STREATHAM, Lambeth, London – St Peter.
George Fellowes Prynne completed what had been started by architect Richard Drew in 1870. The reports of the time speak of his completing the “west end” but in fact his contribution here was far more significant. The story of the building of St Peter’s is well told in the contemporary newspaper articles available to us.
The Builder of 8 May 1886 accompanied an illustration of Fellowes Prynne’s final design for the completion.
“St. Peter’s Church, Streatham: Third scheme for completion of West End Exterior,” Mr. G. H. F. Prynne. This shows an octagon-ended baptistery applied to the church so as to form a kind of west-end apse, in two stories, the lower storey forming a meeting room, the back portion would not be quite well lighted. On either side of the baptistery projection is a porch, the two portions producing the impression of a narthex cut in two by the baptistery. We complain that the porches, as in one or two other instances we have noticed, are not connected with the main design; merely abutted against the west wall, without any architectural relation or connexion – otherwise the contemplated additions may be said to be picturesque and practical.
The same journal, on 17 July 1886, told the story of the schemes that were drawn up by Fellowes Prynne, but subsequently rejected.
The Eastern portion of this church, including the chancel, vestries, and three bays of nave, was built some fifteen years ago from the designs of Mr. Richard Drew, architect. The building, which stands in a splendid natural position nearly on the summit of Streatham Hill, has remained up to the present time in an unfinished state, with an unsightly temporary west wall facing directly on the Leigham Court road. The advisability of completing the west end was seriously considered in 1882, and at the latter end of that year Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne received instructions to prepare the designs. A complete set of plans was made, showing, in addition to two new bays, a tower at the north west corner and a western terrace with crypt under; also on the north side with an enlarged vestry with parish room over; and on the south side a chapel with groined apsidal sanctuary. A fleche was placed at the junction of the chancel and nave roofs, which while being used for the sanctus bell, was intended to be utilised also as part of the ventilation system.
This was the architect’s first scheme for the work, but despite its having been accepted and tendered for, circumstances transpired that prevented it from going ahead and the original committee was disbanded. Fellowes Prynne was asked for a second scheme, and this was also abandoned. A new committee was formed, and
…the architect received fresh instructions to make out a new scheme on some what hard and fast lines, rendering it necessary for him to make a building more picturesque than imposing.
The general scheme shows a basement with good-sized meeting and class-rooms, lavatory, water closet, and heating chamber; a small door in the south porch leads to a stair in circular turret.
On the nave floor two bays are added to the nave, much of the detail of which is similar to that already existing; the chief feature is the octagonal baptistry, projecting at the west end and divided from the nave by a fine traceried stone screen. There are large north and south porches. The aisles are increased in width 7 ft., the intention being to eventually increase the width of the existing aisles. The work being carried out in three contracts by Messrs. J. & C. Bowyer, builders, and under the direct supervision of Mr. Prynne.
This stage of the building was completed in 1887. The next stage was added in 1902, and the new chapel and the rebuilt south aisle were dedicated on 3 October 1905.
The St Peter’s Parish Magazine of October 1905 published an article that was both retrospective and looking forward to the dedication of the new chapel and south aisle. Some interesting extra detail is found in this article about the early stages of Fellowes Prynne’s work here, and the problems encountered.
…for many years the parishioners had to be content with a large bare brick wall as a temporary finish to the west end, and that owing to settlements and other causes, this temporary wall and other adjoining columns and arcades seemed, for some time, in danger of collapse, as the wall had gone outwards and drawn the columns with it, to the permanent injury of the building. It was, therefore, none too soon that the additions were put in hand in 1885, indeed, from the dangerous defects found to exist during the process of the work, it seems very fortunate that the additions and repairs were not delayed longer.
The next important addition was made in 1902…and consisted of widening the easternmost bay of the north aisle, enlarging the organ chamber, and building large vestries, the work being carried out by Mr. C. Ansell, builder.
While carrying out this work, it was found that more of the foundations of the building, as well as some of the walls, were defective. George Fellowes Prynne produced a report, and as a result of studying this and discussing costs, the decision was taken to rebuild the three eastern bays of the south aisle, and add a chapel, rather than try to repair the bays. The chapel would serve as a permanent abutment to the chancel and nave arcade walls, as well as adding to the beauty and function of the building. Fellowes Prynne drew up designs, which were accepted, and the contract for this stage was given to Messrs. Goddard and Sons of Dorking.
The difficulties in carrying out the work have been found to be considerable, owing principally to the very limited space at the side of the Church, and the considerable depth to which the foundations had to be carried….Unfortunately, during the progress of the work, other defects in the arcade columns and responds showed signs of increase, and, so as to avoid future developments, and having again to pull about the Church, and further, as centres were already fixed in the arches, it was determined that it would be far more economical and convenient in the end to improve the column foundation, and replace all the defective stones in the southern arcade… The work is now complete, and from an artistic point of view the addition adds greatly to the interior effect of the Church.
Note that the church has now been re-ordered so that the building’s west end, as built by Fellowes Prynne, is now liturgically the east end.
My thanks to David Chapman for the information from the church magazine. For more, see the church website:
The first postcard, of the exterior, was posted in 1905. Below it, that of the interior is undated, but the organ chamber is present suggesting it is from after 1905. Next to these is a photograph of the exterior in recent times.