St Marks Kennington, Oval - Monuments

St Marks Kennington, by the Oval Cricket Ground, is a significant church built as one of four ‘Waterloo Churches’ built by the Commissioners for building new churches to celebrate the victory over Napoleon. It was put up from 1822-24, the architect being the obscure David R. Roper, who has a few surviving buildings in South London. It is in Classical style, with a six-column portico in front of a blocky nave, and a tower behind the portico which is square sided in two stages, with clocks at the higher stage, and then a cupola raised on tall pillars, rising to a little dome with a cross on top. The site is excellent, with views of the Church all round, and from across the busy main road.

St Mark's Kennington, exterior.

The Church suffered extensive bomb damage in WWII, being left as a roofless shell, but has been restored extremely sensitively. There are low aisles, a nave as broad as it is tall, Ionic pillars at the chancel end, and a dome of coloured glass evoking a sunlit sky. Along the upper walls of the nave, where a clerestory would otherwise be, are abstract panels, and small panels showing pairs of winged lions, symbol of Saint Mark and of Venice. The interior is painted in a very light pastel blue with white trimmings, most elegant and light. A tribute to the architect and the interior designer.

St Mark's Kennington, exterior.

There are just over 30 monuments, nearly all from the 1820s when the Church was erected through to the 1840s. They are rather simple in design, and some just the plain, central inscribed panels, presumably after War damage – one damaged piece with a figure collapsed and crumbled away as recently as 2012. Several have some projection on the wall, white painted and perhaps of plaster or wood, to indicate the shape of the surround to the original monument (at the period these monuments were made, the backing would almost always have been black marble or stone. These monuments are therefore more of social and historical than artistic interest. Nevertheless, we have several of the main types of early 19th Century panel, and a bit of carving, including two minor works by significant sculptor-masons, as well as a few modern brasses. There is also excellent mosaic work on the Reredos, and a more recent naďve mosaic roundel from after 1900.

We consider first the more interesting monuments, from a sculptural point of view, and then the rest:

Monuments to Elizabeth White and James White: work of Charles H. Smith and William Croggan

These are the two signed monuments, to members of the same family:

Monuments retaining carving or border:

These are the monuments which either remain complete, or have at least something beyond the central panel with the memorial inscription. That to William Cox, rather later than most of the monuments in the Church, is the best of the bunch in terms of carving. We take them in date order:

Towton and Cox monuments, the latter carved as a hanging scroll.

The rest of the monuments:

For completeness, though of less interest to this website with its artistic preoccupations, the rest of the monuments, simple plaques, mostly rectangular, separated from any sculptural border or ornament some of them may have had before the bombs of WW2, are listed below:

Modern brasses:

Typical modern brass, to Revd. Arthur Bowman, d.1904.

Also in the Church:

W.C.T. Shapland's stained glass design, 1952.

Outside the Church:

The gravestones from around the Church have been cleared and placed against the railings at the edge of the small open space. A few worn, slight sculptural details can still be seen.

Across the main road is Kennington Park, wherein are a few memorials of interest:

Finally, two artistic connections. Firstly, the artist David Cox lived close by, in Vassall Road; a blue plaque marks his residence there. Secondly, Kennington Oval was the location of J. Whitehead and Son’s marble works, known as the Imperial Works. As well as marble work for commercial buildings, Joseph Whitehead made the Titanic Memorial for Southampton, and the World War I memorial for Worthing, with a bronze figure.

With thanks to the Church authorities for permission to use photos from inside St Mark's Kennington; their website is at http://stmarkskennington.org/about/history/.

A short walk north and west past the Oval Cricket ground leads to Vauxhall Bridge with its imposing statues. Or north-eastwards along Kennington Park Road, then branching off north west along Kennington Lane leads to the idiosyncratic little building of Durning Library, 167 Kennington Lane. And thence to Black Prince Road and the Doulton building.

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Monuments in some London Churches // Churches in the City of London // Introduction to church monuments

Angel statues // Cherub sculpture // London sculpture // Sculptors

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