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

 

The quiet chimes of Earlsfield

St Andrew’s Church, Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, London SW18 4SR

The location of St Andrew's church, Earlsfield, London, UK
The location of St Andrew’s church, Earlsfield, London, UK

Today Earslfield is largely a late nineteenth-century south-west London suburb, although the area has an interesting history dating back much further, and which I have discussed in my article ‘On the Wandle‘.

The church of St Andrew, Earlsfield, was built in two stages between 1888 and 1902. Its two-acre site was given by Magdalen College Oxford, then rapidly developing large tracts of its land in the area. Despite the elite landlord the population of the area was then charecterised as “Very poor working class, hawkers and coster-mongers, with a proportion of artisans, railway servants, and a  considerable number of people whose incomes are only sufficient for their own necessities”.

 

The architect for the new church was Edward William Mountford (1855–1908), who undertook a number of church-building commissions in his early career. But he is perhaps best remebered for designing major civic buildings, such as the Sheffield Town Hall (1890) and London’s  Central Criminal Court, ‘the Old Bailey’ (1902).

 

At the time of its construction, the church was described in a newspaper report as follows:

— NEW CHURCH OF ST. ANDREW, GARRATT LANE, WANDSWORTH —
          The buidling is about to be commenced upon a site presetned by Magdalen College [Oxford], close to Earlsfield Station upon the L. &. S. W. Railway, where a new district has recently been formed, with a population of some thousands, mostly of the working classes.
          The church is necessarily very plain, funds being exceedingly limited. The walls are of brick, faced principally with red: the roofs, covered with Brosely tiles, are internally of tie-beam construction, coiled at the collar. The stone is Doulting, the floor of woood blocks.
          On plan, the church consists of nave, 91 ft. by 30 ft.,  with side aisles and transepts, the chancel being 40ft. by 25 ft., also with north and south aisles, the latter forming [a] side chapel. Seating accomodation for 780 is provided. The choir vestry is large, and will be used as a parish room. The cost will not exceed 6,500l.  The architect is Mr. E. W. Mountford.

 

Within the church itself there are a number of interesting decorative features and furnishings, described in 1981 by Bridget Cherry and Martin Pevsner in The Buildings of England, as follows (with some additions):
— Altar front, oak with five painted panels depicting saints but with contemporary heads, said to be portraits of those associated with the building of the church
— Chancel steps – white marble and pavement marble.
— Chancel arcade of brick on square stone piers with shafts at the angles, that to west partly in red brick, some with figure or grotesque stops, one said to be the Architect.
— Chancel floor – Rouge Royal and Black from Belgian Quarries.
— Chancel screen, in slender wrought iron, set on brick plinth, installed 1920’s from church of St. Mary, Trinity Road.

 

— Doors – oak
— Clock. The large external clock overhanging the west front in an iron frame with filigree decoration, is to Mountford’s design and was installed in 1911: “To the glory of God and in loving memory of his late Majesty King Edward VII. The clock on this church was erected by the residents of Earlsfield, 8th February 1911.” The clock – iluminated at night –  is now maintained by the local authority; its chimes have been disconnected.
— Font, resited in south transept, terracotta with blue stone shafts, Doulton & Co., by G. Tinworth, with counterbalanced oak lid. Octagonal, with four scenes depicting Finding of Moses, Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli, The Saviour in the Manger and The Saviour blessing little children.
— Glass; windows depict British saints, east window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne.
— Lectern, freestanding in brass, made by Starke Gardner & Co. designed by Mountford.
— Nave arcade in five bays, deep red brick arches on stone drum piers.

 

— North screen, timber, installed 1935.
— Pendant light fittings, that over pulpit not modified.
— Pews, moveable oak benches, those from western two bays removed.
— Pulpit, a low octagonal stone drum with pierced oak upper tier reached by stone steps.
— Reredos, behind curtain, a painted triptych of the Transfiguration and flanking angels.

 

— Sedilia in two bays with attached piscina and aumbry under cusped stone arches with dragon stops.
— South aisle window by M.Travers.
— South chapel; east window in form of St.Andrew’s cross depicitng head of the saint, set in stone rose with small circular lights, under cusped stone arch.
— Tiles – Minton.
— Vestry retains simple fireplace, choir vestry lined with cupboards, doors and cupboards with reeded architraves.

The Organ

 

The present pipe organ is by Harrison and Harrison of Durham and was installed in 1921. It replaced an existing organ that was ‘on hire’, but from whom is not currently known. The history of the instrument can be traced in parish records to be found in the London Metropolitan Archive.

According to the ‘faculty’ document the cost of the organ was estimated at £2530, and £1325 was paid in advance with the balance to be met by a public subscription, less a £600-grant made by the Carnegie Trust referred to in the Diocesan faculty document. This would appear to mean that the organ fund stood at £1925 and left the parish with a bill of just about £600,

 

Indeed, the builder’s specification of 3 June 1919 describes a large three-manual organ, but by 6 September 1919 the specification was already savagely trimmed to just nine stops, with the rest of the instrument being left ‘prepared for’, at a lower cost of £1200, plus £125 for biowing plant by Watkins and Watson (previously agreed, 30 May 1919). This in total is the £1325 referred to in the faculty document. This suggests that either the Carnegie money was not forthcoming or it was used for other things. Possibly it was used to meet the separate (and unforeseen?) costs of having to”remove the present Organ” and having “to erect a Power house upon part of the Vicarage garden, connected by a Wind trunk to the organ through the Church wall.” (LMA DS/F/1921/10/3).

 

Presently, the organ is well maintained, and the nine stops that exist are most attractive in sound. In such a woefully incomplete state many would think that this instrument is barely suited even to the most basic hymn accompaniment. And yet for nearly 100 years the parish liturgy seems to have carried on quite happily with the organ arranged just as it is.

References

  • Earlsfield: St Andrew‘, Find A Church: Diocese of Southwark. Online resource, accessed 12 July 2017.
  • Edward William Mountford‘, Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 12 July 2017.
  • St Andrew, 571 Garratt Lane‘, National Pipe Organ Register. Online resource, accessed 12 jluly 2017.
  • ‘St Andrew Earlsfield’, The Buildings of England: London 2: South by B. Cherry and N. Pevsner (Harmondsworth, Penguin: 1983) pp. 701-02
  • ‘St Andrew, Garratt Lane, Earlsfield’, London Churches in Photographs. Online resource accessed 6 August 2017.
  • ‘St Andrew, Earlsfield: Garratt Lane, Wandsworth. ‘P95/AND1’, London Metropolitan Archive. [Records deposited by the Vicar in the London County Record Office, 27 February 1957. Further records deposited by the Vicar in the Greater London Record Office, 9 July 1987. Acc/2472 Ac/57/012].

One of the best furnished churches in London

St Augustine of Canterbury, Langdon Park Road, London N6 5QG

“One of the best furnished churches in London”, said the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman (1906–84) about the north-London Anglican church of St. Augustine of Canterbury. The church is a Grade-II-listed building that faces the Archway Road, just north of the distinctive bridge spanning that road – created in 1813 by John Nash (1752-1835) – and from which the name of the road and the surrounding district is derived.

The church as we see it today was created in several stages during the late 19th and early 20th centuries by three architects: John Dando Sedding (1838–91), Henry Wilson (1864–1934), J. Harold Gibbons (1878-1958). It is a distinctive mix of late Victorian Gothic and early twentieth-century Arts and Craft styles.

The foundation stone of the new church was laid in 1887 and the part-finished buidling was consecrated in 1888, the next stage of work being undertaken by Henry Wilson, one of Sedding’s pupils. However, the west front was not completed until Easter 1914, the work of J. Harold Gibbons. The west front is adorned with a life-size stone Calvary, which led to a noisy Protestant demonstration seeking to stop the dedication of the church later that same year; 20 June 1914.

The church of St Augustine of Canterbury, a view of the nave detroyed by fire. (Source: Paul Bell, 2012).
The church of St Augustine of Canterbury, a view of the nave detroyed by fire. (Source: Paul Bell, 2012).

A disastrous fire on the night of 11 January 1924 entirely destroyed the nave and required a major programme of rebuilding, which was undettaken by J. Harold Gibbons. It was at this time he added the 2-bay  organ gallery on the south side of the chancel, and a new Sacristy.

The current pipe organ dates from 1925-6, and was built by the London firm of A. Hunter and Sons of Clapham (London UK). The atractive case – designed by J. H. Gibbons – dominates the south side of the chancel. Although the instrument has remained incomplete for lack of funds it serves well, and sounds impressive in the generous acoustic.

The church contains some fine fittings, artworks and stained glass by – among others – Henry Farmer (fl. early c20), Lawrence King (1907-81), J. Linthout & Co. (Bruges), Margaret A. Rope (1882–1953), Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882–1963), Christopher Whall (1849–1924),  Nathaniel Westlake (1833–1921).

In 1930 Gibbons completed the Lady Chapel, with a decorative scheme by Nathaniel Westlake, Henry Wilson, and Christopher Whall.

On 13 October 1957 St. Augustine’s was the venue for the first liturgical performance of the “Twentieth-century Folk Mass” by Rev. Geoffrey Beaumont CR (1904–71), a product of the once influential Twentieth-century Church Light Music Group. According to Beaumont, the composition was the result of a chance conversation with a priest-colleague in London’s then impoverished East End who was deeply concerned that church music was utterly foreign to the majority of people.

From the first litrgical performance of Geoffrey Beaumont's "A Twentieth-century Folk Mass" Celebrant: Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald. (Source: Church Times Archive).
From the first litrgical performance of Geoffrey Beaumont’s “A Twentieth-century Folk Mass” Celebrant: Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald. (Source: Church Times Archive).

That first liturgical performance of Beaumont’s mass-setting was broadcast live by the BBC and caused quite a stir at the time. The Daily Express declared that “this disturbing racket . . . was one of the most incongruous things ever seen on TV”, while the Musical Times  dismissed it as music suited to the fetid atmosphere of a night club or cabaret.

This recording (below) was made by the original performers in the run up to the performance at St. Augustine’s: Cantor, John Alldis;  Musicians/singers, The Peter Knight Orchestra and Singers; Conductor, Peter Knight;  Organist, William Davis.

References

Joan of Arc: a first for London

St Joan of Arc’s Church, 60 Highbury Park. London N5 2XH

The Catholic parish of St Joan of Arc in north London (UK) achieved a certain prominence during the 1990s when it was the local church of choice for the former British Labour Party leader and later Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family. However, the parish has two rather more interesting claims on posterity.

Firstly, ths buidling is the immediate succesor of the first Catholic church anywhere in the world dedicated to St Joan of Arc. From 1918 local Highbury Catholics had worshipped in the chapel of a convent of Discalced Carmelite nuns but increasing numbers of worshippers required the provision of a separate church.

This new church was opened on 13 October 1920 just five monrths after Joan’s canonisation (16 May 1920). When the Carmelites left Highbury in 1953 the convent site was used for a new and much larger church designed by Stanley Kerr Bate (b.1906–?), which opened on 23 September 1962.

The church of St Joan of Arc church in Highbury, London; detail of west fron and tower c.1990
The church of St Joan of Arc church in Highbury, London; detail of west fron and tower, c.1990

Secondly, the new church tower was the first in England to be provided with a radioactive lightning rod. (Taking Stock). The idea behind this device –  Early Streamer Emission theory – was that a small quantity of radioactive isotopes at the tip of the rod greatly increased the lightning capture area. The theory has since been discredited. Worriyingly, with such devices there is always a risk that the effects of weathering and poor maintenance allows radioactive material to be released in an uncontolled way into the environment. I have no idea if this dubious device is still in place on the tower at St Joan’s.

The very nice neo-baroque pipe organ (1963) is by J. W. Walker and Sons Ltd, and is divided either side of the front wall of a spacious choir gallery at the west end of the nave. The largest pedal pipes are in a separate case on the gallery.

References