Christ Church - Town Hall Avenue, Turnham Green, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 29.526 W 000° 15.925
30U E 689831 N 5708096
Quick Description: Christ Church is on the east side of Town Hall Avenue more-or-less in the centre of an open grassed space known as Turnham Green. This Anglican church was built between 1841 and 1843 to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 4/1/2015 6:24:56 AM
Waymark Code: WMNM1N
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member razalas
Views: 0

Long Description:

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

The church was built in 1841-3 and is one of the early works by (later Sir) George Gilbert Scott (1811-78) and his then partner William Bonython Moffatt (1812-87). In 1887 their short, five-sided, apsidal chancel was rebuilt under James Brooks (1825-1901) to a greater length and with a square east end. South-east vestries added in 1895.

MATERIALS: Knapped flint facing with strongly contrasted limestone ashlar quoins and other dressings to the body of the church. Red and black brick spire, again with ashlar dressings. Grey, Welsh slate roofs.

PLAN: Nave, chancel and north chapel, south-east vestries, north and south aisles under separate gables, shallow north and south transepts, west tower with broach spire, north porch.

EXTERIOR: Early English lancet style. Four-stage west tower with angle buttresses; west doorway with two lancets above and two-light plate tracery in the belfry windows. Spire with shallow broaches and two tiers of lucarnes. Lancet windows elsewhere, mostly shafted and in pairs; triple, graduated lancets in the transept north and south walls; three lancets of equal height to the chancel east end.

INTERIOR: All surfaces painted, mostly off-white. The five-bay, unclerestoried nave has octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. The high-pitched nave roof has single hammerbeam trusses alternating with arch-braced ones. In 2000 the two west bays were converted by architect Ian Goldsmith into two-storey community rooms; on the ground floors there are sliding glass screens bearing texts and which separate the community area from the worship space; the first floor has a three-sided glazed projection.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: All of Scott's original work has gone, apart from the plain font. Reredos 1894 by E.W. Alleyn with paintings on copper in two tiers representing Types and Antitypes with the appropriate texts cited. The woodwork (stalls, screen, panelling in the chancel and pulpit is of 1906 by a group of local ladies trained by Arthur T. Heady at the local polytechnic. The `Flowers, foliage, musical instruments, etc., are carved with meticulous realism' (Cherry and Pevsner).

HISTORY: Christ Church was built for the new, early Victorian suburb of Turnham Green at a cost of £6,900 of which the Church Building Commissioners provided £500. It is a good and representative early work by Scott who would become the most successful and prolific church architect of Victorian England. Eight of his churches were reviewed in the first volume of the highly influential and hard-to-please journal, The Ecclesiologist, and Christ Church met with much praise, especially for its tower and spire which were considered `peculiarly excellent, and worthy of any ancient architect.' The building is contemporary with Scott's famous church of St Giles, Camberwell, London, and shares with it the architect's growing interest in and use of architecture that is faithful to the spirit of medieval work. The Camberwell church is held to be an important building in the development of C19 church architecture but at Turnham Green similar principles are at work, although on a smaller compass.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The church of Christ Church, Turnham Green, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • Set back on the south of Chiswick High Road, the church is sited in a large green area, and the building and its setting create an important focal point in this part of Chiswick.
  • It is a typical building from the early career of one of England's leading Gothic revivalists. Later external alterations have been in keeping with the character of the original.
  • Interesting late Victorian fittings, some executed by Polytechnic-trained craftswomen.

The Britain Express website tells us about Sir George Gilbert Scott:

Sir George Gilbert Scott was the founder of a fantastically successful architectural dynasty, and probably the most successful and prolific Victorian Gothic architect. Author Simon Jenkins called Scott the 'unsung hero of British architecture'. Unsung, perhaps, because although his output was extraordinary - you could say that no corner of Britain was left completely untouched by Scott, and either directly or indirectly his style touched evey aspect of British life - his work was not always admired, even in hs own lifetime.

Scott was born in Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, the son of a poor clergyman. He studied architecture with James Esmeston, then worked in the offices of Henry Roberts and then with Sampson Kempthorne. He was not well off, so Scott had trouble launching his own practice. As a result, he found work where he could - much of it designing workhouses and gaols.

His best known early design was Reading Gaol, later made famous in a poem by Oscar Wilde. He travelled to France, studying Gothic cathedrals and parochial churches. These studies helped form his own vision of architecture, which was heavily influenced by French High Gothic (1280-1340). Scott believed passionately in the Gothic Revival; he thought that the Gothic style was the best, indeed, the only, suitable style for both secular and ecclesiastical buildings.

Perhaps his most memorable early commission was not a building, but The Martyr's Memorial in Oxford, his first real foray into Gothic Revival design. The design, it must be said, looks for all the world like a very ornate top to a church steeple.

His most important early church design was St Giles, Camberwell, London (1841-4). St Giles estabished Scott's name as a Gothic Revival architect and led to a commission to design the Church of St Nicholas in Hamburg, Germany. Other major British commissions followed, including town churches like St George's, Doncaster, and St Matthias, Richmond.

Along with new designs came a huge quantity of work restoring older churches. Here, Scott tended to have a heavy hand, sweeping away original work and replacing it with his own meticulous crafted 'improved' Gothic. He was hired to oversee restoration work on many of England's cathedrals, and became Surveyor of the fabric for Westminster Abbey.

It is not for a church that Scott's name is best rememberd, however, but for a London landmark. When Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's beloved consort, died in 1861 it was decided to erect a memorial to him in Kensington Gardens. A design competition was held, and Scott's exquisitely gilded design won. The Albert Memorial was built 1863-72. It would be hard to find a more striking example of Victorian Gothic style. Scott's design was a mix of Byzantine and medieval design, with a brooding sculpture of the Prince beneath an ornate canopy decorated with marble, precious metals, and enamel.

Scott's most prominent civic commission was the Foreign and War Offices in Whitehall (now the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices). Here he ran headlong into a stubborn Lord Palmerston, who insisted on a neo-classical design. The argument provoked a public reaction which might seem puzzling to modern eyes, but at the time it was a real clash of values. In the end Palmerston was victorious, and Scott designed the buildings in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace.

Scott died in 1878 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Not too shabby for a boy from a poor family.

SCOTT'S LEGACY
Even in his lifetime Scott's work was received with less than universal acclaim. After his death, public perception of Victorian restorations in general swung towards vitriol. At best Scott was accused of insensitivity, of sweeping away authentic historical architecture in favour of an antiseptic version of Gothicism. At worst his work was seen as little more than vandalism, out and out destruction of British history, with no redeeming positive qualities.

Perhaps time has mellowed this view. Without Scott's prodigious output, and that of other Victorian restorers, many of our historic medeval buildings would simply not have survived. Yes, at times they did sweep away real Gothic architecture and replace it with mass-produced and rather soul-less copies. But what is fascinating about Scott's Victorian Gothic is how his style reflected the times; it was important to Victorians not simply to copy the past, but to show the wealth and vitality of a 'new Gothic' Britain; a new age. The Victorian Age.

If you simply compare Scott's architecture to the original medieval Gothic, he will come off second-best, but if you view his work as a reflection of the Victorian Age; full of vigour and High Church idealism, it becomes much more interesting in its own right. And for better or worse, Scott helped change the face of Britain; the way our buildings looked, their style and decoration - a style that still lingers. He deserves to be reembered as one of Britain's most influential architects.

SCOTT FACTS AND FIGURES

  • GG Scott was responsible for 800 building designs in England
  • In addition, he directed restoration of several hundred more buildings
  • 607 of Scott's buildings are now 'listed' for their historic importance - far more than any other architect
  • Scott helped restore 18 medieval cathedrals in England (there are only 26 in total)

A Bing bird's eye view of the church can be seen here.

Architect: Sir George Gilbert Scott

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1859

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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