STAINES, Surrey – St Peter.
In the church of St Peter, Staines, some 18 miles west of Central London, can be seen an example of Fellowes Prynne’s work at its most successful. For a start, the site is perfect: an expanse of land in which the architect could express himself freely, with the added artistic bonus of a riverside location. The building overlooks the River Thames with no obstruction other than its own attractive lych gate. Furthermore, the munificence of the benefactor, Sir Edward Clarke, Q.C., ensured that a building of the highest quality could be achieved, and St Peter’s is one of the few churches completed almost exactly to the original plan. George Fellowes Prynne said of this church that he had never been more satisfied with the building, work, sculpture or anything else connected with a place designed by him. Messrs Goddard & Son of Farnham were the builders, and the sculptor was Mr J. Taylorson of Lavender Hill, London.
The first illustration is of a postcard posted in 1930. The second excellent interior image is of a card posted way back in October 1903. The details of the magnificent screen are clearly shown.
The style chosen in design is a free treatment of perpendicular in red brick and stone. The nave is of four bays, twenty six feet wide by eighty feet in length having a height of forty feet to the apex of the waggon roof. The chancel is of the same width and height as the nave. There is a narthex at the west end with western entrance. The tower, which is placed at the south-west end of the south aisle is designed in three stages, and capped with a copper covered spire. In the lower stage on the nave floor level a baptistery is formed.
A southern transept with separate entrance forms the nave of a small chapel on the south side of the chancel. On the north side of the chancel are clergy and choir vestries with the organ choir.
The altar is elevated by nine steps from the nave floor level, and ample space and height is left above and behind the altar for a baldechin or reredos…
The furniture of the church is of an appropriate and ornate character. Choir stalls have been presented by Sir Edward, and the altar, which is of very elaborate design and highly decorated in gold colours, is a gift of Lady Clarke.
Another stunning feature of this church is the magnificence of the stained glass windows. Most of these were designed by the architect’s brother Edward, and were created over a number of years by different crafters. Those that were made by Percy Bacon Brothers are likely to have been designed by George himself, and their style suggests as much. See Robert Eberhard’s catalogue of these and other stained glass windows, their designers and makers, at Church Stained Glass Records (stainedglassrecordings.org.uk)
The top row of photographs show the church porch, the high altar, and the elaborate font cover. The altar is of a design typical of the architect, including the exquisite frontal. Below them can be seen examples of the church’s stained glass.
The Screen at St Peter, Staines
At this church Fellowes Prynne designed what is probably his masterpiece of a stone screen.
The Staines screen is divided into the usual three parts, in this case equal. It springs from a chancel wall, which itself bears an attractive wrought iron screen. The piers rise to identical arches with open trefoil tracery. The rood and figures are set on a level along the tops of these arches, each on a corbel.
There are not only the usual three figures, but two angels on either side of the central figures. Unusually, the whole of the central unit, rood and tracery together, has been fashioned from one piece of stone. This can be seen as the architect’s plan by the way the points of the small arches above St. Mary and St. John merge upwards through the ends of the horizontal part of the cross to the top of the structure. As well as the mullion style tracery around the central figure, there are little bits and pieces of ornamentation filling the remaining spaces, chief of which is a pair of small circles with trefoils at the extreme sides of the screen.
The Illustrated Church News of 4th August 1894 gave an account of the building, based on the architect’s own stated description, and spoke of the screen thus:
One of the main features of the church is the constructional rood screen, which is carried right up into the chancel arch, the portion of which is enriched with tracery. The central figure and rood are designed to be cut out of the solid stonework of the tracery, and the side figures placed on corbels formed in the panels of the tracery. This feature is quite unique, no other example of similar treatment existing.