Tuesday, 10 September 2013

St Peter, Petersham

Petersham is quite unexpected: a true village within suburban London, sandwiched between Kingston and Richmond. The quaint and large Georgian brick-built church of St Peter lies just off the main road, a little corner of tranquillity away from the bustle beyond.

It is thought a Saxon chapel existed here in the 8th century, and a church was mentioned in Domesday. The earliest part of the present structure, however, is the chancel, rebuilt in 1266 and now retaining a single simple lancet window. The rest of the church was rebuilt in 1505 and again in the 1700s with the expansion of the transepts, which effectively reorientated the church north-south. The south side was enlarged again in 1840, but has been little altered since.

Inside, the feeling is overwhelmingly of a well-loved Georgian chapel, with high box pews and galleries, a lofty hexagonal pulpit with a spiral staircase, and round-headed windows with pale glass. There are two memorials of note: a fine Jacobean memorial to George Cole (d. 1624) and his wife, and in the churchyard, that of George Vancouver (1757-1798), whose expedition in 1791-5 charted the north west coasts of America and Canada.

On my visit the church had two delightful and informative welcomers.

St Peter, Church Lane, Petersham, Surrey, TW10 7AB

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Newcastle Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas was originally built as a parish church and was elevated to cathedral status with the advent of the Diocese of Newcastle in 1882. The largely 14th century building is a distinctive landmark in the city and retains much of its mediaeval fabric.

A church was built on the site soon after the erection of the castle, around 1091. Originally a wooden structure, it was rebuilt in stone towards the end of the 12th century. It was repaired and extended over successive centuries, including the raising of the clerestory above the nave in the 14th century, and the erection of the famous tower with its lantern spire, in 1442. Badly damaged by Scottish invaders in 1640 and 1644, the cathedral underwent heavy restoration in the 19th century under the supervision of Robert J Johnson.

The plan is conventional, with both the nave and chancel having 4 bays of aisles, with transepts and north and south porches. The mediaeval windows are a mixture of Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic. The building has a number of interesting memorials, including a 14th century effigy of a  knight with a shield and a lamb at his feet. On the south chancel wall is a large incised brass from the grave of Roger Thornton (d. 1429) and his wife, said to be the largest mediaeval brass in England. The city's growing mercantile prosperity is reflected in the many memorials from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, notable among which is that to Admiral Lord Collingwood (1748-1810), who assumed command at Trafalgar after the death of Nelson.

The Cathedral has a busy life of worship and music and is open every day of the year.

The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas Square, Newcastle upon Tyne. NE1 1PF

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

St Thomas of Canterbury, East Clandon

East Clandon has a homely little church, clearly well cared for by its congregation.

The Victoria County History records the nave as dating back to c. 1100, although the windows were renewed in the Perpendicular style in the 15th century. The chancel dates to around 1220, with the unusual feature of twin lancets at the east end, rather than the usual three. The communion rails date from the late 1600s.

The small aisle is entered through a single arch, although it ends at the west end in a pillar rather than the usual respond, indicating either that there was another bay or that one was intended. The aisle itself was rebuilt in the 1900s, and contains the tomb-chest of Stuart, Lord Rendel (1834-1913), beneath a mock-Jacobean ceiling. Rendel was an industrialist, Liberal politican and an early benefactor to the University of Wales.

In the wooden bell turret, one of the three bells dates from 1500, a happy pre-Reformation survivor.

St Thomas of Canterbury, East Clandon, The Street, East Clandon, Surrey, GU4 7RY

Old St Peter & St Paul, Albury

Albury boasts four churches: the original Saxon church of St Peter and Paul; the Victorian replacement (in the re-sited village) of the same dedication; a 19th century church north of Albury Park, erected by Henry Drummond in 1840 to house the Catholic Apostolic Church (of which he was an enthusiastic convert and advocate); and a modern 'Church in Barn'. The Saxon church, splendidly isolated in Albury Park, is now redundant and in the care of the Church Conservation Trust, although occasional services are still held here.

The north wall and tower base are Saxon, but the nave is mostly Norman work, with a 13th century chancel and south transept, and a large 14th century aisle of 3 bays. The tower is topped by a jolly 18th century cupola with wooden shingles.

Stripped of its pews and furnishings, the interior is atmospheric but bare, save for a late 14th century wall painting of a wonderfully bearded St Christopher and the fantastical, deeply coloured decoration of the south transept, designed by Pugin in 1839, as a setting for Drummond's memorial. Simpler is the brass to John Weston (d. 1440) on the south transept floor.

St Peter and St Paul Old Church, Albury Park, Surrey, GU5 9BB
Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9BB
Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9BB