The Survey of London
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    St Andrew’s Church, formerly in Wells Street, now at Kingsbury, Middlesex

    By the Survey of London, on 1 April 2016

    Remnants of old urban churches occasionally get reconstructed on suburban sites when they have outlived their usefulness. An example is Wren’s All Hallows, Lombard Street from the City of London, whose incongruous tower surprises motorists as they flash through Twickenham along the A316. But for a complete Victorian church, not of the first architectural order, to have been transferred lock, stock and barrel from the West End out to Metroland is surely unique. Yet that is what happened to St Andrew’s, Wells Street, Marylebone, rebuilt in 1933–4 as St Andrew’s, Kingsbury.

    St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London. Exterior view from south west. Taken for the Survey of London. ©

    St Andrew’s Church, Kingsbury, from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

    The key to the reuse of the church was the wonderful treasure house of its fittings, recognized even at a time when Victorian art and architecture were generally held in low esteem. The Wells Street church had an unusual history. Like many Victorian churches it was erected to boost church accommodation and, hopefully, attendances, in a densely inhabited urban area. But not long after it was completed to designs by Samuel Daukes in 1847, a rival Anglican church, the celebrated All Saints, Margaret Street, was constructed just round the corner. Both were controversially High Church foundations and in their early days attracted fashionable congregations who came to admire their splendid church music and fine fittings. The actress Sarah Bernhardt was married at St Andrew’s in 1882, but the marriage did not last.

    St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London, Interior from south west in gallery. Taken for the Survey of London.

    View of the interior from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The nave from the south-east (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The nave from the south-east (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    View through to the nave from the south aisle (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    View through to the nave from the south aisle (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The church’s third vicar was Benjamin Webb, secretary of the Ecclesiological Society and editor of its pugnacious journal, The Ecclesiologist. To keep up with All Saints, Webb commissioned fittings from the leading architects and artists of the Victorian church-building movement. Pugin had already contributed an altar and one window, and Butterfield (the architect of All Saints) a lectern.  To these Webb soon added a wonderful wall monument by William Burges to his predecessor, James Murray, and then a whole series of fittings by G. E. Street. Chief among these was the reredos, developed in stages to cover the whole east wall, with stone niches and alabaster figures and scenes carved by Webb’s protégé, the sculptor-carver James Redfern.  The font is also Street’s, but its tall canopy was added after Webb’s death by J. L. Pearson, who also tucked in sedilia beside the reredos. Add in copious stained glass by Clayton and Bell and some unusual decoration of the sacristy contributed by G. F. Bodley, and you have one of the richest collections of Victorian church fittings in existence.

    The chancel from the west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The chancel from the west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Detail of the reredos by G. E. Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Detail of the reredos designed by G. E. Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The altar designed by A. W. N. Pugin (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The altar designed by A. W. N. Pugin (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The more conspicuous All Saints was better able to withstand the loss of local population and the vagaries of church attendance in twentieth-century Marylebone than St Andrew’s. A commission proposed in 1929 the unusual solution of taking the latter down and re-erecting it elsewhere. Kingsbury, a rapidly growing district of Middlesex next to Wembley, was identified as the best site; it had a small and inadequate ancient church in an enormous churchyard, so that was the place identified for its relocation. So in 1933–4 this ‘unique casket of architectural jewels and decorative treasures’ was removed and rebuilt in remarkably faithful form by the builders Holland & Hannen and Cubitts, under the architect W. A. Forsyth’s direction. The interior at Kingsbury looks almost the same as it did in Marylebone, but enjoys much better light as it is not blocked in by surrounding buildings.  Because the church is now free-standing, its sides and east end look a bit different. But standing as it does on an eminence above the road, St Andrew’s is now seen to superior advantage than when it was hemmed in among buildings along a nondescript Marylebone street.

    Monument to James Murray, by William Burges (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London. Font from south west. Taken for the Survey of London.

    The marble font by G. E. Street, with metal cover by J. L. Pearson, viewed from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Detail of the chancel screen (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Detail of the chancel screen (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London.Pulpit Taken for the Survey of London.

    View of the metal pulpit by G. E. Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    St Andrews Church, Kingsbury, Greater London. West window stained glass. Taken for the Survey of London.

    The west window with stained glass by Clayton & Bell (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street

    By the Survey of London, on 25 December 2015

    The brick church and lofty spire of All Saints, together with the twin clergy and parish buildings that front it towards Margaret Street, comprise a renowned monument to Victorian religion and architecture. Exuberant and compact, the group was built in 1850–2 by John Kelk to designs by William Butterfield, yet the interior of the church with its painted reredos by William Dyce was not completed and opened till 1859.

    Generally regarded as Butterfield’s masterpiece, recent restorations have reinforced his original vision of strength, experimental colour and sublimity. A full account of this astonishing church will be given in the Survey of London’s forthcoming volumes on South-East Marylebone, in the meantime we would like to share a few of the extraordinary photographs of the church, taken for us by Chris Redgrave between 2013 and 2015.

    All Saints' Church (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    A view of the Margaret Street frontage of All Saints’ Church and its twin clergy houses, showing the 220ft spire (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

    All Saints replaced an earlier chapel that had been built in the mid eighteenth century and by 1839 was  ‘a complete paragon of ugliness … low, dark and stuffy … choked with sheep pens under the name of pews’ and ‘begirt by a hideous gallery, filled on Sundays with uneasy schoolchildren’. [1]

    The entrance arch to the church, in red brick with diaper patterns in black brick (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The entrance arch to the church, in red brick with diaper patterns in black brick (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    In 1846–7 the old chapel was embellished and restored by William Butterfield, but this was just an interim measure before plans for a new church could be put in hand. Butterfield was selected as the architect for the new church. Aged then 34 and at the top of his powers, he was to remain architect to All Saints and a member of the congregation until his death in 1900.

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The Clergy House on the east side of the church, now offices (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The building contract was signed on 1 September 1850 and despite the site constraints, the construction of this radical and unique church went ahead smartly, so that the shell was finished by the end of 1852.  For six and a half further years the church stayed shut. All the available money had been spent, and there were differences over how to finish the interior.

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    View towards the east end with the elaborately patterned chancel arch. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The church was consecrated at last in May 1859, after an estimated total expenditure of £70,000. All Saints opened to much publicity in newspapers, church journals and the building press alike. The Prince Consort, always interested in art-novelties, was among early visitors. Most comment was complimentary, sometimes lavishly so.

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The chancel and towering reredos with paintings by H. A. Bernard Smith to designs by Ninian Comper, 1909, recreating William Dyce’s reredos of 1854–9 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The pulpit. Seven-panelled on a splayed base, front supported on stubby granite columns, faced in patterning of many marbles, c.1858 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    All Saints, Margaret Street, by common estimation a masterpiece of British architectural and ecclesiastical art, has drawn many levels of reaction. Ian Nairn likened the church to an ‘orgasm’, and Nikolaus Pevsner saw it as an endeavour ‘most violently eager to drum into you the praise of the Lord’. [2]

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    North wall of the tower at the west end of the nave, with memorial to Henry Wood in the arch depicting the Ascension, 1891 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    All critics have agreed on the buildings’ sheer impact, expressed through force of line and intensity of colour. This ‘architecture of power’, to borrow Ruskin’s phrase, can be felt as strongly today as it was when the church was new.

    Nativity with six apostles on the lowest row of the reredos. The tilework at All Saints was designed by Butterworth, painted by Alexander Gibbs and executed by Henry Poole & Sons (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Nativity with six apostles on the lowest row of the reredos. The tilework at All Saints was designed by Butterfield, painted by Alexander Gibbs and executed by Henry Poole & Sons (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Sources

    1. Peter Galloway, A Passionate Humility: Frederick Oakeley and the Oxford Movement, 1999, pp.45–6 (quoting from Oakeley’s memoirs in Balliol College Library, Oxford)
    2. Ian Nairn, Nairn’s London, 1988 edn, p.77:  Susie Harries, Pevsner and Victorian Architecture Studies in Victorian Architecture and Design, vol.5, 2015, p.29. See also James Stevens Curl, ‘All Saints’, Margaret Street’, in AJ, 20 June 1990, pp.36–55