Monuments in St Mary Paddington Green, West London

A church with many monuments of interest to these pages with their sculptural concerns. There are by my count 56 monuments in all, all wall panels, from the grand to the utterly plain, mostly small ones without carving, or without significant carving, but at least a half a dozen with serious figural sculpture, several with elegant pots in high relief, drapery, and smaller carved items, and a good collection showing the variety of styles and shapes of monument from the early decades of the 19th Century. Indeed the great majority of the panels are from the 1800s to 1840s, with just five from the end of the 18th Century when the Church was first built, and a couple each from the later 19th Century and 20th Century. A goodly number of them are signed by the sculptors and masons who made them, giving good opportunity to become acquainted with their work.

St Mary Paddington Green, exterior and interior.

The sculptural interest goes further, for here is the monument to the great sculptor Joseph Nollekens and the humbler statuary William Whitelaw, and the churchyard was the burial place also of the eminent sculptor Thomas Banks, and the less respectable, more interesting and somewhat tragic sculptor John Bushnell, though neither appear to have surviving tombs. And several members of the Thrupp family of coachbuilders are buried here, including Joseph Thrupp, father of the sculptor Frederick Thrupp, who was born in Paddington Green and lived there for much of his life. And it must surely be mentioned that it was here that Hogarth married Jane Thornhill, herself the daughter of the painter Sir James Thornhill, creator of the Painted Hall in Greenwich.

The Church itself was built between 1788 and 1791 to the designs of John Plaw, an architect who later emigrated to Canada and in the main seems to have been better known for his writing than his buildings, and of those buildings, this being his only church. The building, restored in the 1970s to the late 18th Century style from when it was put up, is an almost cubical design with projecting bays on each square side – the entrance being through a portico on the western one – and only when the visitor enters inside is it apparent that the Church is in the shape of a Greek cross. There is a shallow roof with a short clocktower in the centre, a miniature Baroque thing, with a clock on each side with projecting coupled pillars at the corners, and above, a bell shaped roof on a circular base, with a weathercock. Inside, all is painted white, with galleries on three sides of the lofty interior – the fourth side or arm of the cross being a short chancel with eight or nine monuments on each of the walls to the sides of the altar. The rest of the monuments are distributed around the walls of the ground and first floors.

Monuments - Late 18th Century

Robert Blore's monument to Eliza Coghlan, d.1799.

Monuments - 1800s and 1810s

Charlotte Cumberbatch, d.1818, by the sculptor W. Cramphorn.

Monuments - 1820s-1840s

The distinction from the earlier 19th Century monuments is arbitrary, but by this date we have almost come to the end of the obelisk monuments – there is one later example – and encompass the series of panels designed in the form of casket-tomb ends, eight in all, each with outward slanting sides, lids like pediments with small ‘ears’ or acroteria, and with little feet resting on separate shelves.

Also in the Church

Outside the Church

There is a good collection of blocky altar tombs, dotted among the London plane trees which give such an atmosphere to Paddington Green. But we start with an important statue, to Sarah Siddons, the actress, who died in 1831.

The statue of Mrs Siddons is in a prominent position on a tall plinth facing the main road. She is seated on a high-backed chair, reclining with one elbow sticking out and the fingers resting against her cheek and on the side of her head. Her other hand, on the seat beside her, grips a dagger in a tight fist. Underneath this, resting against the rear chair leg is a mask of Tragedy, for this statue is Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse, recalling her most famous role as Lady Macbeth (for more statues of Tragedy, see this page). The statue is not in the English mode particularly, and it comes as no surprise to find that the sculptor was L-J Chavalliaud, who lived in London for some years. There is another statue by him in London, which is that of Cardinal Newman outside the Brompton Oratory just along from the V&A in South Kensington, and in Liverpool’s Sefton Park are an assemblage of eight of his statues of explorers and naturalists.

We have one other exterior statue, actually in a niche in the wall of the Church, being the monument to Joseph Johnson, d.1802. It consists of a free-standing statue of a Classical girl, leaning her elbow on a tall funereal urn, with the brief inscription upon it. It abounds with good detail: the girl’s drapery is complex and assured, full of contrasts, taut across the stomach to where held by one hand, then wavily hanging down in thick folds, themselves contrasting with the diaphanous wispy cloth around the lower legs. There is a further bit of drapery over the top of the urn, and wrapped around its neck is a finely carved snake – the symbolism here being of wisdom (see this page for snake sculpture). See picture at top of page, far left.

The rest of the exterior monuments are mainly tomb chests, casket tombs, and further off various slabs, mostly against the walls of the enclosure. The former have some minor carving, but are essentially architectural rather than sculptural constructions; the latter include various relief carving, including some bear or similar animal on the panel to John Harwis, d.1814, on the side of the Church, and further off, the odd skull and crossbones, winged cherub head, and armorial decoration, all crumbling away.

Mrs Siddons statue, by Chavallaiud.

With many thanks to the Church authorities for permission to use photos from inside; their website is at http://www.parishoflittlevenice.com/st_mary_index.php

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

Angel statues // Cherub sculpture

Paddington Station sculpture, a short walk away

London sculpture // Sculptors

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