St Mary Newington

The ancient parish of St Mary Newington is located in the London Borough of Southwark on the south bank of the River Thames about a mile from London Bridge. In its original form it was  geographically commensurate with the ancient manor of Walworth.

The first known church was located at present-day Newington Butts – where the old churchyard still remains as a public park. Here the tern ‘Butts’ probably refers to the triangle of land between the roads, seen on old maps. We find the term used elsewhere in the area south of central London referring to odd corners of land.

The old churchyard sits close by the junction of two major Roman-era roads leading into London: Stane Street, running  from the Sussex-coast port of Chichester to the City; and Watling Street, running from the Kent-coast ports of of Dover, Richborough, Lympne, and Reculver to Westminster. This junction is now better known as ‘Elephant and Castle’, so named after a tavern that once stood here.

While details of the parish clergy can be traced back as far as 1212 the earliest known mentions of the church building date only from the middle of the sixteenth century. In 1719 ir was described as being:

very small, built of Brick and Boulder […] a double Roof covered with Tile, and the Walls with a rough Cast; the Windows are of a modern Gothick; the Floor is paved with Stone [….] Here are three Iles [aisles], and the Roof is supported with wooden Pillars[…] This Church contains 43 Foot in Length, 54 in Breadth, 22 in Heighth, and the Tower (wherein are five Bells) 44 Foot but to the Top of the Turret near 60 Foot. (John Aubrey: History of Surrey)

Next to the church was a moated rectory.

In the early eighteenth century major building work took place to shore-up the church’s crumbling walls. However, by 1779 the building was found to be in such a poor condition that it was entirely rebuilt and enlarged.

In the early 1870s the decision was taken that this church too should be pulled down, in order to accommodate a road-widening scheme. The old churchyard was retained as a public space. A replacement parish church was put up further south along Stane Street, which by then – as now – was known as Kennington Park Road. Meanwhile back in the old St Mary’s churchyard a clock tower was put up to mark the site of the former church.

The newly relocated St Mary Newington church was opened in 1876. It was built to the designs of James Fowler (1828–92) in the Early English style.  The roofs of the nave and chancel were of hammer beam construction, the height of the nave from floor to ridge was 70 feet, and its length 100 feet. The 3-manual organ was by the firm of T.C. Lewis.

Following aerial bomb damage during the Second World War Fowlers’s church was pulled down, leaving only a fragment of the west front and the tower. These now serve to frame the street side of a small courtyard in front of the current building.

The latest church building and fittings (1957-8) were designed by Sir Arthur Llewellyn Smith (1903-78). The church is described as being in a stripped Neo-Classical style built with yellow stock bricks with Portland stone dressings and copper roof. The organ – by the firm of Henry Willis – is in a west gallery, with a detached console in the north transept. Stained glass windows are signed H. Powell. A practical connection with the parish’s long history is kept in the form of silver altar plate, which includes: two silver cups and a paten (1675), a silver flagon (1681), two silver covers (c.1727), and two silver salvers (1783).

References

 

 

 

 

Cool green at St Barnabas Southfields

The location of the church of St Barnabas Southfields, London UK
The location of the church of St Barnabas Southfields, London UK

Southfields lies to the south-west of central London in the London Borough of Wandsorth. With the coming of the railway in the 1860s the rural landscape was steadily built over. The Anglican church of St Barnabas (Diocese of Southwark) was built in the period 1906-08 among ‘roomy’ middle-class villas and is the work of the architect Charles Ford Whitcombe (1872-1930), a prolific designer and restorer of churches. In 1916 he emigrated to Queensland Australia.

The church of ST. BARNABAS, Southfields, was begun in 1906 and is still incomplete. It has a chancel and nave with aisles to both; the nave has a tall clearstory. Toothings are left in the walls for a future north-west tower. The walls are of red brick with stone dressings; the roofs are covered with slates, and a flèche stands above the chancel arch. [‘A History of the County of Surrey’ (1912)]

At first glance the building presents a modest profile, set back from a wide busy road. However on approaching it we find a rather impressive stately building. It seems to be designed in a not untypical rather plain Victorian Gothic ‘Perpendicular’ style, but on close inspection, and particularly once we are inside, we sense a more Edwardian-era ‘Arts and Crafts’ sensibility at work; large and spacious with generous use of colour, light and space with carefully designed fixtures and fittings.

Since it first opened the church building has had a chequered history.  By the 1920s the building was suffering catastrophic subsidence of the western foundations and rain-water damage to the walls – inside and out – from a poorly executed design. Remedial work was carried out c.1929 and a plan for a newly embellished sanctuary – much as we see it today – was approved. [LMA DS/F/1929/23/1-6].

Notes attached to the catalogue of the  parish records held in the London Metropolitan Archive [P95/BAN] state that the church: “was badly damaged by incendiaries in 1941, and not fully restored until 1955” . More recent alterations to the interior at the west end – to provide meeting-room facilities –  have managed not to upset the elegance of the interior whose cool light is created by the distinctive green tint of the windows.

The pipe organ

The first organ in the church appears to have been a hand-blown instrument, with payments recorded for: “Organist, Choir, Blower, and Music. £67”  (Parish magazine May  1910, p.5). This may be a reference to a pipe-organ at St Barnabas that is mentioned in the records of the organ-builders Hill, Norman and Beard Ltd.: “1919. Vol=02  Page=281  Job=1648 small : advice & estimate £5

From parish magazines of the 1920s we find articles headed: ‘St Barnabas Thank Offering for Victory and Peace’. These describe a fundraising project to provide a new organ -£1600 – as well as new vestry accommodation and a chancel screen – £3000. (Parish Magazine, March 1920, p. 4). The idea to include the screen had been dropped in later issues of the magazine. There is no further mention of the new organ until a reference is made of  adjustments made to it in the late 1920s. This may well be the three-manual organ by G.H.C. Foskett  (London) that is shown  in the National Pipe Organ Register [N17318] – surveyed 1947 – describing the organ on a north-chancel gallery.  Given the survey date it would seem that the organ was largely unscathed by the fire-bombs dropped on the church – as we have earlier noted – in 1941.

The present two-manual organ – also on a north-chancel gallery – dates from 1962 and is by the firm of Henry Willis with later adjustments undertaken by Michael Buttolph.

References

  • Charles Ford Whitcombe‘, Wikipedia. accessed 1 February 2019
  • ‘Church Building Society Records’, Lambeth Palace Library. Online resource, accessed 1 February 2019
  • Parishes: Wandsworth‘, in A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4, ed. H E Malden (London, 1912), pp. 108-120. British History Online  [accessed 8 February 2019].
  • St Barnabas, 146 Lavenham Road‘, National Pipe Organ Register. Online resource accessed 1 February 2019
  • ‘St Barnabas Southfields’. Diocese of Southwark Faculty Records, London Metropolitan Archives.
  • St Barnabas Southfileds‘, Diocese of Southwark: Find a Church. Online resource, accessed 1 February 2019
  • ‘St Barnabas Southfields’. Parish magazines. London Metropolitan Archive.

St Agnes Kennington

Destroyed by the diocese of Southwark after some war damage.

South London’s Anglican parish of St Agnes Kennington was established in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The church sits alongside the green space of Kennington Park, formerly Kennington Common, which is an ancient site of executions and political rallies. The nearby Kennington Park Road follows the line of the ancient Roman Road of Stane Street that runs for 90 kms from London Bridge to the south-coast port city of Chichester (Roman Noviomagus Reginorum).

The current building (1957-58) was designed by Ralph Covell (1911–88) – also the church organist –  and was consecrated by the Bishop of Southwark  on 24 May 1958. It replaced an earlier building.

The earlier church building was designed by the great Victorian architect  George Gilbert-Scott Jnr. (1839-97) and consecrated by the Bishop of London on 20 January 1877. 

The rapidly developing  district it served was taken out of the parish of St. Paul Lorrimore Square. Along side the church Gilbert-Scott also designed a vicarage and a school. The site – given by the Church Commissioners – had previously been occupied by a vitriol factory established by a Richard Farmer about 1796 in what were then open fields.

St Agnes Kennington, London, UK. The nave looking towards the chancel screen (1898). [Source. RIBA 58067]
St Agnes Kennington, London, UK. The nave looking towards the chancel screen (1898). [Source. RIBA 58067]
According to British History Online the building was designed in a 14th-century Decorated style, using Bath stone dressings. The unusually lofty nave rose to about 60 feet. A most imposing feature of the church was the six-light chancel window, 40 feet high, with stained glass designed and executed by C. E. Kempe (1837–1907). Over the chancel screen was a loft, intended to be utilized for an orchestra on the occasion of high festivals, surmounted by an arched beam and massive cross.

Many of the internal fittings  were completed by Scott’s pupil Temple Moore (1856–1920), some of these were moved to the new church e.g. the chancel screen and loft (1885–89), reredos (1891), font canopy (1893), and choir stalls (1902). 

Interior of St Agnes Kennington c.1890. [Source: Architectural Review 5 (1898-99) 63]
Interior of St Agnes Kennington c.1890. [Source: Architectural Review 5 (1898-99) 63]
This church was demolished after the Second World War following minor aerial bomb damage. A campaign  to save the magnificent building from demolition was one of several heritage ‘causes célèbres’ championed by the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman (1906-84), but in this case to no avail. Writing in The Spectator magazine (30 September 1955, p.14) he said of St Agnes Kennington

Despite representations from famous architects, such as Sir Ninian Comper, from the Central Council for the Care of Churches and from the Royal Fine Art Commission, the Bishop of Southwark is going to pull down St. Agnes, Ken- nington, and build a smaller church on its site. St. Agnes was designed in 1877 by George Gilbert Scott, Jnr., the father of Sir Giles, and it has long been thought the finest work of the Gothic Revival in South London, and one of the finest in England. No financial arguments can really excuse this vandalism, nor is it true that the parish lacks parishioners. Most of the fittings of the church survive, and the architect appointed to repair it after the war, Mr. Stephen Dykes Bower, resigned from his post rather than agree to the destruction of a building which could perfectly well be repaired.

Later, in his Collins guide to the parish churches of England and Wales (Collins: London, 1958) – a book he dedicated to the memory of St Agnes Kennington – Betjeman noted tersely that the building was  “destroyed by the diocese of Southwark after some war damage.

The pipe organ

The earliest mention of an organ in St Agnes Kennington comes from the British Organ Archive (Boa-ref=7656), which names the firm of Gray and Davidson as the builder. The earliest description of what was probably that organ comes from 1886.

In St Agnes Kennington there is a small organ; it is splendidly placed on the loft above the screen. […] Though more diversified effect could be produced with a larger instrument it suffices for its purpose, and no one would believe that it has only an 8ft. pedal stop and about six others on one manual. […] Raise the organ high up on a wooden floor, give it plenty of room to speak, and a comparatively small instrumnet will do a s much duty as a large one. (‘On Church Organs’ by “Church Times” in Musical Opinion 10/111 (1 December 1886) 114-5)

Another description is found in the Proceeedings of the Musical Association 1880-90.

We find ourselves in a good-sized parish church […]  high aisles, no chancel arch or break inthe levels between east and west. A shallow transept of the full height of the church projects north and south immediately at the entrance to the chancel. At this point the church is crossed by a high screen, with a loft on it. A small organ stands just in the north transept on the loft, and having plenty of space about it, tells with good effect. It is, indeed, far more effective than most organs three times its size put into the regulation rat hole.” (p.155)

On 5 June 1890 a St Agnes Organ Fund committee was established, the Duke of Newcastle among its members. Its aim was to replace the organ of 7 stops – reportedly acquired second-hand 14 years previously from a neighbouring parish – with a new organ divided between the north and south ends of the chancel screen, in accordance with the architect’s intentions and at a cost estimated to be £1500. [Parish Magazine Xi/7 July 1890]

By September 1893 the new organ was in place above the chancel screen and the specification was published in the Musical Opinion (see image). A descriptive account of the instrument (below) together with a photograph of the console appeared in the May 1899 issue of the St Agnes parish magazine.. (Vol XX/5 36-38) [LMA P92/AGN048]), as follows:

Console of the pipe organ by Brindley and Foster in St Agnes Kennington, London. (UK). [Source: Parish Magazine, May 1899, p. 37)
Console of the pipe organ by Brindley and Foster in St Agnes Kennington, London. (UK). [Source: Parish Magazine, May 1899, p. 37)

The organ contains twenty [sic] speaking stops, seven couplers, three pneumatic pistons to Great, four pneumatic pistons to Swell, three composition pedals to Great and four to Swell, and, on and off, Great to Pedal and a pedal to bring down Swell reeds onto Choir manual. The diapason work on the Great Organ is on the largest scale. The large Open Diapason is placed on the south side, the lower octaves forming the front, while the small Open Diapason forms the front of the north side.

The Great Organ contains nine stops. The “Rohr Flute” is a very useful stop. It is made of metal, although in tone would lead one to believe that it was a wooden stop. The 4ft “Harmonic Flute”brightens the whole tone of the Great Organ. The “Posaune” is also an effective 8ft reed.

The principle stops of the Peadal Organ are on the south side, viz. the 16 “Bourdon,” 16ft”Open Diapason” (an excellent example of Brindley & Foster’s  fine diapason work), and a 16ft “Trombone,” making with the 8ft “Cello”and echo “Bourdon”(which are on the north side) a very fine Pedal Organ.

The Swell Box, of ample proportion, is placed on the north side and is acted upon by vertical venetian shutters. It contains eleven stops and a “Tremulant.” The Solo reed stops, the “Orchestral Clarionet” and the “Orchestral Oboe” are very charming in quality.

The Choir Organ contains four very useful stops.

The whole Organ is built on the “Tubular Pneumatic” principal, upwards of forty miles of metal tubing having been used for the action. Its is blown by hand, two bellows on the screen, and a reservoir high up in the roof of the South Transept. […] All the organ now wants is a handsome case.

In 1901 the organ was cleaned and overhauled by the firm of Brindley and Foster at a cost of £32, chiefly to allow the organ to be used with “much less noise.” (Parish Magazine January 1902, p. 11. [LAMp92/AGN/053]). It is not clear exactly what was the problem.

In 1911 a new case was provided by Temple L. Moore (1856–1920) the designer of the screen on which the organ stood.

There is currently no detail about whose job it was actually to hand-pump the organ but by 1912 the organ was described as “blown by electric motors.” (Dictionary of Organs and Organists by Frederick W. Thornsby. London, 1912).

In 1926 the organ was moved to a west gallery and then was eventually broken up as the church was prepared for demolition after the Second World War.

The pipe organ we find in the church today was newly installed in the west gallery in 1960 by the firm of N. P. Mander Ltd. (now Mander Organs). The opening recital – on Thursday 16 February 1961, 8pm – was given by the then organist of Westminster Abbey Sir William Mckie (1901–84) – formerly assistant organist of St Agnes Kennington, 1921-27. Also performing was Harry Barnes (1909–85) a singer from the Westminster Abbey choir. (Musical Times, Feb 1961, p. 106). The same organ is heard here (2016) played by the composer Matt Geer who is also the resident organist.

Organists

  • 1880. Choirmaster. Mr Powell. [Parish Magazine, 1/i Jan. 1880]
  • 1880-99. Organist and Choirmaster. Willim Hedgecock (1864-1932) [The Musical Times (MT) 73/1075 (1932) 848] / [Thoresby’s Dictionary of Organs and Organists (1912 ) 286] [Parish Magazine, 1/v May1880. Paid in 1882: £71 13s 4d. [Parish Magazine 3/v May1882]. He was also a Professor at Gulldhall School of Music, and Director of Music at Crystal Palace.
St Agnes Kennington, London. Organist recruitment advert. 'Musical Times' 30/671 (1899) 55
St Agnes Kennington, London. Organist recruitment advert. ‘Musical Times’ 30/671 (1899) 55
  • 1899–1905.  Cyril G. Church (1871–?) [The Musical Times (MT)  83/1198 (1942) 376] / [Thoresby’s Dictionary of Organs and Organists (1912) 259]. Salary £91. 16s (Annual Statement for 1899. [P92/AGN/050]).
St Agnes Kennington, London. Organist recruitment advert. 'Musical Times' 40/748 (1905) 362
St Agnes Kennington, London. Organist recruitment advert. ‘Musical Times’ 40/748 (1905) 362
  • 1905.1921. Harvey Grace (1874–1944) [MT 71/1048 (1930)  534] Pioneering editor for Novello and Co. of the organ works of J.s. Bach (1685–1750)and the organ works of Jospeh Rheinberger (1839–1901).
St Agnes Kenning London. Recruitment advert for an assistant organist. '[Source: Musical Times'Advert 54/848 (1913) 685]
St Agnes Kenning London. Recruitment advert for an assistant organist. ‘[Source: Musical Times’Advert 54/848 (1913) 685]

  • 1921-1927. (Sir) William McKie (idem) [MT 92/1299 (1951) 218], assistant organist at St Agnes Kennington and later organist of Westminster Abbey.
St Agnes Kennington, London. Advert for organist [Source: Musical Times 61/924 (1920) 78]
St Agnes Kennington, London. Advert for organist ‘Musical Times’ 61/924 (1920) 78.
  • 1927. Francis J. Kennard [MT 68/1012 (1927) 537]
  • 1935. J. E. Arnold [MT 76/1107 (1935) 442]
  • ?
  • [1950s?] Ralph Covell. [See ‘Ralph Covell’ below]
  • 1958. M. J. Foley of 8 Wanstead Place, London E11 [MT 99/1385 (1958) 397]
  • ?
  • 2015.  Matt Geer

References

W. D. Caröe in Walthamstow

St Barnabas church, St Barnabas Road, London E17 8JZ

The church of St Barnabas Walthamstow is located among streets of modest Victorian terraced houses and owes its existence to the generosity of two philanthropists.

 

The first, Henry Casey (c.1834-1914), was a merchant in the City of London and the owner of much of the local building land and freely gave the land on which the church is built. The second was Richard Foster (1822–1910), another wealthy City merchant, who paid not only for the construction of the church but also for the construction of the vicarage and the hall that is now named after him.

Stafford Hall, London E17. (Source: Wikimedia)
Stafford Hall, London E17. (Source: Wikimedia)

The first church buidling was a temporary corrugated-iron building that was set up in 1900 as a chapel of ease within the parish of St Saviour Walthamstow pending the creation of the separate parish of St Barnabas. That iron buidling is still in situ and in use as a community centre called Stafford Hall.

W. D. Caröe (1857–1938). (Source: Wikimedia Commons).
W. D. Caröe (1857–1938). (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

By 1901 the  separate parish of St Barnabas Walthamstow had been created, the advowson of the vicarage being vested in the diocesan bishop. The present church was opened in 1903. The architect of the church, the vicarage and the hall  was William Douglas Caröe [pr. Ka(r)oh] (1857–1938), son of a Danish diplomat based in the UK. It was the intention that the church should be “a typical specimen of a simple and not expensive place of worship suitable for erection in less wealthy outlying districts where funds are most difficult to come by.” (Saxby, 16-17)  The building, which cost £20,000, is mostly of red brick with stone dressings, a small spired turret at the north-west corner and windows in a late-Gothic style.

 

The church has a number of splendid fixtures and fittings many of which are not original to the church but contemporary with it and acquired in the closing decades of the twentieth century. A few are shown here:

 

The organ

The two-manual organ (1904) by the company of Walter J. Fisher of Oxford is thought to incorporate work by Eustace Ingram of London (Litten, 13) and is located on the south side of the chancel at ground level even though Caröe, the church’s architect, has provided a first-storey gallery for it. The organ case is to the design of W. D. Caroe and was carved by Dent & Francis of Crediton, Devon (Litton 13; 20, fn.6), who worked on other oak fittings in the church (Litten, 8).

 

 References
  • Anglican Church Building in Victorian Walthamstow by S. Saxby. Series: Monograph New Series No. 46. (London: Walthamstow Historical Society, 2014
  • St Barnabas: organ specification‘, National Pipe Organ Register. Online resource accessed  4 No vember 2017
  • St Barnabas and St James the Greater, Walthammstow E17 by J. W. S. Litten (London: PCC of St Barnabas and St James the Great Walthamstow, 2001)
  • Richard Foster (philanthropist)‘, Wikipedia. Online resource accessed 4 November 2017
  • Walthamstow: Churches‘, A History of the County of Essex. Volume 6. (London: Victoria County History, 1973), pp.285-294. Online reource, accessed 4 November 2017
  • Walthamstow, St Barnabas‘, The Church of England: a church near you. Online resource accessed 4 November 20-17
  • W. D. Caröe‘, Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 4 November 2017

W. D. Caröe in Edmonton

St Aldhelm Edmonton, London, N18 1PA

The parish of St Aldhelm in Edmonton, north London is a modest late-c19/early-c20 residential area of terraced streets with a rather fine church.

The church was built in 1903 to the designs of W. D. Caröe (1857–1938), and replaces an earlier temporary ‘tin tabernacle’ building. The present building is summed up as “a homely Arts and Crafts version of a basilican church, using free Perendicular detail“. In 1907 a vicarage – also by Caröe – was built immediately north of the church. The halls date from 1883 and 1907-8; architect currently unknown. (Cherry & Pevsner, 63).

This well-maintained church building comprises a chancel, north organ chamber, vestries and a sothh chapel, aisled nave with west gallery and bell turret (2 bells). The lower half of each nave pillar is panelled and painted, originally dark green. (Cherry & Pevsner, 423).

The arrtist Walter Percival Starmer (1871–1961) was employed (1947-8) to provide additional decoration in memory of the parish dead of the Second World War, specifically a deliciate scheme of stained glass and an imposing reredos painting of the Ascension. (Another ecclesiatical scheme by Starmer can be foubd at the churhc of  St-Jude-on-the-Hill in Hampstead, London; stained galss and mnurals).

Each of the internal doors is made to its own design with distinctive metalwork … as these examples demonatrate

The pulpit by W. R. Dale (n.d.) came  from the redundant (1951) London church of St Mary, Spital Sqaure. (Cherry & Pevsner, 63). While the brass lectern seems generic of the period the font seems as if it might be part of Caröe ‘s design not least becuase of the metalwork on the font’s cover.

The cost of the new church and vicarage was paid for out of the £36,000 proceeds of the sale of St. Michael Bassishaw church in the City of London (by Christopher Wren, 1679, demolished 1900), a portion of which had already paid for the construction of the nearby church and vicarage of St Michael, Bury Street in Edmonton (also by Caröe, 1901), now converted to secular residential use.

The pipe organ

The pipe organ in St Aldhelm’s was bulit and installed in 1905 by the short-lived north-London firm of Frederick Halliday (fl. 1905-13). Although an unremarkable instrument it is in good condition and quite adequate for accompanying the parish liturgy.

Sources

  • W. D. Caröe‘ in Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 21 November 2017.
  • ‘Edmonton: Churches’, in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, ed. T F T Baker and R B Pugh (London, 1976), pp. 181-187. British History Online. Online resource accessed 21 November 2017.
  • ‘Frederick Hallliday’ in Directory of British Organ Builders (British Institute of Organ Studies, 2017) Online resource, acccessed 21 November 2017.
  • ‘St Aldhelm’ in The Buildings of England. London 4: North by B. Cherry and N. Pevsner (London: Tale University Press, 2002), p. 63; p. 423.
  • St Aldhelm, Silver Street‘ in The National Pipe Organ Register. Online resource, accessed 21 November 2017.
  • St Aldhelm Upper Edmonton‘ in A Church near You (Archbishop’s Council, 2017), Online resource, accessed 21 November 2017.
  • St Michael Bassishaw‘ in Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 21 november 2017.
  • Walter Percival Starmer. Artist 1877-1961. Onine resource, accessed 21 November 2017

Strangely Moorish …

St Paul the Apostle, Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7SY

The north-London catholic church of St Paul the Apostle in Wood Green has perhaps the least kerb-appeal of any church I know. The forbidding (unforgiving) single-storey facade of plain, repeating concrete arches facing onto a busy traffic route gives the building a rather Moorish appearance, there being no obviously Christian signifiers except for a tiny cross high a-top a towering narrow pylon. Indeed I supsect many people driving past might even mistake the place for a mosque in this typically multi-cultural London borough.

 

A Catholic presence was first established in Wood Green in 1884 with a new church in Romanesque-style (1904) designed by Edward Goldie (1856–1921). Alas, I can find no images of this building.  In 1971 Goldie’s church was replaced by a new church with hall, school and presbytry attached, all designed by John Rochford and Partner of Sheffield.

 

The shape of the church is a pentagon, with the sanctuary at the apex. The interior is plain, even austere, all of brick and concrete, lit from above by clerestory windows. Colour is priovided by a series of stained-glass windows, a number brought from the previous church. Most striking are the huge panels of modern stained-glass that almost completely fill the top half of the wall facing the altar. They were commisioned in 1982 from the Maltese artist Carmel Cauchi on the theme ‘Pilgrim Church’. The interior of the church is larger and loftier than one might have imagined before entering, seating over 600, and yet despite its scale it conjours a quiet and prayerful aura.

The Organ

The pipe organ was built (1975) by the now defunct local firm of Monk and Gunther. The pipework on the cantilevered gallery – with console at ground level – makes an impressive visual impact in the buidling. This is not matched by its tonal impact because of its poorly conceived ‘extension’ design, which provides little variety in terms of colour or power, being weak and barely sufficient for accompanying the liturgy in this bustling, well-attended church. Sadly, the instrument seems to have been well built and well maintained, with no signs of needing replacement any time soon.

References

Quirky in Camden …

St Pancras Old Church, Pancras Road, Camden Town, London NW1 1UL

I have recently had the opportunity to revisit the medieval church of  Old St Pancras to help out with the music for the main Sunday service there. This was a rather nostalgic visit since I was organist there immediately after my days as a post-graduate organ student at the Royal Academy of Music (1980-81), and I subsequently taught for a while at the parish school.

Old St Pancras church is modest in scale, comprising just an unaisled nave and chancel with a 19th-century tower on the south side. The history of Old St Pancras church is well documented, dating from at least Saxon times while some would claim that the site dates back to the days of the Roman occupation. Images and maps showing the building in its setting are plentiful.

There was a major rebuilding project in 1848 by the partnership of Alexander D. Gough (1804–71) and Robert Lewis Roumieu (1814–77) when the  old tower was relocated and redesigned a 7th-century altar stone was recovered and reinstated. There were modest adjustments in 1888 made by Arthur Blomfield (1829–99), with further work in the 1920s and in 1979-80 by the firm of Erith and Terry (Cherry & Pevsner, p.348).

7th-centiry altar stone with five incised crosses, Old St Pancras Church, London NW1. Source: http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com
7th-centiry altar stone with five incised crosses, Old St Pancras Church, London NW1. Source: http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com

The architectural superstructure and the extensive burial ground – with its many famous ‘inhabitants’ – are well described in any number of publications and webpages, as too the various funerary monuments inside the building. There are inventories of the church from the 13th century that list service books, vestments, plate and describe a high altar and two nave altars (dedicated to Our Lady and to St. Nicholas, with a tabernacle), a rood with images of Our Lady and St. John, and images of St. Catherine and of St. John the Baptist. (Survey of London). But surprisingly (to me) there is little information about the church’s later furnishings and decoration.

The parish’s main archive dates from the 19th-century and is deposited in the London Metropolitatn Archive, so I went along to take a look.

St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Church plate c16-c20, seen c.1980. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/63.
St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Church plate c16-c20, seen c.1980. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/63.
H.C. (1854) 'Interior view of St Pancras Old Church, St Pancras.' Source: London Mteropolitan Archive, ref. p5380390.
H.C. (1854) ‘Interior view of St Pancras Old Church, St Pancras.’ Source: London Mteropolitan Archive, ref. p5380390.

In the image above we see the church as it appeared after Gough & Roumieu’s ‘restoration’. Cherry & Pevsner (Buildings of England) state that the c17 pulpit was later cut up to provide the font panels of the altar, shown below.  They also state that that the side galleries were removed in 1925, but the pictures below seem to indicate the galleries were removed at some time in the nineteenth century.

t Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Chancel [c.1870?]. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/1-2.
St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Chancel [c.1870?]. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/1-2.
In the image above we see Gough and Roumieu’s fixed-bench pews, but  it is not clear who made the screen or when it was installed, or what happened to it subsequently.

St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Chancel and baptistry (south side) [11 December 1880?]. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/1-2.
St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Chancel and baptistry (south side) [11 December 1880?]. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/1-2.
The images above shows the church before 1888 when the organ was moved under the tower (about which see below).

St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Chancel, early c20. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/63.
St Pancras Old Church, London NW1. Chancel, early c20. Image source: London Metropolitan Archive P90/PAN2/63.

The organ

  • 1868. The earliest indication of a pipe organ comes in Mackson’s Guide to the Churches of London and Its Suburbs for 1868, with the reference to a Miss Wright as the honorary organist (p.65), and subsequent editions showed Miss Wright as organist up to and including the year 1884.
  • 1872. Mackson’s Guide notes the organ is a 1-manual instrument (p. 74), and this may be the 7-stop instrument recorded in the National Pipe Organ Register at N17059.
  • 1880. The ledgers of the organ-buildring firm of Gray and Davidson – now in the British Organ Archive (BOA) at Birmingham University, UK  – noted “tuning; 1880 new 2m org, no.10423, £270”. (Vol. 8A, p.27). This is possibly the 2-manual, 15-stop instrument shown in the National Pipe Organ Register at N17057. Mackson’s Guide does not note the 2-manual instrumnt until the 1884 edition (p. 119).
  • 1882. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 23, No. 472 (Jun. 1, 1882), p.305. ‘Organist. – Wanted, an Organist, Gentleman or Lady, for Old St Pancras Church. Salary £25 a-year. Residence in the neighbourhood desirable. Address, The Vicar, Old St. Pancras Vestry.”
  • 1885. Mackson’s  Guide of 1885 (pp. 131-2) shows the organist is now a Mr P.E. Rivers.
  • 1888. Building works supervised by Arthur Blomfield proposed to build “in connection with the new Vestry, an Organ Chamber abutting upon and opening into the Chancel” allowing the organ to be moved from the west gallery at a cost of £700. (P90/PAN2/48/ ‘Restoration of Old St Pancras Church’ [1888?]).
    – The organ chamber was never built but the Gray and Davidson ledgers of 1888 refer to moving the organ. (Vol. 9A, p. 36). But moved where? If this instrument is the one noted in NPOR (N17057) that listing refers to the organ being in the south transept, which might then mean that in 1888 the organ was placed under the tower on the south side. This would make sense of the 1906 reference, below.
  • 1890. Arthur Carwithen was appointed organist in February 1890. (Parish Magazine October 1896 [P90/PAN2/71])
  • 1894-5. Mackson’s Guide of 1894-5 shows the organist is A. Carwithen (pp. 121-2).
  • 1896. Arthur Carwthen left the parish in September to be organist at St John’s, Friern Barnet. (Parish Magazine October 1896 [P90/PAN2/71]).
    – Arthur Carwithen was succeeded by Herbert Nelson “of St Faith’s Stoke Newington”.
    – Mr Major Freeman jun. was appointed assistant organist. (Parish Magazine September 1896 [P90/PAN2/71].
    – the organ was fully cleaned ‘and rewired’ at a cost of £25. (Parish Magazine, September 1896. [P90/PAn2/71]); also mentioned in the Gray and Davidson ledgers (Vol 10, p.110).
  • 1902. Mr Freeman ‘left’ in the summer of 1902 and was replaced by  Mr C.F.J. Wright, formerly of St Phillip’s Clerkenwell. (Parish Magazine, November 1902. [P90/PAN2/77]).
  • 1906. In August the Parish Magazine noted that a leak in the roof – between the tower and the nave – had damaged the organ by Gray and Davidson who repaired it for £47.10s. [P90/PAN2/80].
  • 1919. In October the assistant organist was Mr J. R. Copland (Parish Magazine, October 1919 [P90/PAR2/93]).
  • 1922. Gray and Davidson ledgers show that £300 was spent on ‘work’ on the organ. (Vol. 12, p.741). At some point in the next couple of years Gray and Davidson stopped looking after the organ.
  • 1926. The organ-building firm of Hill, Norman and Beard was now looking after the organ and the company ledger, also in the BOA (Vol. 6, p.104) notes the sale of the 2-manual Gray and Davidson organ for £75.
    –  In the surviving Hill, Norman and Beard ledgers there is no mention of a new instrument to replace the one that was sold, but it may be that they provided the 2-manual 13-stop instrument shown on NPOR at N17056 (unidentified maker) located in the west gallery.
    – This may all relate to the building work of 1925 that is mentioned by Cherry & Pevsner, and others.
  • 1948. The organ-building firm of Mander and Sons installed in the west gallery a second-hand Brindley & Foster instrument from St. Peter, Cephas Street, Limehouse – NPOR [D03546] – but quite why is unknown. It is the current instrument, rather plain and quirky to play having a cramped console; a narrow, straight and flat pedal board, an awkward ‘kick’ swell, and sharp tuning. The best to be said of it is that it provides a solid unadorned accompaniment for the liturgy.

References