WORCESTER, Worcestershire – St Martin.


This is one of Fellowes Prynne’s churches about which the celebrated author of books on architecture around the country, Niklaus Pevsner, had some kind words to say. He began his brief description of the building:

…Church architecture at its best at the moment before abandoning historicism is…George H. Fellowes Prynne’s new St. Martin at Worcester.

He went on to list some of the features, in particular that there is no break in the roof between the nave and the chancel, that the chancel in on an undercroft, the brick and stone striping of the interior, and the arcades with the arches which, as he put it, die against the piers.

The brick and stone striped feature observed by Pevsner is especially prominent in the arches and pillars, as well as on the east wall. There is a chancel wall but no screen, and a rood beam rather than a chancel arch. The raised sanctuary contains recessed sedilia, a piscina and two stone aumbreys. The floors of both chancel and sanctuary are paved in black and white marble.

The Lady Chapel is housed in the south transept, and is in the architect’s usual apsidal form, with mosaic-paved sanctuary.

The Builder of 21 October 1905 carried a description the building, in the words of George Fellowes Prynne, along with an illustration of the exterior – the same view as shown in volume 1 of the Academy Architecture and Architectural Review of 1905 illustrated below.

The main object of the design has been to get a lofty and effective building that would accommodate about 900 adults at a very reasonable cost, and to trust to the general grouping and proportion, rather than to detail, for effect.

The general form of the plan is a nave, 93 ft. [?83 ft. – unclear in source document] long by 31 ft. wide, divided into five bays.  Broad processional passages are placed on either side, leading into the north and south transepts, that on the south side terminating into an apsidal-ended chapel.  A broad stone staircase leads from the north side of the chancel into the basement, where, taking advantage of a fall in the ground, extensive clergy and choir vestries and a large parish room have been formed underneath the chancel.  The organ-chamber is placed on the north side, and a good-sized sacristy is provided conveniently close to the chancel.

The baptistry is at the west end of the nave, and is flanked on either side by a porch, over the whole of which is formed a small western gallery, which extends the whole width of the nave, and to which access is gained by two turret staircases, one on either side.  Externally these turrets are carried up the whole height of the building.

The chancel is 42 ft. long by 27 ft. wide, with an altar raised nine steps from the nave floor level.

The roof, which is carried at one level throughout the nave and chancel, is of barrel form, with the addition of a coved cornice for future decoration.

One of the main features of the design is the tower, which is placed almost centrally on the south side of the church, the principal entrance being formed in the base.

The materials intended to be used are hammer-dressed local stone facing, laid in random courses externally, and local red stone facings internally, the dressings being of Doulting stone.

                                        GEO. H. FELLOWES PRYNNE

The baptistry is a later addition, it having been agreed that funds would never now permit the building of Fellowes Prynne’s planned tower. His original plans were sought, but never found, and so a modern design was agreed on and used. It was dedicated in 1962.

It is interesting to note that the west end was to have had a gallery and turrets.  This is very similar to what was planned at All Saints, (planned as Christ church) Lower Sydenham, and also never carried out.  Worcester and Sydenham are the only two examples of designs I have identified that showed these features, and, sadly, neither of them were built to plan.

The illustrations show the original exterior and interior designs, as published in the Academy Architecture and Architectural Review of 1905 (vol 1) and 1912 (vol 1) along with a postcard of the interior, posted in 1911.