St Mark’s Church, Kennington

From The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, 1827

From The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, 1827

I found this illustration and critique of St Mark’s church in The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle for 1827.

St Mark’s is one of London’s four Waterloo Churches, built in thanks for victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The other three are St John’s Waterloo (Francis Octavius Bedford), St Matthew’s, Brixton (C. F. Porden),  and St Luke’s, Norwood (Bedford).

The anonymous reviewer of the design is not happy with the external design (inconsistency in Greek features and ungenerous windows) but praises the interior.

St Mark’s was bombed in the Second World War. Its portico was severely damaged but was rebuilt.

It’s great to see that the entrance and the railings have survived. However, these are  now in such urgent need of repair that sometimes  I wonder if they will topple over on to people waiting at the bus stop.

Architect, D. Roper
The second Church commenced in the parish of Lambeth, of four dedicated to the Evanglists. It stands on the upper part of a small triangular piece of land, separated from the remainder of Kennington Common by the Brixton Road, and on the actual spot which once served for the common place of execution for the county, distinguished by the martyrdom in the last century of several unfortunate gentlemen, who here suffered an ignominious and cruel death for their devotion to the cause of the banished Stuarts. In Mr. Allen’s recently published History of the parish, is a woodcut of an iron swivel, found in digging the foundations of the building, which doubtless belonged to a gallows formerly erected here.

This Church differs exceedingly in plan form the generality of ecclesiastical buildings, and consists of two distinct portions. The body is a long octagon (a parallelogram, with the corners cut off). The eastern end is brought out, to make a recess for the altar, and to the western end is attached the tower, sided by lobbies, containing staircases to the galleries, and the whole fronted by a portico of four columns, and two simulated antae at the angles, supporting an entablature of the Greek Doric order, and finished with a pediment. This portico and the rest of the appendages which form the second portion of the building, are very faulty; the triglyphs and mutules are only applied to the west front; the antae, which form the exterior supporters of the portico, give it in a side view the appearance of a wall. All the portion just described is stone. The body of the Church is constructed of brick, and has stone pilasters attached to the piers between the windows, ranging from a continued plinth to the entablature which finishes the elevation. The windows themselves are the meanest dwelling house style, in fact mere openings in the wall, and the whole of this part of the building is sadly at variance with the Grecian portico.

The tower is square and massy. Each angle is strengthened with a square pilaster buttress, on the capital of which is placed a knot of honeysuckles. The elevation then takes an octangular form, with bulls’ eyes on four of the faces to receive the dials. This story supports a circular temple, composed of fluted columns of the Ionic order, finished with a plain spherical cupola, on the apex of which is a stone cross of an elegant design. Between each of these columns is a pedestal supporting a tripod. Some originality is displayed in this tower; but its cupola, like the other parts of the Church, is at variance with every Grecian temple.


is pleasing and more church-like than any of such buildings which consist of one entire room. The altar is very properly rendered the most striking object. The Communion-table with its crimson furniture is raised on steps. The decalogue, creed &c, on slabs of white marble, are attached to the wall immediately over it. The recess above contains two pair of Athenian Ionic columns, situated on each side of the east window, which is enriched with a border of stained glass, and contains a dove and glory. The ceiling of the Church is coved elliptically, and its only ornaments are groups of foliage at intervals; it is far more pleasing to the eye than the flat ceilings which are so fashionable; it gives an appearance of lightness to the Church, and adds greatly to the grandeur of the design. The pulpit is supported on a screen of Doric architecture, and is very tastefully embellished. The reading-desk on the opposite side of the Church corresponds with it, and unlike the modern Church arrangements, is lower than the pulpit. The galleries rest on Doric columns, and the piers between the columns are furnished with pilasters.

Throughout the interior, the architect has displayed great taste in the judicious embellishments he has introduced. His attention to the appropriate ornamenting of the altar is not lost, and had he assimilated the styles of the building more closely, it would have presented to the critical eye that additional claim to admiration which results from propriety.

The lighting of the Church by antique bronze lamps is very tastefully effected.

The church-yard is inclosed by a handsome railing on a granite plinth, and set off by piers of the same material. Some advocate for innovation has deviated from the universal custom of burying the corpse with the feet to the east, several of the graves having been constructed exactly at angles with the usual mode. I have somewhere seen the prevalence of the custom in all ages adduced as evidence of the reliance of the Church on the general resurrection; receiving the custom in this light, it ought not to be departed from in these ages of schism, at the mere caprice of a grave-digger. When an old custom like this is, to say the least of it, harmless, and clearly not unmeaning, though it may be founded in a superstitious reason, until a better cause can be assigned for giving it up than for retaining it, I see no reason for its discontinuance.
The estimated expense of the present Church is £15,248. The first stone was laid on the 1st of July, 1822, and it was consecrated on the 30th of June, 1824; the ceremony on both occasions being performed by his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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