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].

Sir John Soane in Walworth

St Peter’s Church, London SE17 2HH

Walworth (Saxon: Wealawyr, 1006) and Newington (Niwetun, 1212) were once separate hamlets along the road leading south from London Bridge. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the area was noted for its public gardens and commercial small-holdings, especially those cultivating fruit and flowers. The population of the district was – surprisingly – very little affected by its proximity to London until the early nineteenth century,

Late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century maps depict Walworth as a pleasant country neighbourhood with a few newly-formed roads stretching across the gardens and fields. However, the formation of these new roads after 1754 brought an impetus to build well-to-do housing, and in 1808 the Walworth Road was described as being lined with elegant mansions. Between 1800 and 1820  the population of Newington increased from 14,847 to 44,526, although as late as 1853 when the author Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96) lived there she found it a “charming retreat” with a view from the windows of sheep and lambs grazing in a meadow.

But steadily throughout nineteenth century many of the area’s genteel Georgian-/Regency-era houses were pulled down and replaced by dense blocks of dwellings and three-storey terraced houses. By the end of the centiry the whole area was closely packed with streets of working-class houses, shops and industry.

Large-scale post-war public-sector regeneration of housing resulted in the demolition of much of the earlier developments, replacing them with modernist estates of public housing, which in turn are now being replaced by estates of new private sector housing.

In 1820, faced with a rapidly expanding population, the authorities sanctioned the creation of St Peter’s church (opened 1825) to the design of Sir John Soane (1753–1837), his first church, and it remains his most complete surviving church building. The  parish is a thriving community and the building stands in excellent condition.

The west-gallery pipe-organ facade and gilded pipes belong to the first instrument (1824/5) installed in the west gallery, made by the London firm of Henry Cephas (H. C.) Lincoln (fl.1810-55). The original organ no longer exists. The current instrument by the firm of Harrison of Durham was moved here in 2010 from the chapel of Whitelands College, Putney, where it had first been installed, in 1949.

Jane Parker-Smith in recital

Freemasons Hall, London WC2

Yesterday I went along to an early evening organ recital performed by Jane Parker-Smith on the recently restored and enlarged pipe organ in the Grand Temple of the Freemasons Hall in central London, UK.

It is some thirty or more years since I last heard Jane Parker-Smith perform – my fault and not hers – and I was looking forward to hearing and seeing again the showy technical brilliance and the vivacious stage presence that I remembered so clearly as her hallmark. To give you some idea think of a ‘Kate Bush’ of the organ world.

These days  Jane Parker-Smith presents a more strikingly sober figure than in her early career, and there is a less obvious desire to dazzle as was evident in her modest introductory speech and black concert attire; the programme notes went so far as to compare her with the famously serious pianist Martha Agerich.

Despite her demurely presented introductory speech Parker-Smith’s demanding programme was  brilliantly performed. Technical wizardry is still in evidence – as seen in close up via two large video screens relaying the console – but here now is also a considered interpretative authority.

Of all the organists I have heard so far in this short series of recitals – part of celebrations marking 300 years of the Grand Lodge of English freemasons – Jane Parker-Smith seemed to be the most at home with this instrument. The Grand Temple has a dry acoustic, designed for clarity of speech rather than the presentation of music; every note and the silences between notes are crystal clear. It is perhaps Jane Parker-Smith’s life lived more in the demanding acoustic of the international concert hall than the looser acoustics of the average church buidling that contributed to her entirely assured playing on this occasion.

The programme was largely of (to me) unfamiliar pieces of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this regard I was particularly struck by the virtuosic concluding pages of Variations on ‘Adeste Fideles’ by Belgian-American organist/composer Gaston Marie Dethie (1875-1958).

An evening such as this would not be properly concluded without an encore, and Jane Parker-Smith gave us an arrangement of Flight of the Bumble Bee by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), effortlessly and impishly thrown-off con brio as we could all see and hear, and it was rapturously received. Go Jane!

So maybe Jane Parker-Smith’s excuberant dazzle is not entirely a thing of the past?