Thursday, 2 April 2009

St Cuthbert, Earl's Court, London

St Cuthbert's is tucked away off the main Warwick Road in Earl's Court, a quiet spot away from the traffic.

From the outside, it looks like another unremarkable Victorian red-brick church: there isn't even an East Window, in its place a decorative gothic arch with empty niches, waiting for statues. But inside is one of England's outstanding collection of Anglo-Catholic arts and crafts furnishings.

Opened in 1883, the interior space is tall and dark, the nave running continuously into the chancel, its proportions modelled on the picturesque ruins of Tintern Abbey in Gwent. The elegant pier shafts and wall panels are made of coloured Torquay marble (apparently the largest shipment ever made of this stone).

The windows include lovely examples by Kempe, but it is the arts and crafts which steal the show. The elaborate lecturn is a beautiful piece in copper, brass and wrought iron, but even this is overshadowed by the huge rood beam, with its saints and crucifix, dominating the interior space - modelled on that in the cathedral at Granada. The reredos is also impressive, taking up the whole of the east end, with elaborate carvings of Christ, angels and saints.

Unfortunately the interior is rather dusty, and needs some refurbishment: the south wall has been cleaned on the outside, and shows just how colourful the interior could be. Although seldom open in the day for visitors, the space is best appreciated at services, when the rising clouds of incense provide a dramatic spectacle.

Philbeach Gardens, Earl's Court, London SW5 9EB

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