Photographs, captions, and commentary by the author, except for the photograph on the far left in the top row of smaller images below and the scan of John Johnson's plan, which were kindly provided by Andrew Pilkington, the architect on duty at the church's Open Day, 2010.[You may use the other 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. Click on the thumbnails for larger images.]

St Matthew's Church, Bayswater St Matthew's Church, Bayswater

St Matthew's Church John Johnson (1843-1920), Designed 1880; built 1881-82. Bargate rag-stone with Box-ground and Bath-stone dressings; interior, Corsham stone. St Petersburgh Place, Bayswater, London W.2.

St Matthew's Church stands out in its narrow road because of its spire, which Osbert Lancaster once described as "lofty and uncompromisingly Evangelical" (41). At 240' or 73 metres high, the spire is, in fact, one of the tallest in West London. John Johnson had a knack of making his buildings prominent. He was also good at suiting style to purpose: the other noticeable feature of the church, which replaced an earlier Italianate chapel on this spot, is its unusually wide clerestoried nave. Intended to accommodate the expanding congregation, and to provide an unobstructed view of the altar, this is fifty feet or over 15 metres wide — making it even wider than Westminster Abbey's (all figures from "The Parish Church of St Matthew"). Since the side aisles are in the buttresses, and the transepts are shallow, almost all the width can be used for the main seating area. By one estimate, the church was able to seat over 1,500 people (Elrington).

Left to right: (a) West front from the end of the road. (b) One of two angel head-stops on the hood-mould over the main door. (c) Finely carved stonework over the west entrance (d) Close-up of stone-carving.

Left to right: (a) The nave. Note the galleries beside the chancel, one on the right for the organ, one on the left intended for children. (b) Side aisles, showing the tall clerestory windows. (c) St Cecilia in the second south-aisle window, from a cartoon by Burne-Jones, executed by William Morris & Co. (d) Architect's plan of the church, signed in the lower right-hand corner, John Johnson, ARIBA. The address, 9 Queen Victoria St, Mansion House, London E.C., is a very good one. Plan very kindly provided by London architect Andrew Pilkington.

The original building committee noted the absence of intrusive pillars approvingly, but a church like this could easily seem hollow and impersonal. However, the triple arches of the chancel, the trefoil effect at the chancel end of the roof (a fine king-post and collar panelled one), and the galleries below, together with the fine detailing everywhere, combine to relieve the eye. Moreover; light shines through smaller arches from the lovely stained glass windows. The East Window (1884) is by Clayton and Bell, and the two easternmost south-aisle lights are both Morris ones, from Burne-Jones cartoons (compare St Cecilia here with St Cecilia in a mosaic by Burne-Jones.


Left to right: (a) The pretty apsidal baptistery, with scenes in the lights by A. L. Moore (1849-1939), another good stained glass craftsman of the period. (b) Close-up of the font cover. (c) Lectern with steps, and view of gallery. (d) Fine detailing in the stonework.

With its "narrow passage aisles" and double transept, this church is cited as a clear antecedent for changes in Scottish church design which took place soon after this time ("[Sir] Robert Rowand Anderson"). St Matthew's has hardly changed over the years. Grade II* listed, it is much loved — like other buildings by this architect about whom so little is known, and whose oeuvre has yet to be catalogued.


"Church of St Matthew, Paddington." British Listed Buildings. Web. 3 January 2011.

Eberhart, Robert. Stained glass windows at St Matthew. Church Stained Glass Windows. Web. 3 January 2011.

Elrington, C. R., ed. "Paddington Churches," A History of the County of Middlesex: Vol. 9, Hampstead, Paddington (1989). British History Online. Web. 3 January 2011.

"The Parish Church of St Matthew." Leaflet available at the church.

"(Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson." DSA (Dictionary of Scottish Architecture) Architect Biography Report. Web. 3 January 2011.

Sitwell, Osbert. The Essential Osbert Sitwell: An Anthology in Brush and Pen. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1988.

Last modified 5 January 2011