St James the Less, Westminster, by G. E. Street
St James the Less, Westminster, by G. E. Street

Adam and Eve roundels, two of a series between the window arches outside St James the Less, Westminster

designed by George Edmund Street. 1861. Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. Photograph and text 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 the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Commentary

St James the Less was built as a tribute to Dr James Monk, first Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, by his three daughters. Westminster Abbey donated land for the church in what was then one of the worst areas of Westminster, and the sisters chose George Edmund Street as their architect. Street, then in his mid-thirties, lavished care on every detail of the building, right down from its tall sturdy tower to the railings outside and the almsboxes just inside the main entrance. Philip Watkins reminds us that Street was in Italy when he designed it, and the tower, with its semi-precious stones below the spire and spirelets, does indeed resemble a campanile.

Top-class craftsmen were chosen: the firm of Clayton and Bell for the stained glass, and Thomas Earp for at least some of the stone-carving, including the elaborate though now badly-worn stone pulpit. Clayton and Bell were the firm often used by George Gilbert Scott, and Earp had already been used by Scott too, though perhaps his most dramatic work so far had been the mezzo-relief Pieta designed by John Powell for one of Pugin's churches — St. Mary's, Derby. Now Earp became what Scott himself termed Street's "handpiece" at St James the Less (Mitchell and Mitchell 40). And an even better known artist contributed his skills to St James the Less: G. F. Watts painted the mural known as "The Doom" over the chancel arch, and then, when it had begun to deteriorate, replaced it in the 1880s with a mosaic in Venetian glass, depicting the same scene. The work is beautifully proportioned and coloured, and has been highly praised.

Other Views

References

Jackson, Neil. "The UnEnglishness of G. E. Street's Church of St. James-the-Less." Architectural History. 23 (1980): 86-94.

Mitchell, Anthony and Olive. Thomas Earp: Eminent Victorian Sculptor. Buckingham: Baron, 2002.

Speel, Bob. "St James the Less, Vauxhall Bridge Road."

Watkins, Philip. The Church and Its History: St James the Less (1994; 8-page pamphlet available at the church).

Weinreb, Ben and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. London: Macmillan, rev. ed. 1992.


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Last modified 15 February 2008