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.
St Barnabas Southfields, London, UK; architect’s plan c 1906. Source: ‘Incorporated Church Building Society Records’, Lambeth Palace Library Collections.
Charles Ford Whitcomb (1872-1930), architect of St Barnabas Southfields, London IK. Image source: The Digital Archive of Queensland Architecture.
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 closer inspection 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.
St Barnabas Southfields (London UK) Nave looking east. [Source: John Salmon (2012): /www.geograph.org.uk/]
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.
St Andrew’s Church, Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, London SW18 4SR
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”.
Drawing by E W. Mountford, architect, of the proposed church of St Andrew Earlsfield, with newspaper cutting, c.1889. London Metropolitan Archive P95/AND1/063
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK; site plan c. 2016.
Details from a drawing by E W. Mountford, architect, of the proposed church of St Andrew Earlsfield, with newspaper cutting, c.1889. London Metropolitan Archive P95/AND1/063
Design for St Andrew Earlsfiled, architect E. W. Mountford. ‘Building News’ 20 November 1891
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).
New Sessions House, ‘Old Bailey’, London (1906), architect E.W. Mountford.
Sheffield Town Hall (1897), architect E.W. Mountford.
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.
St Andrew, Earlsfield, London, UK. West front, detail.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, south side looking west, 2016.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK c.2015
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.
St Andrew’s church Earlsfield, London UK, north aisle screen, as in 2017.
— 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.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London, UK; the chancel, 2017.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK; seen from the chancel, 2017.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK, 2017.
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,
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK. peadl board, as in 2017.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK. Watkins and Watson on/off switch at the console, for the blowing machjinery, as in 2017.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK; builder’s plate.
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).
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK. Console, right-hand side in 2017.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK. Console, right-hand side in 2017.
St Andrew Earlsfield, London UK, the organ (1921) by Harrison & Harrison of Durham, UK. Console, left-hand side in 2017.
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.
‘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].