Southampton - St Edmund

The Avenue, Southampton, Hampshire

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A good later Victorian town church of lofty proportions and well detailed, with high quality fittings. J. William Lunn is an obscure Victorian architect but his few known churches are all of some character and quality.

In 1867 Father Hendrickk E Van Doorne, curate at St Joseph’s prepared a report on the need for a second church in Southampton. Nothing came of this until 1884 when a separate parish was established and a temporary iron church opened. The building of the permanent church began on 21 June 1888 and was opened on 20 November 1889. The architect was the little known J. William Lunn of Great Malvern, though the local newspaper report on the opening of the church describes him as ‘Lunn of Portsmouth and Great Malvern’. The same newspaper mentions that the Bishop of Portsmouth was himself an architect and ‘had rendered great assistance’, but this is more likely to be a confusion with Fr (later Canon) A.J.C. Scoles. Lunn also designed Corpus Christi, Boscombe, Bournemouth (1887-9), Corpus Christi, Portsmouth (1893) and Catholic churches in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire (1891) and Kings Lynn, Norfolk (1896-7). The builder was W.H. Chapman of Woolston. The church was badly damaged by fire in 1988 and restored and re-opened the following year. The church was reported in The Builder for 2 March 1889.

Red brick with Hamshill stone dressings and the roof originally covered in Brosley tiles. It was re-roofed in 1967 with Reynardo hand made double Roman tiles. Fourteenth century Gothic style. A large brick church of the kind characteristic of much urban church building of the time. The emphasis is on the immensely tall gabled nave and slightly lower sanctuary. The lean-to aisles and shallow porch between buttresses hardly distract from the great bulk of the body of the church. The church is unconventionally oriented, with the sanctuary facing west. Lady Chapel on one side of the sanctuary and sacristies on the other. A chapel for the adjacent convent was intended to be built as an extension to the Lady Chapel, as is evident from a blind arch on the outside of the Lady Chapel. A liturgical northeast tower was intended but never built. A fleche at the liturgical west end was removed in 1967. The entrance front is dominated by a large rose window with elaborate dagger tracery. The hoodmould rises to a Calvary in the gable, by A.B. Wall of Cheltenham. Between buttresses below the window a shallow lean-to porch, the entrance set within a deeply moulded arch with a hoodmould linked as a string course to small flanking windows of most unusual shape. The entrance doors have been replaced with glazed doors in tinted glass. Carved Latin text frieze above, which translates as ‘we who are in exile, Holy Father St Edmund, infuse into our souls a love for our heavenly country’. The aisles have two-light windows with cusped ogee tracery and the clerestory has broad three-light windows with a variety of Decorated tracery motifs. Smaller rose window at the liturgical east end, set high up.

The interior has five-bay north and south arcades with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches, the hood moulds with stops, carved faces possibly of the twelve apostles. The sanctuary arch is the full width of the nave with the arch supported on clustered shafts, which start from halfway up the wall, with leaf capitals on the corbels. In the sanctuary a narrow and tall two-bay arcade to the Lady Chapel and a single arch opposite for the organ chamber. King post nave room with three tiers of wind braces. Similar roof to the sanctuary, with heavier trusses. The liturgical west gallery over an internal porch was enlarged in 1967 and the organ, from St Mark’s Anglican church in Portsmouth, was installed in 1969. Nave and aisle floors are paved with patterned encaustic tiles. Open pine benches, octagonal stone font. The sanctuary has a black and white marble pavement. Richly carved and pinnacled high altar reredos executed by Charles A. Vaughan of Southampton. The altar itself has been removed as part of liturgical reordering that has brought a carpeted extension to the sanctuary floor on which stands the present altar. A spire and side pinnacles were removed in the late 1940s. The sanctuary was redecorated by Westlake in 1918, stencil work with IHS monogram. Metal and timber screen dividing the sanctuary from the Lady Chapel. The latter has a blue and cream tiled floor and a carved stone high altar and reredos with paintings of St Agnes (left) and St Clare (right). Iron and brass communion rails by Hardman & Powell. Stained glass in all of the aisle windows, several signed by Westlake and Lavers & Westlake. Lady Chapel liturgical east window is of circa 1982 with a bold pattern of lead cames and much white glass.

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: J.W. Lunn of Great Malvern & Portsmouth

Original Date: 1888

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II