St Matthias in Stoke Newington

The Anglican church of St Matthias in Stoke Newington, London (UK) is an imposing mid-c19 building located in a modest side-street of this densely populated, multicultural district of north London. The parochial area was established in 1849 and the church building was constructed 1851-53 to the designs of the architect William Butterfield (1814–1900).

From its earliest years the church of St Matthias was home to “high-church” ritual, and remains firmly rooted in the Catholic traditions of the Church of England.

The building occupies a surprisingly spacious site – not immediately obvious – comprising  church halls, a post-war  vicarage and recently rebuilt St Matthias primary school, all separated by well-kept tranquil grounds .

In 1954 – following substantial war-damage – a reconstruction of the church (with a new vicarage) was completed to the design of Nugent Cachemaille-Day (1896–1976). Although most of the original fittings and decorative scheme had been irretrievably lost, Cachemaille-Day’s bright, broad and lofty ‘restoration’ has a powerful numinous quality.

The pipe organ

The current four-manual and pedal pipe organ (1952) sits on a fine west gallery and is the work of Noterman & Co of London. It contains some pipework from the church’s former instrument, by Henry Willis & Co. A detailed technical description is online with the National Pipe Organ Register (see References).

‘William Henry Monk (1823–9), Organist and hymn writer’ by W. & A.H. Fry c.1870 [Source: National Portrait Gallery, London. (NPGx21372), with permission]
W. H. Monk

The first organist at St Matthias was W.H. Monk, a pioneer in the reintroduction of plainsong to Anglican worship. He remained in this post for 37 years until his death in 1889. Shortly after arriving at St Matthias Monk was appointed (1857) the first editor of the Church of England’s ubiquitous Hymns Ancient and Modern. He also held posts at the University of London (Bedford College and King’s College) and the Royal College of Music.

Today W. H. Monk’s most-performed work is the music for the hymn Abide With Me (Eventide).

Stephen Jasper – present-day Director of Music at St Matthias Stoke Newington – plays W. H. Monk’s tune ‘Eventide’ (Abide with me).

Sources

  • William Butterfield‘. Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 23 June 2019
  • T. F. Bumpus. London Churches Churches Ancient and Modern (T. Laurie: London, 1908)
  • ‘Nugent Cachemaille-Day‘. Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 23 June 2019
  • ‘N. F. Cachemailled-Day. A search for somwthing more’, by  Anthony Hill. The Thirties Society Journal, No. 7 (1991), pp. 20-27
  • St Matthias Stoke Newington, parish website. Online resource, accessed 21 June 2019
  • St Matthias Stoke Newington‘, A Church Near You. Online resource accessed 21 June 2019
  • ‘St Matthias Stoke Newington, Wordsworth Road, Hackney’; records (1848-1993) in the London Metropolitan Archives, ref. P94/MTS
  • William Henry Monk‘. Wikipedia. Online resource, accessed 23 July 2019.

The Kensington Chapel

Ground plan (c.1939) of the Kensington Chapel, Allen Street, London W8 [Source: Survey of London]
The Kensington Chapel – Allen Street, London W8 – was opened in 1855 to serve as a Congregationalist place of worship.

The architect was Andrew Trimen (1810–72), a favourite of the English Congregational Chapel-Building Society, and the builder was Thomas Chamberlain (n.d.). The total cost of £8,748 included the purchase of the site from the Phillimore family.

Subsequent additions included the eastern hall and meeting rooms (1856). A new school was provided to one side of the chapel 1868–9 designed by G. Gordon Stanham costing £5,000; subsequently demolished and the site redeveloped.

The chapel building was severely damaged by aerial bombing in 1940 and was not restored to use until 1958, with upgraded minister’s accommodation, halls and meeting rooms.

The pipe-organ

The present west-gallery instrument was installed in 1958, replacing an earlier instrument that was lost when the building suffered war damage. This two-manual and pedal pipe organ is by the firm of Henry Willis and bears two dates: 1868 and 1958. The earlier date suggests the organ had previously been elsewhere, currently unknown. The specification can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register (see ‘References’ below).

Advertisement in the Musical Times, February 1959, for an organist at the kenisington Chapel, and its newly installed Willis organ.

Previously the chapel’s organ had its pipe-organ placed at the centre of the east wall, as we see in the first pipe-organ image above. The history of this former organ is unclear, the first available evidence – dating from 1921 – notes that it was rebuilt in 1890 by the firm of Hele and Co.

A description (1921) of the rebuilt organ in the Kensington Chapel, Allen Street, London W8.[Source: ”Dictionary of organs and organists” F. W. Thornsby, ed. (London, 1921 2nd edition) 145.
References

St Mary Newington

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 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.

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)

Next to the church was a moated rectory.

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.

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.

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.

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).

References

 

 

 

 

Cool green at St Barnabas Southfields

The location of the church of St Barnabas Southfields, London UK
The location of the church of St Barnabas Southfields, London UK

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.

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 pipe organ

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.

References

  • Charles Ford Whitcombe‘, Wikipedia. accessed 1 February 2019
  • ‘Church Building Society Records’, Lambeth Palace Library. Online resource, accessed 1 February 2019
  • Parishes: Wandsworth‘, in A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4, ed. H E Malden (London, 1912), pp. 108-120. British History Online  [accessed 8 February 2019].
  • St Barnabas, 146 Lavenham Road‘, National Pipe Organ Register. Online resource accessed 1 February 2019
  • ‘St Barnabas Southfields’. Diocese of Southwark Faculty Records, London Metropolitan Archives.
  • St Barnabas Southfileds‘, Diocese of Southwark: Find a Church. Online resource, accessed 1 February 2019
  • ‘St Barnabas Southfields’. Parish magazines. London Metropolitan Archive.