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 present-day (2019) location of St Mary Newington church, London.
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.
Close-uo detail of the previous and the present-day (2019) location of St Mary Newington church, indicating the locations of the adjacent Roman ‘streets’.
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)
A general view of Newington Butts (1792), looking south past St Mary’s church. [Source: ‘Survey of London’, vol 25, p. 92]
A view of St Mary Newington rectory (1795). [Source: ‘Survey of London’, vol 25, p. 93]
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.
‘St. Mary Newington church, 1827’ [Source: ‘Survey of London’, vol. 25, p. 92]
The site of St Mary’s church and its rectory, Newington Butts, London in 1871. [Source: Ordnance Survey, LV (Lambeth St Mary; Southwark) Surveyed: 1871 Published: 1875]
The old church being taken down. ‘The Church of St. Mary, Newington, London’ (n.d.). Watercolour by James Miller (fl.1773-91) [Source: Guy Peppiatt Fine Art]
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.
St. Mary Newington, Surrey; James Fowler FRIBA. Architect, Lough. London, 1875
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.
St Mary Newington, London. Looking from the courtyard through the remnant of old west wall towards Kennington Park Road c.2000
St Mary Newington, London, looking through the old west door to the new church, seen from Kennington Park Road c.2000
St Mary Newington, London, seen from Kennington Park Road . c.2000
St Mary Newington, London, detail above the old west door seen from Kennington Park Road c.2000
St Mary Newington, London, seen from Kennington Park Road,. through the old west door c.2000
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).
St Mary Newington, London. Nave, looking west, and organ gallery. 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
St Mary Newington, London. Interior looking west, 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
St Mary Newington, London. North transept, and organ console, 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
St Mary Newington, London. The east end looking towards Kennington Park Road, 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
St Mary Newington, London. President’s chair. 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
St Mary Newington, London. South transept, font and pulpit, 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
Some of the church plate at St Mary Newington, in 1955. [Source: ‘Survey of London’, vol. 25, p. 92]
St Mary Newington, London. Side chapel. 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
St Mary Newington, London. Chancel, 2018. [Source: ttps://londonchurchbuildings.com]
‘The Church Plate of Surrey‘ by T. S. Cooper. Surrey Archaeological Collections. Vol XIV (1899) pp 209-11. Online resource, accessed 3 March 2019
‘The manor of Walworth and parish of St. Mary, Newington‘, in Survey of London: Volume 25, St George’s Fields (The Parishes of St. George the Martyr Southwark and St. Mary Newington), ed. Ida Darlington (London, 1955), pp. 81-90. British History Online. Online resource, accessed 3 March 2019
‘Newington: St Mary‘. Diocese of Southwark official directory. Online resource, accessed 3 March 2019
‘St Mary’s Newington‘. Exploring Southwark and discovering its history. Online resource, accessed 3 march 2019
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.
Charles Ford Whitcomb (1872-1930), architect of St Barnabas Southfields, London IK. Image source: The Digital Archive of Queensland Architecture.
St Barnabas Southfields, London, UK; architect’s plan c 1906. Source: ‘Incorporated Church Building Society Records’, Lambeth Palace Library Collections.
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 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.
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 location of St Agnes Kennington, London UK
The route of Stane Street
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.
St Agnes Kennington, London. The chancel.
St Agnes Kennington Park, London. West end.
St Agnes Kennington Park, London. West end.
St Agnes Kennington, London. The south side.
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.
St Agnes Kennington, London. The original church, prior to demolition, 1951.
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.
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).
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.“
A number of the fittings by Temple Moore were inlcuded in the new St Agnes’s cbhurch e.g. the chancel screen and loft (1885–89), reredos (1891), font canopy (1893), and choir stalls (1902). Some other furnishings were obtained by the architect Stephen Dykes Bower (1903–94) for use in his c.1956 rebuilding of the Chiurch of The Holy Sprirt, Southsea (UK).
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]
St Agnes Kennington, London, UK. The pipe organ specification in 1893. [Source: Musical Opinion, 1 ix 1893]
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:
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.
St Agnes Kennington, organ case (1911 by T. L. Moore), north side c.1921. [Source: University of Birmingham Special collections Freeman/452]
St Agnes Kennington, chancel screen (1885-9) by T. L. Moore, looking north-east c.1921. [Source: University of Birmingham Special collections Freeman/453]
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.
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.
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]).
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).
1921-1927. (Sir) William McKie (idem) [MT 92/1299 (1951) 218], assistant organist at St Agnes Kennington and later organist of Westminster Abbey.
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]
[1960s]-1994. Robert Woolley [correspondence with Christopher Smith, 24.06.21]
1994-2011. Christopher Smith [correspondence with Christopher Smith, 24.06.21]