Mitcham Church monuments, South London (formerly Surrey)

Mitcham Church, St Peter & St Paul, contains almost 40 panel monuments, mostly fairly modest ones, but including one giant panel to Sir Ambrose Crowley, a fine sculpture of a girl by Sir Richard Westmacott RA, three other works with sculptured portraits in relief, and various pots and floral ornaments. A feature of the monuments is the large number which still bear the signature of the maker, including more humble and local stone masons as well as several of the Westmacott dynasty of sculptors, and a work by the accomplished Peter Rouw.

The Church building

But first the Church building itself. St Peter and St Paul Church, Mitcham was put up in 1819-1822, to the designs of the architect George Smith. It retains the base of the tower from the medieval church on the site, which had survived damage by lightning in 1639 only to be pulled down in Georgian times to make way for this larger church, happily retaining at least some of the old monuments. There have been mixed views on it, with one critic saying it was ‘rebuilt in the style of that most dreary period [of George IV], when churchwardens and ‘compo’ [i.e. a composition of sand and lime or cement to face brickwork] architects ran riot without fear of censure from a public which knew little and cared less about the mysteries of ‘the Gothic’ style.’ Before rather contradicting himself by saying that the new church ‘is, by comparison, a rather good specimen of the Gothic of the Georgian era; and it seems to have been erected regardless of expense, both the nave and the side aisles being vaulted in stone or cement’.

St Peter and St Paul, Mitcham Parish Church.

From the outside, the view to the modern eye is rather good, from the road side or within the extensive churchyard, with a pleasing asymmetry. The battlemented tower with its corner turrets at the top and ancient base is a feature, and the generous aisles have a buttress between each window. From a distance it appears without ornament, but when walking around the outside we see a series of small carved heads, tending to the gargoyle, mixed with mostly Clerical personages.

Inside, the interior is broad, with the chief feature being the vaulted and ribbed ceilings. The Church is bright, white, and on every wall we see the monumental panels.

Interior view of Mitcham Church, and the vaulted ceiling of the nave.

Monuments

We can divide the monuments into three groups, with 1800 and 1840 as the dividing lines. Although this means that the middle group encompasses both panels pre-dating and post-dating the current Church building on the site, it is convenient from the point of view of the monuments themselves, as then the second group encompasses almost all the white-on-black panels so predominant in the first decades of the 19th Century.

Monuments up to 1800

Monuments from 1800s-1830s

Monuments after 1840

Also in the Church:

Mitcham is today within South London, in the Borough of Merton, but before the expansion of the metropolis lay within Surrey. It is one of a group of churches along what may be described as the Surrey border.

With many thanks to the authorities at Mitcham Parish Church for permission to show pictures of the monuments inside; the Church website is http://mitchamparishchurch.dreamhosters.com/.

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

Other Surrey border church monuments: Battersea Church // Carshalton Church // Epsom Church // Beddington Church // Merton Church // Morden Church // Wimbledon tramline monuments

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

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