his proposed designs were pleasing to Pope Pius XI. (fn. 105) The effect is more billowy and abounding than in Gribble's proposals. The Father Superior of the time said, ‘We ought I suppose to have advertised a competition, employed British architects and British labour, and had a thoroughly British scheme of decoration. But we did none of these things, and I for one do not regret it. I can imagine the sort of thing we should have got … ‘Formilli was not, however, allowed to substitute polychrome marble for the old wood-block floor bedded in concrete. (The Fathers had preferred this to a boarded floor, which Gribble had originally recommended as ‘most essential for comfort, when sitting, or during the devotion of the “Way of the Cross”. (fn. 106) )
Some features of the church, viewed clockwise and excluding copies of works elsewhere, are the following: (fn. 107)
Chapel of the Sacred Heart. Decorated by Geoffrey Webb c. 1935: (fn. 108) altar and reredos by Gribble.
Chapel of St. Joseph. Decorated by Andrew Carden of Carden, Godfrey and Macfadyen 1964: altar by Scoles (1861) from the old church: (fn. 109) statue of St Joseph, Belgian, erected 1884: (fn. 110) marble doorcases survive from scheme by George Aitchison, c. 1897–8. (fn. 111)
Chapel of the Seven Dolours. Altar and reredos by Gribble given by Flora, Duchess of Norfolk: altarpiece painted at Rome for Fr. Faber in 1859 or earlier by Ferenc Szoldatits (1820–1916), a Hungarian follower of the Nazarenes domiciled there: the Fathers thought of him as a German. (fn. 112)
Chapel of St. Philip. Altar and baldacchino by Gribble, made by Farmer and Brindley, given by 15th Duke of Norfolk (Plate 41b): (fn. 113) alto-relievo in Italian cement in tympanum of baldacchino by Girolamo Moneta of Milan, (estimated price £90): (fn. 114) wall-reliefs on either side of baldacchino by Laurence Bradshaw, c. 1927: (fn. 115) apse of Blessed Sebastian Valfré by Thomas Garner, 1901–3: (fn. 116) paintings on either side of baldacchino attributed to Guercino. (fn. 117)
Sacristy. Altar and reredos from the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in the old church. (fn. 118)
Sanctuary. Altar rails and wooden stalls and floor from old church: wall treatment designed by J. Cosgreave, 1888–90: (fn. 119) altarpiece and paintings at sides by B. Pozzi, 1924–7: (fn. 120) seven-branch candle-holders designed by William Burges, presented by third Marquess of Bute, 1879. (fn. 121)
Chapel of St. Wilfrid. The altar and baldacchino of the saint (Plate 40b, 40c), installed before the opening in 1884, originally formed the High Altar of the monastic church of St. Remy at Rochefort in Belgium, but had been bought, through the dealer Cools and the firm of Duveen, from the church of St. Servaas at Maastricht in Holland, which had itself bought the altar in 1811, after the suppression of St. Remy. It lacks two angels that knelt on brackets at each side of the baldacchino, and the door of the tabernacle has been changed within its oval opening. (De Feller visited St. Remy in 1771 and said the High Altar, ‘un vrai chef d'oeuvre’, was the work of the architect Étienne Fayn (1712–90), which, if true, gives a later date for it than the style suggests.) (fn. 122) Statue of saint by V. Codina Langlin: (fn. 123) apse decorated by J. Cosgreave: (fn. 124) altars of St. Teresa of Lisieux and of the English Martyrs by David Stokes, 1936–8: (fn. 125) bas-relief on former by Arthur Pollen: triptych over latter by Rex Whistler.
Lady Chapel. The altar, with its reredos (Plate 41a), is from the Chapel of the Rosary in the church of San Domenico at Brescia. It was made in 1693 by the Florentine Francesco Corbarelli and his sons Domenico and Antonio and, as would appear from the term ‘Arch.’ in the contemporary inscription, was also designed by them. It was bought for £1,550, received in instalments from February to May 1881, and restored over a period of two years. (fn. 126) The central recess was altered to receive the figure of Our Lady from the old Oratory church and originally in King William Street. (fn. 127) The statues of St. Rose of Lima and St. Pius V to left and right of the altar are by Orazio Marinali, c. 1690–2 (the latter signed with his initials). (fn. 128) The rest of the figure sculpture, including the St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena now moved from the altar to niches in the side walls of the chapel, is by the Tyrolean, Thomas Ruer (d. 1696). (fn. 129) Two other statues, of angels, have been removed from either side of the altar to the organ gallery, where they overlook the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene: of these, the one on the right as seen from that chapel is by Santo Calegari (1662–1719) and signed by him and was formerly on the Gospel side of the Lady Altar. (fn. 130) (fn. n9)
Organ gallery. The organ by J. W. Walker and Sons, 1954, to specifications by Ralph Downes: two angels, see Lady Chapel above.
Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene. Decorated by J. Cosgreave: altar and reredos by Gribble: mosaic panels on either side of altar by A. Capello of Chelsea, 1883–4. (fn. 132)
Chapel of St. Patrick. Altar from Naples: reredos by Gribble: altarpiece and lateral paintings by Pietro Pezzati: paintings on wooden panels at each side of altar perhaps by Frans Floris: (fn. 133) war memorial, 1918–21, designed by L. Berra, executed by Daniells and Fricker of Kilburn, with Pietà of Italian carving. (fn. 134)