Thursday, 2 April 2009

St Augustine, Kensington

St Augustine's church was a favourite of Sir John Betjeman. The tall, narrow nave has a lovely west end on Queen's Gate, with alternating bands of brick and stone rising to a double belfry. Designed by the celebrated Victorian church architect William Butterfield, it was completed in 1876.

Although the exterior is decorative, it is hardly a preparation for the interior. This is an amazing example of polychrome work, worthy of the nearby Natural History Museum. Everything is coloured, using stone, mosaics, tiles and marble: walls, floors - even the pulpit. Geometric patterns frame a series biblical scenes on the walls and clerestory, leading you towards the spacious and dramatic chancel, and an astonishing gilded reredos.

The exterior view is currently rather spoiled by the vacant building site next door - one can only hope that its eventual neighbour is a worthy one.

Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LP

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