Pinner Church Monuments, Middlesex, West London

Pinner Church, St John the Baptist, contains only just over a dozen wall panel monuments, but these include a grand piece of the 17th Century, several 18th and 19th Century panels with minor carving, and a charming 1900s piece in Arts and Crafts style. An important sculptor, Robert Taylor, is represented by one piece, and there are two by a local stone mason, Tomlinson of Uxbridge.

But first a few words on the Church itself.

Church building

Pinner Church stands at the top of the ancient High Street, filled with picturesque houses of the 16th Century and later, its short tower conspicuous from the main road below. The Church was put up in 1321 as a chapel of ease to Harrow, becoming a parish in its own right only in 1766. From the 14th Century, the nave, chancel, and aisles and small transepts all survive – indeed, it has been suggested that the lancet windows at the end of the aisles, and those in the transepts are from an earlier church on the site. Tower and south porch are 15th Century, and the 19th Century saw the usual restorations, that of J.L. Pearson in 1880 being the most drastic, unfortunately leading to the replacement of the 1638 Chancel roof, and the nave roof, along with more desirable changes such as the addition of dormer windows and the enlargement of the South Chapel, which had been added in mid-Victorian times. The Revd. C.E. Greenside, Vicar at the time, felt the church was ‘greatly changed for the better’.

Pinner Parish Church, diffferent aspects.

As we see it today, the Church is small, with its low, square tower, all covered in flint and rubble, and buttressed far more than seems necessary given its modest dimensions. But very beautiful, and those buttresses give a sense of massiveness to that tower. The tower indeed does manage to look imposing from down the High Street, with three stages above the ancient door, and a balustrade at the top, and a newel tower in the corner – the tall cross, surprisingly, is a lead-encased survival of 1637, as recorded in the churchwardens’ accounts as being celebrated with ‘a diner and bread and beare’.

Inside, Pinner Church is intimate, the higher nave divided from the aisles by numerous octagonal pillars supporting pointed arches, the Victorian South Chapel being a notable feature. The monuments hang there, and on the walls of the aisles.

Pinner Church, interior views.

Monuments

  • Plain brass panels to Revd. Claude E. A. Rowland, d.1932, and Revd. Charles Edward Grenside, d.1933, both vicars or Pinner. Above them, a survival of some ancient monument, being a coat of arms with the usual knight’s head and generous scrolly feathering, on a cartouche. Presumably 17th Century.

    Also in Pinner Church

    Outside the Church

    Above the South Porch door is a niche containing a small coloured statue of St John the Baptist, presumably late 19th Century - see picture at top of page.

    The Churchyard contains a few monuments. Already mentioned is the slab to Christopher Clitherow, 1683, and there used to be one to Sir Bartholomew Shower of Pinner Hill, d.1701, but it seems to have disappeared. However the pre-eminent monument in Pinner Churchyard is a massive pointed one made of masonry, with a stone coffin plunged through it, and a semicircular arch below with an iron grate. This is the monument to the parents of J.C. Loudon, d.1810. The story, which has been roundly dismissed but is too good not to repeat, is that the parents inherited the use of a fortune so long as they remained above ground, and that the son built this unusual memorial so as to keep their inheritance when they died. Regardless, a splendid thing.

    Loudon monument with coffin held aloft.

    The visitor may choose to search for the tombstones of William Skenelsby, d.1775, Ann Winfield, d.1851, and Betty Evans, d.1853, all of whom passed their 100th birthdays. We might also mention the headstone to William Brinkley, d.1759, ‘Late Citizen and Tobacconist of London’ and his wife Sarah Brinkley, as a typical example of a tombstone with low relief carving of a winged cherub head in front of a sunburst, with minor floral decoration.

    Also in Pinner

    Following the road up to the left of Pinner Church leads to an open area in which is the fountain to William Arthur Tooke (whose monument we noted above), erected in 1886, a typical, modest Victorian Gothic creation of coloured granite.

    The old High Street to which the Church provides the backdrop is well preserved, with, as one gazetteer put it, ‘as good a selection of old buildings of modest size as can be found together in Middlesex’. Lots of Tudor black and white, treated a little bit sniffily by Pevsner, the architectural historian, on the grounds of the various renovations, but a satisfying ensemble - see picture at top of page. There is a small War Memorial: a beige stone plinth on steps with carved wreaths at the top and panels listing the fallen around the sides.

    Tooke fountain, St Luke's Pinner and David John sculpture, and Pinner war memorial.

    The rest of Pinner is mostly 1930s suburbia, with isolated older survivals and a few things Victorian. However, parallel to the little High Street is Love Lane, where of relevance to these pages with their sculptural interest is the figure sculpture on the front of St Luke’s Church, Pinner (RC). The building itself is a rather splendid thing of the 1950s, by the ecclesiastical architect Francis Xavier Velarde (who also designed a church at Borehamwood among others). St Luke became the patron saint of artists, based on his work as an icon painter, and in particular on an icon he painted after the Virgin Mary: the sculptural grouping in Pinner shows this popular scene of St Luke painting the Virgin. She is here seated on an elegant chair, in a fairly symmetrical pose looking straight forward, her hands in her lap with some small letter or lettered cushion, a plump dog at her feet. St Luke is seated to the left as we look at the church, holding his large icon on which an outline profile can be seen. Under his stool can be seen a bull’s head with a halo, traditional symbol of St Luke (though normally the bull is winged). The artist was the ecclesiastical sculptor David John, who has other work inside the church, and the group dates from when the church was erected, in 1957. Interesting to see sculptural work of the 1950s.

    With many thanks to the Revd. Paul Hullyer for kind permission to show pictures of the monuments inside the Church; their website is http://www.pinnerparishchurch.org.uk/33.php.

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    Nearby in Middlesex: South West to Ruislip Church // and thence to Ickenham Church //South-East to Harrow Church // Sculpture on the Uxbridge Line

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

    Angel statues // Cherub sculpture

    London sculpture

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