St Clement King Square, EC1: saved by accident

The fine-looking early c19 Anglican church of St Clement King Square is little known, though quite unjustly so. Admittedly it is barely visible to most passers by, being tucked  away along a cobbled cul-de-sac beside a small, quiet urban park (King Square) and overwhelmed by later c20 housing developments.

The church building – originally dedicated to St Barnabas – was designed by Thomas Hardwick (1752–1829) and competed in 1826 at a cost of around £17,000. Hardwick’s design was part of a middle-class garden-square housing development built on land owned by St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and was intended as a chapel-of-ease to St Luke’s Old Street.

This article’s rather oblique title derives from the fact that tn the late 1930’s the church was designated for closure in favour of other nearby church buildings, specifically:

      • St Clement, Lever Street (1863–5; arch. George Gilbert Scott, 1811–78)
      • St Matthew, City Road (1847–8; arch. George Gilbert Scott. Additions 1866: arch. G. E. Street, 1824–81)
      • St Paul, Pear Tree [Peartree] Street (1868; arch, Ewan Christian, (1814–95).

However, as a result of aerial bombing during the Second World War those churches were damaged beyond repair and were closed. St Barnabas, itself bombed – but not irreparably – was retained and renovated by the Norman Haines Design Partnership to create a fine neo-classical interior. It was re-dedicated on 12 June 1954 as the church for a newly created parish of St Clement with St Barnabas and St Matthew Finsbury. The people here are very warm and welcoming, and the building is also well used for concerts of music, not least by musicians from the nearby City University.

The pipe organ

The first organ in this building was by the firm of William Hill and Sons, but was lost when the church suffered war damage. The rather nice two-manual organ we find today is derived from the mechanical-action organ by Henry Willis that was originally installed (1876) in St Thomas, Agar Town (1860-61; arch: S. S. Teulon, 1812–73) . That church was closed and demolished in the early 1950s at which point the Willis instrument there was salvaged by the firm of Mander and Sons for re-use, some of it here. The case, console and electro-action are new.

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Our Most Holy Redeemer & St Thomas More, Chelsea

Having previously written about the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden and its connection with Sir Thomas More and his family, I was very happy recently to have the opportunity to visit Chelsea (where More lived at the end of his life) to play for a Sunday mass at the church which – since his canonisation in 1935 – bears More’s name.

The site in Upper Cheyne Walk was formerly occupied by Orange House, one of a terrace of eleven houses (c.1710), of which the other ten remain. Orange House was the location (1876–82) of workshops belonging to  the well-known ‘Arts and Crafts’ potter and ceramic artist William de Morgan (1839–1917). The present building was consecrated in 1905, built to the Renaissance-style design of Edward Goldie (1856–1921).

George-Maydwell-Holdich (1816-96). [Source: Organ Historical Society opf Australia ohta.org.au]
G. M. Holdich (1816-96) [Source: ohta.org.au]
At the west end of the church is an organ gallery and pipe organ that replaces an earlier instrument destroyed by aerial bombing during the Second World War. The present  instrument was made by G. M. Holditch (1816–96) for a church in High Wycombe. It was described there as  having an “elegant case of ebonised wood, generously gilded on moulding and ornamentation.” (NPOR). Since then that case has largely been lost and the instrument been much adapted by unknown hands. Although now rather unattractive in appearance this instrument is nonetheless well suited to congregational accompaniment.

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A Bevington in Kensal Town

The present  church of St. Thomas with St. Andrew and St. Philip Kensal Town (London, W10, UK) replaces an earlier building and was opened in 1967; built to the design of Romilly E. Craze (1892-1974).

The former church here was opened in 1889, built  to the designs of Demaine and Brierley of York, J. Demaine being described as ‘Diocesan Surveyor’.  The building was demolished following aerial bombing during the Second World War. It has not been possible to locate any pre-war images of the interior of this building.

The pipe organ

The pipe organ in the 1889 building was lost to war damage; details of that instrument are given in the National Pipe Organ Register. The present west-gallery instrument is a second-hand 1-manual organ by Bevington and Sons of Rose Street, Soho, London.  This address. and the builder’s plate  would give the organ a date between 1867 and 1896.

While the previous location of this instrument is unknown,  its recent history can be traced in the PCC minute books as follows:

        • PCC Minutes 21.9.1965. “Organ & Choir. It would be possible and most Desirable. to site Both of choir & organ at West End When type of organ has been decided upon and the Organ Builder so that they can consult with Mr Craze” [Romilly E. Craze was the new building’s architect].
        • PCC Minutes 20.10.1965. ”Makers of Compton Organ inform us that if we PURCHASE  our organ now they will Guarantee to maintain present day price.”
        • PCC Minutes. 5.4.1967 “Organ.  Letter from Diocesan House re organ Stating that they cannot see their way clear to supply cash for organ. Mr Craze is going to see Secondhand Organ which is for sale at £675. For the remodernising and installation of the organ final cost would be approx. £1000.”
        • PCC minutes 16.4 1972 “The 16 stop American reed organ has been given to the Cecil Club.” [The Cecil Club, 1-5 Wedlake Street, was a nearby local authority facility for senior ciizens]

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