Goddards Study Day

13 June 2007

This year the annual study day was devoted to a lesser known aspect of Edwin Lutyens’s oeuvre, his designs for religious buildings. The organisers felt that it was time that attention was given to the two churches Lutyens designed for Hampstead Garden Suburb, two memorials, the Wargrave Columbarium and the Philipson Memorial, and the church of St. Mary in Pixham. Mervyn Miller, the Trust’s Architectural Adviser and Honorary Life President of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, whose book on the suburb has recently been reviewed in the Summer Newsletter, gave a lecture entitled Hampstead Churches in which he gave a masterly account of the development of the suburb and Dame Henrietta Barnett’s patronage. He discussed the planning of Central Square and the design of the Anglican church of St. Jude, and the Free Church. It was at Henrietta Barnett’s insistence that the height of the walls of the churches did not exceed that of the surrounding buildings in the square. This resulted in exaggeratingly sweeping roofs, penetrated by magnificent rectangular dormer windows in aedicule form, allowing light into the churches. This was one of the results of the rather uneasy relationship between architect and client. The vaulting in St. Jude’s recalls Byzantine vaulting and the Free Church is distinguished with a dome.

Oliver Bradbury, Assistant Architectural Adviser to Hampstead Garden Suburb followed with a talk on the Wargrave Columbarium (1905), and the Philipson Memorial at Golders Green Crematorium Cemetery. ‘Columbarium’ is an architectural term used to describe a niche for a sepulchral urn and in this case the building at Wargrave is a small memorial erected to house the ashes of the members of the Hannen family, a well-known family in the building industry. The Philipson Memorial fulfils a similar purpose, though nothing is known of the
family. In the designs Lutyens was much influenced by Early Christian and Byzantine architecture; Indian architecture was also suggested at the study day. Both families are long dead and the upkeep and preservation of these exquisite small buildings is a matter of concern.

After lunch the study group visited two local churches to see examples of the influence of Byzantine architecture. St. Mary’s Church, Pixham was designed by Lutyens in 1903. Lady Wedgwood conducted the tour, explaining the patronage of a redoubtable Miss Mayo, who built the church as a memorial to her brothers. Built in brick, and plastered internally, it was to have a dual purpose. The sanctuary served the spiritual needs of the community, while the nave was to be used as a clubroom. (It is currently used by a children’s playgroup.) This was followed by a visit to the extraordinary church ‘The Wisdom of God’, Lower Kingswood, designed in 1891 by Sidney Barnsley. It was built for Sir Edwin Freshfield and Sir Cosmo Bonsor, who travelled extensively in the Balkans and Middle East. It is built in a free Byzantine style, richly decorated with mosaic and furnished with many artefacts brought back to England by the patrons. Antedating Lutyens’s work it is an example of the late 19th century antiquarian enthusiasm for the style.

It was instructive to consider in detail Lutyens’s growing interest in the Byzantine style.

Janet Allen