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].

On the Wandle

St John the Divine, Earlsfield SW17

Earlsfield (formerly Garratt Green; var. Garret, Garat &c) – in the London Borough of Wandsworth – is a somewhat nondescript inner south-London suburb. It is dissected by the River Wandle, a tributary of the River Thames. In past times the area was open farmland and with no settlements other than the hamlet of Garratt Green, home to a large water mill. Garratt Lane, running parallel with the Wandle for some distance, is the main thoroughfare of Earlsfield; its name keeps alive a memory of former times.

With the coming of the railways in the 1880s the construction of a railway station required the purchase and demolition of a large house called Earlsfield. One of the conditions of its sale was that the station should be named after the house, and so the area has been known ever since.

From the mid eighteenth century until the 1820s Garratt Green was widely known for the rumbustious carnival atmosphere that accompanied the election of a ‘mayor’ to oversee the management of the common land. These elections were timed to coincide with national elections, but outgrew their original purpose to become something of rallying point for the un-enfranchised classes to have a day out and mock the political system that denied them a vote. Reports talk of tens of thousands attending.

The scene of the election was the Leather Bottle pub, which still stands on Garratt Lane. The elections were immortalised in a popular drama called  ‘The Mayor of Garratt’ (1763), written by the actor-dranatist and impresario Samuel Foote (1720-77) who had witnessed the 1761 election.

Bendon Valley Mission Church, Earlsfield, c.1915
Bendon Valley Mission Church, Earlsfield, c.1915

The church of St John the Divine on Garratt Lane was established in 1903 as the Bendon Valley Mission Church, a mission church of St Andrew’s, Garratt Lane.

Unbuilt design (1920) for St John the Divine Earlsfield
Unbuilt design (1920) for St John the Divine Earlsfield

In the 1920s plans were drawn up to replace the mission building with something altogether more grand, designed by F H. Greenaway and J.E. Newberry, and dedicated to St John the Divine, ‘on a corner site at the junction of Garratt Lane and Bendon Valley’ (The Building News, 29 October 1920), but these plans were never carried out.

St John the Divine, Earlsfield, the west end, c.2015
St John the Divine, Earlsfield, the west end, c.2015

Instead we have the rather modest building that dates from 1925 by the architect Arthur Young, 1853-1924, supervised after his death by his business partner Allan Douglas Reid, 1898-1977. (C20 Society Churches Database).

The font at St John the Divine, Earlsfield, c.2013
The font at St John the Divine, Earlsfield, c.2013

The font came from St George Battersea (Southwark Diocesan Records [SDR]: DS/F/1936/008).

St John the Divine became a parish in its own right in 1938 (SDR: DS/OC/1938/001).

According to an advertisement for a parish organist in The Musical Times of 1943, the organ at that time  was a ‘S Cecilia Organ’. I am guessing that this refers to the  economical production-line instruments made in the early decades of the twentieth century by the firm of Henry Jones in Finsbury Park, north London.

In 1974, according to the National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR), the church had a two-manual instrument but gives no maker’s name. Was this the St Cecilia organ, an enlargement of it, or something altogether different?

Organ builder's announcement about the organ in St John the Divine Earlsfield, in 'The Musical Times' (vol. 117, no.1605, November 1976.
Organ builder’s announcement about the organ in St John the Divine Earlsfield, in ‘The Musical Times’ (vol. 117, no.1605, November 1976.

NPOR notes that in 1976 a new two-manual and pedal instrument was installed by Percy Daniel and Co. Lrd. of Taunton (Somerset). This instrument was mentioned by name in several quarter page adverts placed by the company in The Musical Times during 1976 and 1977.

Tne organ is sited at the south-west corner of the church, and when I played it earlier this year it was in excellent condition with no extraneous mechanical or wind noise, and was unexpectedly satisfying to play, being well-suited to accompanying the congregation in this small church, and an ideal ‘no frills’ practice instrument.

There’s pleasure in Vauxhall

St Peter’s, Vauxhall, London SE11

St Peter’s church (1864) on Kennington Lane in Vauxhall, south London, is a very nice unadulterated example of work by the English architect John Loughborough Pearson (1817–97). What a pleasure to discover it this week.

From the late seventeenth century and all through the eighteenth this place was the location of the celebrated New Spring Gardens or Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a place of fantasy and fun on the south bank of the Thames for leisured Londoners. By the mid-nineteenth century the gardens were closed and the area was fast becoming a densely populated and semi-industrial working-class suburb with almost none of the gardens remaining, indeed the church is built on the south-west corner of the gardens’ site. The 1794 house next door to St Peter’s church is now the vicarage but it was originally the home of the widow of Jonathan Tyers II, a former owner of the Vauxhall Gardens.

While the outside of this well-maintained church has some nice decorative flourishes here and there, the inside brims with finely wrought design such as the fine carving and decoration on the font and the elaborate carved capitals of the nave, the decoration of the chancel, and the lofty brick vaulting.

The organ (1870) by T.C. Lewis sits at the east end of the south aisle, next to the chancel. It was initially rented from Lewis as a temporary instrument but was eventually purchased outright by the parish in about 1873. It is rather too modest for the building and it is to be regretted that Lewis did not get the chance to provide this fine building with a more substantial permanent instrument. But as with all organs by Lewis the tone is lovely; each stop sounds remarkably fine in its own right, crisp and articulate, and yet is able to blend wonderfully well with its neighbours. Now, after almost 150 years of service the mechanism is rather tired and rackety, and at the time of writing an organ-restoration appeal is underway.