Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill

St Jude's is a Grade 1 Listed Building designed by Edwin Lutyens
We gather every Sunday at 1030 at the Lord's Table to celebrate the Holy Eucharist
We have a fine choir and strong musical tradition

Our style of worship is both traditional and creative
Our Lady Chapel is used for early Sunday and weekday services

We host the annual Proms at St Jude's music and literary festival

Our church is beautifully decorated with murals by Walter P. Starmer

Visit our new website:

Guide to St Jude's

Photo by Henry Walker

Saint Jude-on-the-Hill (St Jude's) is the Parish Church of Hampstead Garden Suburb which was founded in 1907 by Henrietta Barnett to be a model community where all classes of people would live together in attractive surroundings and social harmony.

The church was built to the designs of Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944), the greatest English architect of the first part of the twentieth century. It is a hybrid. Simon Jenkins calls it "the confident application of Queen Anne Revival to traditional church form". Building began in 1909, but the west end was not completed until 1935. The church was consecrated on 7th May 1911. Externally it is 200 feet long and the spire rises 178 feet above the ground.

Inside, the church is 122 feet from the west door to the chancel steps, and forty feet to the highest part of the roof. The ceiling is barrel-vaulted and domed. There are three vaults between the west end and the crossing; a saucer dome over the crossing; one further vault over the crossing and a saucer dome over the sanctuary. The east end finishes in an apse completed in 1923.

The murals and paintings are by Walter Starmer (1877-1962). He began with the Lady Chapel in 1920 and finished with the apse in 1929. Some commentators have suggested that Lutyens would have preferred the church to have remained undecorated and that the paintings spoil the purity of the interior of the church. A recent study, however, concludes that although the architect might not have admired Starmer's style, Lutyens had no objection in principle to the use of frescoes in Saint Jude's, and it is known that he inspected and praised much of the work.

The west window (dedicated 1937) is to the design of Starmer and depicts Saint Jude holding the cross in his right hand and this church in his left. Below is his symbol, the ship; above, Christ in glory, surrounded by the traditional symbols of the four evangelists.

On the north side of the west door is a memorial to the horses killed in the First World War. Made in 1970 by Rosemary Proctor (died 1995), it replaces the original bronze model of a horse by Lutyens's father, and its replacement, which were stolen. Near it is a memorial to Basil Bourchier, the first vicar, and, on the south pillar, a commemoration of the completion of the west end.

The ceiling panels over the centre aisle depict: the wise men and the shepherds; Christ feeding the multitude and stilling the storm; Christ healing the blind and lepers; the crucifixion (dome); and the entry into Jerusalem with Christ carrying the cross (chancel).

The memorials on the north wall are to John Raphael, a popular sportsman killed in the First World War; to Father Maxwell Rennie, a bust by his daughter Rosemary Proctor; and, in the lunette above St George's altar, a painting by Starmer represents the last few moments in the life Michael Rennie, the Vicar's son, who died of exhaustion after rescuing several evacuee children after their ship, the City of Benares, had been torpedoed on its way to Canada in 1940.

The murals here and in the south aisle represent the teaching of Jesus in the parables of the kingdom. The Stations of the Cross, also by Starmer, begin here and continue into the south aisle.

The fine iron screens that flank the sanctuary are much older than the church and bear the name Matthias Heit and the date 1710. The sanctuary floor is patterned in brick and marble. The high altar includes two stones from Canada: a smaller dark one from the former French royal chapel of Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia (where the first European settlement north of Florida was established in 1605, and where the first regular Church of England services were held in Canada in 1710), and a larger and lighter coloured one from the altar steps of Montreal Cathedral. The foundation stone on the north side of the chancel was laid on St Mark's Day 1910 and is by Eric Gill. The pulpit was also a gift from Canada.

Over the south door (into the car park) is a commemoration of the unveiling of the murals by the Prince of Wales in 1924, and, over the door, a figure of Christ by Rosemary Proctor in memory of her brother. Nearby, on the south wall, is a memorial to Edward VII.

To the left of the chancel is the Lady Chapel, the oldest part of the church, completed and opened for worship in 1910. On the pillar at the right of the entrance is a key to the pictures in the chapel (of noted Christian women). Over the arch is a memorial to the unveiling of the frescoes. In the sanctuary is a wooden statue of Our Lady, a reproduction of the early sixteenth century Mourning Virgin or 'Nuremberg Madonna' which would originally have been part of a crucifixion scene. Its curious proportions suggest that it was meant for a very high position and to be seen from far below. In the central panel of the altar is a modern reproduction of the Madonna and Child by Bernini. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle behind the altar.

St John's Chapel, to the right of the sanctuary, was a gift of the Harmsworth family in 1923. The murals draw on the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. The memorial window to Sir John Harmsworth is by Robert Anning Bell, one of the most distinguished artists of his day. It has been described as one of the most charming of his designs, and makes use of features from seventeenth century English Baroque sepulchral monuments.

The green and white marble altar is by Lutyens. In the central panel is a picture by Maurice Greiffenhagen (a friend and colleague of Anning Bell at the Glasgow School of Art, and a fellow Royal Academician) of St John holding a chalice from which is emerging a serpent. This refers to the legend in which the priest of the temple of Diana gave St John poison to drink as a test of faith. Two men had already died of the poison, but St John survived, and restored the other two to life as well. The vestries lie behind the altar of St John.

The 'Father Willis' organ comes from St Jude's church in Whitechapel where Canon Samuel Barnett, husband of Henrietta Barnett, the founder of Hampstead Garden Suburb, was vicar. It stood for ten years at the west end and was moved, after restoration, to its present position in the chancel in 1934. The organ was rededicated in October 2002 following extensive rebuilding and renovation works, including the commissioning of a new console.

‘I went to church with my parents, who had taken to frequenting Saint Jude’s, Hampstead Garden Suburb, a fine Lutyens edifice then in the charge of a highly flamboyant clergyman named Basil Bourchier . . . Personal devotees flocked to him from all parts of London. His sermons were dramatic, topical, irrational and quite without theological content. . . . Despite all Mr Bourchier’s extravagant display I had some glimpse of higher mysteries."
(Evelyn Waugh, A Little Learning, 1964)
"a building of true originality" and a "key work" of its period
(Roslin Mair, Key Dates in Art History, 1979)
Lutyens' "ecclesiastical masterpiece" and "one of the best twentieth-century church exteriors in England"
(Simon Jenkins, The Companion Guide to Outer London, 1981).
St Jude's is one of [Lutyens'] most successful buildings. It exhibits all his best qualities and even turns that 'naughtiness' or wilful originality which often mars his late buildings into a decided advantage"
(Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North, 1998).
"a magnificent Edwardian period piece. . . The tunnel like domed interior contains a wonderful collection of gay furnishings, the wilful naughtiness of which was quite in keeping with the emancipated outlook of the people who lived in the hand-made red brick houses designed by Raymond Unwin, Baillie Scott, . . . and Crickmer - all of whom were then regarded as the last word of fashion. Gorgeous is the best word to use for the painted ornaments and decorations. . . ."
Peter Anson (Fashions in Church Furnishings, 1960)
"[It] broke new ground . . . the repudiation of Gothic is total; there is not a pointed arch in the building. . . . The central tower [rises] above the crossing to be surmounted by a Byzantine spire - majestic, imperious, Elgarian. . . . The interior is quieter but no less impressive. Again the overall style is Byzantine, but it is a modern, western interpretation of Byzantium"
(John Leonard, London's Parish Churches, 1997).

March 2010

Other pictures by Karri Devereux

A totally preposterous parson . . .

A new study of Evelyn Waugh and the first vicar of St Jude's

A Totally Preposterous Parson: Evelyn Waugh and Basil Bourchier

Basil Bourchier was once one of the most famous clergymen in the Church of England, held in the highest esteem by the many hundreds who flocked from all parts of London to hear him preach, and the many more who followed his doings and opinions in the press.

In 1907 he was appointed the first vicar of Hampstead Garden Suburb, an experimental community in which the social classes would live together in attractive housing and semi-rural surroundings.  The parish inevitably attracted Bohemian and radically minded residents keen to campaign for and debate the issues of the day such as women’s suffrage, animal rights and spiritualism.  Bourchier played a leading part in these discussions and took them to a wider audience through his journalism, books and radio broadcasts.

At the beginning of the First World War he accompanied a women’s medical unit to Belgium where he was arrested and sentenced to death as a spy.  The last minute intervention of a German officer who had visited the Garden Suburb as part of a pre-war town-planning delegation brought about his reprieve.  

Bourchier would probably be forgotten today if it were not for a few lines in Evelyn Waugh’s A Little Learning in which he is ridiculed as “a totally preposterous parson”.  Waugh had been a regular worshipper at Bourchier’s church from shortly after it opened in 1910 and was confirmed there in 1916.  His father, Arthur, was a leading member of the congregation and its various committees, and became a friend and publisher of Bourchier.

By the time of A Little Learning (1964) Waugh had been a Roman Catholic for over thirty years and had long since come to think of the Church of England as an essentially ‘bogus’ institution. Bourchier himself had died in 1934 at the age of 53.

Biographers of Waugh invariably repeat the 1964 portrait as if it were an accurate account of Waugh’s youthful opinion of his vicar.  Alan Walker (the current vicar of Hampstead Garden Suburb) reconsiders Waugh’s statements in the light of the church’s records and suggests the author actually had a much warmer and more positive opinion of Bourchier – and indeed of the Church of England.  He corrects several errors and misunderstandings about Bourchier and his ministry, and goes on to look at the clergyman’s later career and final downfall.

Reviewed by Stephen James in the Suburb News Autumn 2016 No 128 page 7


Centenary Book

St Jude-on-the-Hill is one of the most distinctive of modern English churches. The ecclesiastical masterpiece of Sir Edwin Lutyens, of cathedral-like proportions, and decorated with an extensive mural scheme by Walter Percival Starmer, it expresses the unconventional Christianity of the founders of the model community of Hampstead Garden Suburb and the radical outlook of its early inhabitants. Making use of the church’s own considerable archive as well as recently discovered Starmer papers the Centenary Book celebrates the consecration of the church in 1911 with a close examination of its foundation and early years. It suggests this ordinary parish church was as much a temple to fin de si├Ęcle spirituality as to Anglican orthodoxy.

Published in August 2011.

Campaign from on high at St Jude's

A full page about the Lady Chapel murals in this week's Church Times (31 July 2015)