St Mary's, South Tidworth
John Johnson (1807-1878)
Farmer and Brindley (stone carving)
Clayton & Bell (stained glass)
On the estate of Sir John Kelk
South Tidworth, Wiltshire (formerly in Hampshire)
Photographs, captions, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]
John Johnson only designed a dozen or so churches but those he designed are much admired for their uniqueness and fine craftsmanship. This one, his last, is generally considered to have been his masterpiece: "Steep roofs and an unusual spire outside give way to lofty proportions within, enriched as at Alexandra Palace with good quality detail — railings, capitals and sculpture here as in the altar by Farmer & Brindley. The Italian mosaic sanctuary floor and the original furnishings all display a craftsmanship worthy of the lavish expenditure " (Redundant Churches Fund pamphlet, n.p.).
Left to right: a) Another view of the exterior. b) Interior: looking towards the altar. c) Close-up of stone-carving. d) Corner, with trumpeting angel, and stained glass window by Clayton & Bell depicting the Nativity ("They shall call His name Emmanuel"). [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]
Johnson would have taken special care over this church because it was built for Sir John Kelk, the main contractor of the Albert Memorial and such important public works as Victoria Station. Not surprisingly, Kelk had become seriously wealthy, and bought up a prestigious sporting estate on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border. He employed Johnson, with whom he had worked on the Palace, to restructure the house for him and rebuild an older church here. The Victoria County History treats Johnson's work on the church as a reconstruction ("a copy of elaborate thirteenth-century work with polished marble shafts in the columns of the arcade piers"), but according to the Redundant Churches Fund pamphlet, the general composition is Johnson's own individual design, "a clear and individual expression of an important part of the Victorian manner of building churches" (n.p.).
Left to right: a) View of the Chancel — notice the beautiful tiling, and another trumpeting angel in the corner. b) Stone reredos with Christ carrying the cross, against the East Window. c) Pulpit — notice the prayerful angel. d) Close-up of stone-carving on pulpit. [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]
The stone-carving by Farmer & Brindley is of special note, and is remarkably well preserved after so many years, especially considering that the church was declared redundant in 1972, and is generally shut up. The carving on the font looks as pristine as that on the font at St Matthew's in Guernesy, a church which is active and much-treasured. The wood carving is equally fine, and the stained glass throughout is in perfect condition. The East Window is by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, the three lights depicting the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Supper at Emmaus; but most of the rest are attributed to Clayton & Bell. Sadly, Johnson died before the work was completed. The building, which could never have looked like an ordinary country church, is now incongruously perched on the edge of an army encampment, because South Tidworth is a garrison town. The key can be obtained either from the kiosk in the encampment or from the lodge of Tedworth House. The approach through the parkland of Tedworth House is much more pleasant.
Left to right: a) The font. b) Choir stalls — again, note the mosaic tiling. c) Wooden side-screen. d) Stained glass windows in the South Aisle attributed to Clayton & Bell, depicting (l. to r.) The Resurrection, Noli Me Tangere (Christ with Mary Magdalene) and the Ascension. [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]
Eberhart, Robert. Stained glass windows at St Mary's. Church Stained Glass Windows site. Web. Viewed 8 August 2010.
Page, William, ed. History of the County of Hampshire, Vol. 4, 1911. Web. Viewed 8 August 2010.
"St Mary, South Tidworth" (Redundant Churches Fund pamphlet available at the church).
Last modified 8 August 2010