About this church
Historian Roy Strong describes it as ‘a world vibrant with glorious imagery: friezes of saints in ceramic, an abundance of mosaic in alabaster and marble, patterns in brick and tile covering every surface, painted images and guttering candles and, above all, the haunting cavernous chancel and sanctuary’.
The design grew out of the mid 19th century desire to return the church to the splendour of the Middle Ages. This style of architecture chimes neatly with its current Anglo-Catholic style of worship that includes ritual, a traditional liturgy, choir and organ music, embellished vestments and incense.
All this makes for a heady mix that fairly overwhelms the senses.
Approached through a secluded courtyard, the church and its buildings are constructed in a bold chequered brick pattern, topped by a tower and spire that looms over the crowded street.
To the left is the old Choir School, attended by Laurence Olivier, which closed in 1968; to the right is the vicarage.
On the other side of the main door, the interior pulses with a riot of colour and pattern: tiles, brick, painting and gilding that extend from the walls and floor up to the very roof. The font is of various marbles with carved alabaster angels, and the pulpit is a weighty structure of geometrical mosaic.
On the north and west wall, mosaic patterns give way to impressive tile paintings that depict Biblical scenes and characters. These compete with stained glass windows that admit a muted light.
Almost a third of the length of the church is devoted to the chancel. To emphasise its importance, the abstract designs of the nave progress, as you pass through the gilt iron and brass gates set in the alabaster and marble chancel screen, to the richer gilded and painted decoration of the sanctuary.
In place of an east window (which is ruled out by the encroaching nearby buildings) there is an impressive three tiered fresco inspired by 15th century Italian work, that acts as a reredos and extends onto the north and south walls.
Everywhere the eye rests in this unforgettable iconic church, it is met by a visual richness that is the equal to the most ornate medieval cathedral.