Monuments in St John's Wood Chapel (St John's Wood Church)

‘At the junction of the Finchley and St. John’s Wood Roads, close by the station on the Underground Railway, is the St John’s Wood Chapel, with its burial-ground, in which a few individuals of note have been buried…’
St John’s Wood Chapel, latterly St John’s Wood Church, was put up in 1813-14, the work of the architect Thomas Hardwick. The whole area of St John’s Wood is named from the military order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, who owned the land, thus attached to the priory at Clerkenwell. But our chapel was built as a Chapel of Ease to St Marylebone Parish Church (i.e. a subsidiary church conveniently located for some outlying habitations within the parish), another work of Hardwick, and to be included on these pages in due course. It occupies a prominent site, facing a major roundabout, and on the route to Lord’s cricket ground, where Thomas Lord had set up in a then-rural location in 1780. The church, brick on the sides and rear, is faced with stone to the front, featuring a perfect ionic portico with a clock in the pediment, and behind, a short, pretty tower with paired Tuscan column and a little cupola supporting a weather vane. This rather delicate exterior, now painted a pale beige-yellow which enhances its lightness, rather contrasts to the interior which is rather a cooler, more austere version of the classical ideal. It seems this was rather altered by the Victorians, who removed many of the pews, and then restored closer to its original state after WW2. The low columns, the boxed-in pews, and variety of monuments on the walls give an ambience rather lost in many more empty classical churches.

Chantrey's figure of Martha Capel.

Our monuments then. There are two principal ones at the entrance to the chancel, 30-odd minor but interesting ones around the walls, several with overseas links, and upstairs and unreachable behind the organ, tantalisingly half in view, two more. We start with the two most showy:

Gillespie Sisters, by Samuel Nixon.

On to the rest of the monuments. As not uncommonly the case, a particular style of tablet is favoured, which here is to have a classical moulding behind the classical panel which is part of the wall. We are lucky that several of the monuments are signed. The monuments date from when the church was first put up through to the 1840s, with a single mid-Victorian example from 1860, so we break our usual date order and consider them more or less alphabetically:

The tantalisingly inaccessible Charles Morgan monument.

Upstairs, and not gettable at, is Lieutenant General Charles Morgan, d.1819, of the East India Company. A nice thing, the plaque being held up by two winged angels, shown more or less symmetrically and in profile; above, a perfect classical urn; and flanking it, strange faces on the pediment ears.

Also up there is Eliza Kyd, d.1819, and husband Lieutenant General Alexander Kyd, with Egyptian design pattern along the top and a pediment made of two curved scrolls with some petalled object between, and a higher tier bearing a rounded pediment with two linked wreaths. But the rest of the monument cannot be seen from downstairs.

Outside, in the narrow yard alongside the church, are a solid chest tomb, and a casket, the former of which is to one David Pike Watts, d.1816, ‘a name recorded by the Founder himself of the Madras system of education [i.e. Andrew Bell] as the first person who actually introduced that system into practice in England.’ The corners of this tomb are decorated with charming little pairs of kneeling angels in high relief.

To the other side of the church, in the front yard, is a full size modern statue of St John, wearing an animal pelt, walking forward with hand raised; signed H.F. [19]78. This is a work by Hans Feibusch, according to the Church website, a German painter and sculptor of Jewish origin who came to England as a refugee, and whose religious pieces can be seen in Ely and Chichester Cathedrals. His mural work can apparently be seen in some London churches, though I have not consciously observed them.

Hans Feibusch's statue of St John (modern).

Outside, in the middle of the busy roundabout, is the notable War memorial sculpture of St George and the Dragon, by C. L. Hartwell.

With many thanks to the Church authorities for permission to show pictures of the monuments inside; their website is http://www.stjohnswoodchurch.org.uk/.

Top of page

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

Angel statues // Cherub sculpture

London sculpture // Sculptors

Home

Visits to this page from 8 Sept 2012: 8912