Tuesday, 4 January 2011

William Railton's Churches

In case anyone is interested, I've listed here all of William Railton’s Church designs I could find. Of the twelve listed, three are completely lost, and two converted to residential use.

St Peter, Duddon, Cheshire.
Built as a chapel of ease to St Andrew, Tarvin. A plain boxy with brick structure with lancet windows, 51 feet long and built at a cost of £603, raised by subscription by the local nobility and gentry, with the addition of grant from the Society for Promoting the Building of Churches and Chapels. Pevsner quotes Goodhart-Rendel’s opinion “’Of all the mean box-like chapels this is nearly the meanest.'' Some contemporary opinion was more positive. The British Critic, and Quarterly Theological Review called it:
..on the whole an elegant structure, on the simple model we have been recommending. We will here notice one great advantage of having walls of dignified elevation - the windows may, without themselves being curtailed, be placed so high as to prevent any roofs, chimneys, trees or any such familiar objects, which may chance to be near the church, from obtruding themselves on the attention of the congregation.
The unfortunate congregation was not even allowed the sight of a chimney to distract them from the sermon. But the British Critic had reservations about what few architectural features Railton actually allows us:

..we do not like the double buttress at the corner, and nowhere else; and we prefer to see the triple lancet reserved as the peculiar right of the east end.

The Church and Monastery of Mount St Bernard

Railton designed the original buildings for this Trappist monastry in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, built on land donated by the catholic convert Ambrose Phillips de Lisle, for whom he also built the nearby mansion of Grace Dieu. Funds were clearly limited as Phillips de Lisle had to borrow the £4000 necessary to buy the land. The History Gazeteer and Directory of Leiestershire records:
The charitable gifts of their co-religionists enabled the monks to erect and make fit for habitation, though not complete, a small portion of an intended monastery, in the Elizabethan style, from designs by Mr. Railton. By the same architect, the chapel or church for the monastery was shortly afterwards finished, and opened for divine service, 11th October, 1837.
But a generous benefactor soon allowed the replacement of Railton's buildings by something grander. In October 1839, Phillipps de Lisle wrote to his father, dismissing Railton's work:

Lord Shrewsbury is going to build a new Monastery for the Monks at Mount St. Bernard under Pugin's direction. He has given three thousand pounds for this object, and will give more later. Their present monastery, which you remember an ugly unfinished building, is to be converted into farm buildings for their use, and their present church is to be made into a greatbarn.

The monks moved into their new accommodation in 1844.

St Paul, Woodhouse Eaves
St Peter, Copt Oak.
These two stone-built churches in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire were constructed to the same design and consecrated within two days of each other in September 1837. The Gentlemans magazine reported:
Two new Churches are being erected in Charnwood Forest, one at Woodhouse Eves, and another at Charley, [i.e. Copt Oak] near Whitwick, from a uniform design by Mr. Railton. The Act of Inclosure provided for the erection of two churches in the Forest, one of which was built about twenty years ago; but by the assistance of the neighbouring gentry, the Trustees are now enabled to erect two instead of one more, and thus more effectually to withstand the spirit of popery, diffused from the Roman Catholic establishment at Gracedieu, where Mr. Ambrose Phillipps has erected a large chapel, and has laid plans for establishing a monastery of Trappists.
Both the Catholic and Anglican buildings metioned were to Railton’s designs. He seems to have had good connections among the local gentry of all religious persuasions.

St Philip and St James. Groby, Leicestershire
Attributed to Railton by Pevsner and the English Heritage listings. A stone church, built out of the local granite. It has a west tower, with some rather oddly placed lancet windows in it's west wall. It was built in around 1840 as a chapel-of- ease for Ratby. Railton is also recorded as having done some work around this time for vicar of Ratby, Robert Martin, at his mansion Anstey Pastures.

St Mary, Stafford Street Wolverhampton
Consecrated Oct 15, 1842, erected and endowed at the sole expense of Miss Hinckes, of Tettenhall Wood. The Gentleman’s Magazine described it as
…. a revival of the style prevailing during the 13th and 14th centuries. The form of the building is cruciform, surmounted at the intersection by a tower and steeple; the latter, which is of a shape common in Normandy and other parts of the continent, terminating with an encircled cross.
Architecturally it seems to have been rather plain; the Gentleman’s Magazine puts a positive spin on this:

… Mr. Railton, has added to his already high character by having produced so solemn and beautiful an effect by the mere power of proportion and moulding, without any architectural enrichment than the carved work in the pulpit, desk, and chancel.
It was furnished with old German and Flemish glass, a Norman Font, and an organ previously in a church at Stratford-upon-Avon

The church was closed in 1948 and demolished some years later.

St Mary, Bromley by Bow
This seems initially to have been conceived as a restoration of the ancient priory church of St Leonard. In the event, only some monuments were preserved from the old church, within a completely new brick structure of 1842-3. It was a simple building in a round-arched style, in tribute to the Norman features of it’s predecessor, with an aisle only on the South side, an open timber roof, and a tower in the south-west corner. The Illustrated London News reassured it’s readers that:
…with the exception of the chancel for which funds were furnished by the munificence of a highly respected parishioner, the restoration has been carried out with the most scrupulous attention to economy.
Railton must have been proud of his work there, because he exhibited a drawing of the church at the Royal Academy not only in 1844, and two more as late as 1851, then another at the Paris .Universal Exhibition of 1855.

The church was bombed in 1941 and later levelled; in 1968 the Blackwall Tunnel northern approach road was driven through the site.

St Bartholomew the Less Bethnal Green
Consecrated June 1844, at which time the tower was still unfinished for lack of funds. Built of brick with stone facings, in an Early English style with a south-west tower. It seated 1058.

The church closed in 1977 and was later converted into flats under the name "Steeple Court"

Holy Trinity, Hoxton.
Described by the Ecclesiologist in 1846, when the church was under construction, as “a huge pretending First-Pointed pile with stinted sacrarium, exaggerated windows and thin walls". The stone used was Kentish ragstone. It was constructed without galleries, and could accommodate around a thousand people . Consecrated on the 7th of March, 1848

Thorpe Acre, Leicestershire.
An Anglican church built in 1845 at a cost of £1000, on land given by Charles Phillipps, father of Railton’s catholic patron, Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle. Stone-built with a slate roof, and a bellcote rather than a tower.

Chapel at the Bishops Palace, Ripon
The Palace of the Bishop of Ripon was built to Railton’s designs in 1838-41, and included a small chapel. However some years later, the Archbishop of York provided £3000 for the construction of a separate building, ostensibly to allow residents of a nearby hamlet to attend services. It is in a perpendicular style, with battlements. The foundation stone was laid in June 1846.

It has been converted for residential use.

Holy Trinity, Meanwood, Leeds.
Funded with a budget of £4300 by Miss Mary and Miss Elizabeth Beckett, and consecrated in 1849. A cruciform church with a crossing tower, in Railton’s favoured early English style. It is 110 feet long and 42 feet wide at the transepts. The Ecclesiologist reported that “the church presents a strange mixture of ornament and plainness” The magazine found much to complain about, but felt the tower and spire were the building’s best feature.

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