Building » Fulham (Fulham 1) – St Thomas of Canterbury

Fulham (Fulham 1) – St Thomas of Canterbury

Rylston Road, Fulham, London SW6

An early Victorian church by A. W. N. Pugin, his only complete parish church in London and one his last three major architectural commissions. It is designed in the style of around 1300, which Pugin considered to be the pinnacle of architectural achievement. There is glass by Hardman, made to designs by Pugin who also designed sculpture for the church. Recent reordering and redecoration by Martin Goalen has been sympathetic, and appropriately Puginian in spirit. With the contemporary presbytery (also by Pugin) and burial ground (containing a number of significant burials and monuments), the church makes a prominent and positive contribution to the Central Fulham Conservation Area.

A mission was founded in 1842 when Fr William Kelly opened a school and a Mass centre in a rented room in Parsons Green. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 16 June 1847 and the building opened on 30 May the following year. The architect was A. W. N. Pugin, who used his regular builder, George Myers. It was one of only three major commissions Pugin received after 1846 and is his only complete parish church in London. Originally there was a rood screen separating the chancel from the nave. This was installed by Pugin against the wishes of the patroness, Mrs Bowden, who instructed that it be removed. Mrs Bowden was a friend of John Henry Newman, who preached at the opening in June 1848.

The church suffered wartime bomb damage, with stained glass blown out (replaced in 1947). During reordering in the 1970s by Bartlett & Purnell the former sacristy was opened to the north aisle, forming a transept: here a gallery was created to include the organ, reconstructed by Mander in 1969. New sacristies were formed between the church and presbytery, and a small parish room built to the west of the enlarged presbytery. The external stonework was also repaired.

More recently, a major scheme of reordering and redecoration has taken place under the direction of Martin Goalen of Academy Projects.  Completed in 2010, this has involved the removal of some post-war alterations (including timber dado panelling) and the reinstatement of rich stencil decoration in the manner of Pugin by Chris Wood of Leyton, notably in the sanctuary and nave arcades, and an encaustic tile pavement in the sanctuary. New or restored furnishings include the sanctuary furniture, candle holders, hanging crucifix over the sanctuary, pendant light fittings and congregational seating. The carved screen behind the sedilia and other stone carving is by Martin Duncan-Jones. A ‘cloister’ has been formed beyond the north aisle, linking the church with the parish rooms and sacristy. This work involved taking out the lower parts of the north aisle windows.

The list entry (below) is brief and predates recent changes. St Augustine’s is built of coursed, semi-dressed Kentish ragstone with Caen stone dressings, all under slate roofs. It consists of a nave and sanctuary (in one), six-bay aisles, a northwest steeple, south porch, and a modern addition on the north (as described and illustrated above). The style, to use the contemporary term, is ‘Middle Pointed’, that is Gothic architecture of around 1300. The steeple has an ornate tower of three stages, with twinned two-light belfry openings with a transom, and an open quatrefoil frieze for the parapet. There are corner pinnacles which are connected horizontally to the spire: this is ribbed and has one set of lucarnes. The east end of the church has three gables to the street, although these are obscured by three large trees when in leaf. The tracery has many variations: e.g. the west window has five lights and is reticulated, the east window has five lights too but with flowing tracery. There is no clerestory.

 

Internally it is apparent that this is not as large a church as it might appear from the outside. It is also quite low. The walls are plastered and whitened where not covered with modern Puginian ornament. The aisles have short, slender round piers with moulded capitals and double-chamfered arches. There is no division between the nave and sanctuary (Pugin’s plans for a rood screen were thwarted). The distinction between the two is marked by the fact that the rafters are exposed in the nave but the sanctuary has plain panels: the main roof is arch braced. There is a good deal of colour in the church with the arches and window reveals being picked out in blue and brown with white fleurons whilst the nave and sanctuary ceilings are blue. The sunburst details in the sanctuary are taken from Pugin’s Glossary of Floriated Ornament (1843).

  • Stained   glass: three windows by Pugin and made by Hardman of Birmingham: (1) south      chapel south, the Flight into Egypt and the Holy Family; (2) north chapel      east with the Crucifixion, Last Supper etc.; (3) the tracery of the east      window is by Hardman but the lower lights – of English saints – are by      Goddard & Gibbs, 1947, following war damage. The west window in the      nave is the work of Nathaniel Westlake, 1896.

  • Carved  work: much to Pugin’s designs: in the north aisle the reredos and high      altar frontal (now combined) bearing the emblem of St John the Evangelist      many times; in the Lady Chapel, the Coronation of the Virgin; pulpit with      ogee arches and angels; font with the emblems of the Evangelists at its      foot.

  • Open   wooden screenwork by Pugin in the organ gallery front.

  • The   Stations of the Cross are from a redundant Anglican church, brought here      as part of the recent reordering.

  • The   seating also belongs to the recent reordering, and is of robust Arts and      Crafts character, by Ormesby’s of Scarisbrick.

Heritage Details

Architect: A. W. N. Pugin

Original Date: 1847

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II*