French Protestant Church - Soho Square, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.933 W 000° 07.980
30U E 698919 N 5711055
Quick Description: The church is located in the (north) west corner of Soho Square in Central London. The architect, Sir Aston Webb, made great use of terracotta when the building was constructed between 1889 - 1893.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 11/4/2012 1:05:40 AM
Waymark Code: WMFMHZ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member razalas
Views: 1

Long Description:

The church's website [visit link] tells us, using a Google translation, that:

"The French Protestant Church of London was founded in 1550 by Royal Charter of Edward VI granting freedom of worship to the Walloon and French Protestant refugees.

The church, in Soho Square, was built in 1893."

The church is Grade II listed and the entry at the English Heritage website [visit link] tells us:

"Church fronted by Library and Presbytery block. 1889-1893 by (Sir) Aston Webb. Plain coloured hard brick and light red terracotta, green slate roof. Late Flemish-Gothic style with slightly Romanesque details in Aston Webb's early manner. 4 storeys and basement. 5 main bays wide, subdivided into 9 window bays on upper floors. The terracotta faced ground floor has central shafted Romanesque arched doorway,and flanking bays have coupled shafted 2-light Romanesque arched windows with small pane iron casements, the right hand opening a secondary entrance. Upper floors have ranges of abutting flat and segmental arched small paned casements broken by 2 shallow tower-like projections with pyramidal roofs and central through storey oriel rising into terracotta banded gable with cross finial. A timber cupola crowns the centre of the ridge which is flanked by lofty banded chimney stacks surmounting the stepped gable ends. The church lies behind this fore building and has an interior of buff terracotta and brick in free late Gothic with 4 bay nave arcade, apse, vaulted side aisles and main barrel roof of timber. Two C17 and C18 Royal Coats of Arms are kept in the building."

The British History On-Line website [visit link] also tells us:

"This church, though now occupying a building erected only in 1891–3, can trace its descent from the earliest congregation of Protestant refugees to settle in London, a tradition commemorated in the carved tympanum over the entrance door of the present building. In July 1550 Edward VI licensed the foreign Protestant refugees in London to hold their own services. In October 1550 the French and Dutch refugees took a lease of the chapel of St. Anthony's Hospital in Threadneedle Street, but a few weeks later the Dutch withdrew from this arrangement, leaving the Huguenots in sole possession. They and their successors remained in Threadneedle Street (except during the reign of Mary Tudor) until 1840, the original building being rebuilt after its destruction in the Great Fire. In 1843 a new Huguenot church was opened in St. Martin's le Grand,  but in 1887 it was demolished to make way for extensions to the adjoining General Post Office. The congregation then moved into temporary quarters at the Athenaeum Hall, Tottenham Court Road, until a suitable site for another church could be purchased and a new building erected.

After two years of enquiry the consistory of the church decided to purchase a plot of land in Soho Square. This site comprised the existing Nos. 8 and 9 which, it was proposed, were to be demolished to provide a combined frontage to the square of fifty feet and a depth of one hundred and ten feet. The freehold was owned by a Mr. Trotter, a descendant of John Trotter, founder of the Soho Bazaar, who was prepared to sell the site for £10,500.

The consistory commissioned (Sir) Aston Webb to design a new church and in March 1889 petitioned the Attorney General, without whose sanction they could not proceed, for permission to purchase the site in Soho Square and to erect a new church. This was to be built at a cost of between nine and ten thousand pounds and to accommodate a congregation of four hundred. In addition the building was to contain a vestry and library, living quarters for the pastor, and a schoolroom in the basement. The building costs and the purchase price for the site were to be paid out of the compensation money which the consistory had received for the demolition of their former church. The members were anxious to start building as soon as possible as they were unable to hold communion services in their temporary quarters in Tottenham Court Road, the Athenaeum Hall being used as a public dance hall on weekdays.

The Attorney General did not give his consent to the consistory's scheme until October 1890 and it was not until April 1891 that the demolition of the two old houses on the site began. In the meantime the congregation removed from the Athenaeum Hall to the chapel behind No. 7 Soho Square which had formerly been occupied by a group of Baptists.

The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 28 October 1891 and the building was completed early in 1893. It was dedicated on 25 March 1893. The building contractors employed were Messrs. Higgs and Hill, whose tender was for £10,194.

The church is in Aston Webb's early manner, derived in part from the final phase of FrancoFlemish Gothic. There are, in addition, certain late Romanesque overtones blended into a design which is particularly successful internally. A four-storeyed block faces the square, with living accommodation above an entrance lobby flanked by a library and an ante-room. The aisled church immediately behind, has four bays running north and south and a curved apse between a pair of vestries.

The building materials externally are plumcoloured brick and light red terra-cotta, the residential block having a steeply pitched roof of greenish slates. The front has a terra-cotta facing to the ground storey, with five roundarched openings, the subsidiary ones being subdivided. The somewhat Romanesque character of the larger central doorway is emphasized by the archaic style of the carving in the stone tympanum, which was inserted in 1950. The upper part of the front, largely of brick, has two narrow projections with hipped roofs, framing a recessed centre. Here a small three-sided bay window rises through an enriched corbel table at the level of the third storey into a gable treated with ascending shell-headed niches. The gable is topped by a cross and on the apex of the roof is a small timber cupola.

The interior is of buff terra-cotta and similarly coloured brickwork. The roundarched arcades to the church are of four bays, the piers having paired shafts at either side with vestigial imposts. There is no triforium. A narrow gallery runs in front of the wide, three-light clerestory windows. The barrel roof is of wood and a high arch with moulded imposts frames the apse with its wooden panelled semi-dome and five round-headed windows. A plain cross is set between the two parts of the organ, and benching extends round the apse below. A wide low terracotta pulpit stands to the west of the sanctuary. The aisles have arcaded walls and rib-vaulted roofs with a rectangular top light to each bay. In front of the vestry door in the east aisle is a small terra-cotta font and other, apparently original, fittings include the hooped iron light-pendants and the dark-stained pine pews; two royal coats of arms of carved wood are preserved in the library and in the side entry, that in the library being probably of the late Stuart period and the other apparently Hanoverian."

The church holds a service on Sundays at 10.30am.

Architect: Sir Aston Webb

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1905

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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