St Cuthbert's Church - Philbeach Gardens, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 29.481 W 000° 12.013
30U E 694360 N 5708184
Quick Description: St Cuthbert's church, built between 1884 and 1887, is located on the west side of Philbeach Gardens. There is a group of six gargoyles around the base of the crocketed spire.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 12/23/2016 5:25:49 AM
Waymark Code: WMTPD0
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Norfolk12
Views: 1

Long Description:

On the roof-ridge there is a tall, copper-clad timber fleche with two open stages and a crocketed spire with the gargoyles arranged around the base of the spire.

The church is Grade I listed with the entry at the Historic England website telling us:

Summary of Building

Parish church, 1884-7 by Hugh Roumieu Gough, with embellishments of 1887-1910 by W Bainbridge Reynolds, Ernest Geldart, J Harold Gibbons and others.

Reasons for Designation

St Cuthbert’s Church is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

  • Artistic interest: an exceptionally rich and consistent scheme of fittings and decoration, including major pieces by the Arts and Crafts metalworker William Bainbridge Reynolds and the architect-priest Ernest Geldart;
  • Architectural interest: a noble and lofty ‘town church’, its proportions modelled on those of Tintern Abbey, and its originally plain interior conceived as a blank canvas for later generations to enrich;
  • Historic interest: the church is a high water-mark of turn-of-the-century Ritualism, and is also a remarkable expression of the contemporary cult of handicrafts.


Philbeach Gardens, a long, tree-lined crescent lined with prosperous three-storey terraces, was laid out and built between 1876 and 1880, part of an increasingly populous and densely developed area on the western fringes of Earl’s Court that so far lacked a church of its own. Attempts by the mother parish of St Philip, Earl’s Court Road to plant a new church in the district came to nothing, and the initiative was taken up by the Revd Henry Westall, curate at the notoriously High-Church parish of St Matthias, Warwick Road. A public meeting in February 1881 led to the formation of a building committee and the selection of an architect. This was Hugh Roumieu Gough (1843-1904), the son and former pupil of the mid-Victorian architect Alexander Dick Gough, and the joint designer (with JP Seddon) of the new St Paul's Church in nearby Hammersmith.

Despite opposition from St Philip’s and from John Jackson, the Low-Church bishop of London, a site was acquired in September 1882, and a temporary iron church opened in February 1883. The foundation stone for Gough’s church, brought specially from Holy Island, Lindisfarne, was laid on 7 July 1884, and the building was consecrated on 11 November 1887, with the Lady chapel completed the following year.

St Cuthbert’s is a prime example of the approach to church-building recommended by the great Victorian architect GE Street, who decried the early Ecclesiologists’ reliance on the English village church as a model for the Victorian urban scene, calling instead for big brick basilicas like those of the medieval Italian city-states, with all available resources channelled into erecting an imposing shell whose plainness would inspire later generations to great labours of enrichment. Gough shared these views, and apart from the stone pulpit, font and sedilia, and the richly-coloured marble used for the nave columns, the church as he left it was an austerely empty vessel.

Westall’s Anglo-Catholic Ritualism and vigorous powers of organisation ensured that it did not remain so for long. His parishioners, many of whom were affluent or ‘artistic’ or both, were corralled into medieval-style Guilds, each charged with undertaking a different aspect of the internal embellishment – the Guild of St Peter with the decoration of the internal walls, the Guild of St Joseph with the carving of the elaborate oak choir-stalls, and the Guild of St Margaret with embroidery for vestments and hangings. The congregation included a number of professional designers and craftsmen, who provided instruction in the necessary skills as well as designs for the major fittings. The most significant contributions were made by the Arts and Crafts metalworker William Bainbridge Reynolds (1855-1935), a friend of Gough's who had worked as one of Street's assistants on the Law Courts in the Strand. Other contributors included the architect-priest Ernest Geldart (1848-1929), who devised the huge Spanish-style reredos, and J Harold Gibbons (1878-1958); the latter's 1908 proposals for a mortuary chapel and cloister on the south side of the church went unrealised. Wealthy supporters gave money (totalling some £79,000 by 1905) and works of art, of which St Cuthbert’s possesses an extraordinarily large collection. The result is a remarkable synthesis of late-Victorian applied arts, and one of the richest ecclesiastical interiors in London.

The church was damaged during WWII, and was afterwards restored by Gibbons. The nave pews were removed at this time, and new glass installed in the Lady chapel. The parent church of St Matthias, Warwick Road was demolished in 1958, and its parish united with that of St Cuthbert. More recently, c.2000, Gibbons’ copper roof covering was replaced with the original Westmoreland slate.


Parish church, 1884-7 by Hugh Roumieu Gough, with embellishments of 1887-1910 by William Bainbridge Reynolds, Ernest Geldart, J Harold Gibbons and others.

MATERIALS: exterior of red brick with Bath stone dressings and Westmoreland slate roof (replaced c.2000). Interior originally brick-faced, with piers of Belgian and Ashburton marble; internal walls later clad with Ashburton marble revetments and carved stone diapering.

PLAN: five-bay aisled nave with small projecting baptistery to the west end; chancel of two bays with a Lady chapel to the south, organ loft and sacristy to the north and church rooms in the crypt below.

EXTERIOR: the style is an austere late-C12 Gothic, the sheer brick walls punctuated by plain lancets in the aisles and paired two-light Geometric Gothic windows in the tall clerestory. The east front faces the street, having in place of an east window a big arched recess containing two tiers of trefoil-headed niches; of the intended programme of statuary, only one item (lower right, St Gregory, of 1908 by Gilbert Boulton of Cheltenham) was ever completed. The recess is flanked by octagonal turrets terminating in massive stone pinnacles; the gable end between them is enriched with diaper-work and crockets. Below is the foundation stone, brought from Holy Island and inscribed A. M. D. G. [ad majorem Dei gloriam, ‘to the greater glory of God’] 2nd July 1884. To the left is the polygonal apse of the Lady chapel, before which stands a wooden Calvary group by J Harold Gibbons. On the roof-ridge above is a tall, copper-clad timber fleche with two open stages and a crocketed spire. The plain west front with its three tall lancets overlooks the railway cutting; a substantial stone bellcote was removed from the gable after WWII.

Water spout is used: no

Condition: Pristine

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