Site Unseen: All Saints Fitzrovia

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

All Saints has been described as ‘a hidden gem’ and if SilverTiger had not written about this church I would not have known of its existence hidden from view in Margaret Street, Fitzrovia.

[T]he entrance is set back from the street in a small courtyard this gives it an intimacy and hides it from casual observation that many Anglican churches lack.

All Saints Church was built with the support of the Ecclesiological Society, which had its origins in a group founded by earnest Cambridge University students who sought to uplift the hearts and souls of their countrymen by encouraging a return to the glories of medieval church architecture and move away from the more austere.

One of the society’s founders, Alexander Beresford Hope, came from a very wealthy family and it was his money that funded the church’s construction. Except for its soaring spire, the dark red exterior of All Saints is not especially remarkable, but step inside, however, and you’ll encounter one of the most breath­taking sights in a London church, if not in all England.

All-Saints

Built in the 1850s in Gothic Revival style by the scrupulous (and apparently tyrannical) London-born architect William Butterfield, All Saints is High Church at its highest. Its walls, floors, windows, ceilings and every nook and cranny are all suffused with extraordinarily ornate detail. Influenced by the brick churches of Italy, north Germany and East Anglia, the polychrome brickwork, similar to Westminster Cathedral, combined with elaborate stonework, gilding and tiling, can scarcely be matched by another church of such compact proportions anywhere in the British Isles.

Describing the interior as “a riot of colour,” John Betjeman said “there’d never been anything like it.” The church’s original furnishings were relatively simple – its beauty was intended to reside in its fabric – but these were augmented during the early 20th century and the focal parts are now enriched with paintings, statues and silverware. A recent renovation programme has restored the brilliance of both the fabric and the ornamentation.

All Saints functions within the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England, holding a high mass on Sunday morning and low masses, prayer services and confessions throughout the week

Pictures: Nave All Saints and painted alabaster reredos, c. 1909 by Sir Ninian Comper adorns the Lady chapel in All Saints, Margaret Street in London by Laurence OP (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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