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English Church Architecture.


TODDINGTON, St. Andrew  (SP 035 331),


(Bedrock:  Lower Jurassic, Middle Lias Mudstones.)


An attractive church by one of the foremost Victorian ecclesiastical architects,

George Edmund Street (1824-81).



Famous, above all today, for the Law Courts in The Strand, George Edmund Street was rivalled in his lifetime only by William Butterfield as the architect of choice by the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England, and, indeed, in his personal attachment to High Church ritual, he surpassed his rival and was for many years churchwarden at Butterfield's 'model' church of All Saints', Margaret Street (Westminster), after Butterfield had left, opposed to the use of incense and lights, and to the Elevation of the Host.  Yet for all his ardent religionism, it would be entirely misleading to present Street as a humourless killjoy, for entirely to the contrary, his two major publications, Brick & Marble in the Middle Ages: Notes on a Tour of the North of Italy (London, John Murray, 1855) and Some Account of Gothic Architecture in Spain (in two volumes) (London, John Murray, 1865) are peppered with anecdotes about bad hotels and the sheer awfulness of other English tourists encountered on the way, much to the aggravation of The Ecclesiologist in its long review of the former in October 1855 (vol. XVI, issue CX, p. 299):  'We cannot but think that the ordinary reader of books of travel will be as much disturbed by Mr. Street's purely professional descriptions and speculations as the architectural student will be annoyed by the details of uncomfortable beds and ill-cooked dinners'.

Street's earnestness was sufficient for most men, however, and his patrons, almost to a man and woman, were wealthy and generous ones.  Street was also an inveterate traveller, and a close reading of Arthur Edmund Street's biography of his father (Memoir of George Edmund Street, 1824-1881, London, John Murray, 1888) reveals that between 1850 and 1874, he made no less than twenty-two separate visits to the Continent, including two such trips in 1872 and 1874 and only missing out on his working vocations in 1855. 1864, 1865 and 1870, during the last of which, however, he made a tour round Scotland.  It is hardly surprising, in consequence, that Street's architecture is the most eclectic among all his more important confrères, and this is particularly striking in some of his village churches, which in the most extreme cases, stand out from their settings as if they had landed from the moon.



This is a magnificent church by Street, one of the arch-apostles of the High Victorian Movement, although inside at least, it can hardly claim to be one of his most characteristic.  Indeed, David Verey or Alan Brooks catches the position well in writing, 'the coolly serene interior... is Street at his most Pearsonian' (i.e. after John Loughborough Pearson,  1817-97) (in the 'Gloucestershire: the Vale and the Forest of Dean' volume of The Buildings of England, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 766).  That is not really the case outside, however, where the grouping of masses  (seen to wonderful effect, left, in the view of the church from the northeast, with the chancel on the left and the two-bay N. chapel on the right) is perfectly consistent with both its author and its date (1868-9). This 'noble exterior' is constructed of Yellow Guiting Limestone from the Middle Jurassic Inferior Oolite Formation, contrasted externally with grey tiles - a combination that presents a striking face to the world when coupled with Street's elaborate building plan formed of an unaisled nave and chancel with a S. porch, a S. tower surmounted by a finely-tapering broach spire, a transversely-gabled S. chapel, a N. vestry, and a large N. chapel formed of  two independently cross-gabled bays.  A further picturesque touch is a circular rood stair turret with a conical roof replete with miniscule lucarnes, nestling in the re-entrant between the N. chapel and the nave. (See the photograph below right, taken from the northwest, this time with the nave on the right and the N. chapel on the left.)  All in all then, this is a complex and ingenious composition for which the third Lord Sudeley paid the handsome but not unjustifiable figure of £44,000 (perhaps equivalent to £20 million today if allowance is made for modern labour costs).


Details of the design include a seemingly inexhaustible assortment of well-proportioned windows, all broadly of pre-ogee Decorated form, albeit including none that are entirely convincingly mediaeval.  The tall S. porch has square-headed windows with trefoil-cusped lights and trefoils above, and the tall outer doorway carries a series of mouldings above an order of shafts.  The cusped inner doorway is still more complex and has dog-tooth among its mouldings, supported on three orders of polished marble shafts.  The angle-buttressed tower has a protruding stair turret in the re-entrant with the nave, rising to a west-facing gable.  The bell-openings are two-light with octfoils in the heads, and the elegant spire is lit by two tiers of gabled lucarnes in the cardinal directions, separated by broaches surmounted by crocketed pinnacles.  The S. chapel adjoins the tower and continues eastwards for one and a half bays (the explanation for which will become evident inside), lit to the east by two, two-light windows at the lower level and a three-light window in the gable above.


Continuing further round the building in an anticlockwise direction, rising ground to the east required the digging of a trench around the chancel.  Here the buttresses are topped with gables decorated with blank trefoiled arches and the large five-light E. window has two encircled sexfoils and a wheel of six trilobes in the head.  The transversely-gabled N. vestry ends some 6' (2 m.) short of the sanctuary and is lit by a three-light E. window and entered by a narrow N. door.  The N. chapel has a three-light N. window in each bay, each with three encircled sexfoils in the head, and there are two similar windows to the west (as seen in the photograph right). The three-light N. windows to the nave have outer lights subarcuated above trefoils and wheels of three trefoils above the central lights while the westernmost bay (of four) is occupied by the N. doorway. The nave W. wall is pierced by another five-light window, featuring an inner group of three subarcuated and slightly stepped lights, with three cinquefoils in the head. 


In his book John Loughborough Pearson (New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1979, pg. 106), Anthony Quiney wrote, 'Street provided the cradle for late Victorian Gothic but did not grow far into the style himself'.  Defining this style, which Pearson exemplified from c. 1870, he continued,  '[Pearson became] the complete master of space:  he could fashion extraordinarily complex volumes, and through the vaults above could resolve and unite them into one grand whole.'  In fact, that is precisely what Street achieves inside the present building, and nowhere is this seen to better effect than in the S. chapel, where the one and a half bay length we have noticed outside, provides for a single square cell to the west, roofed with a quadripartite stone vault with an additional rib towards the east, and a narrow adjoining 'sanctuary', separated from the principal cell by a two-bay arcade and vaulted in two diminutive north/south sections with much ingeniously contrived complexity.  (See the photograph above, taken from beneath the S. tower, looking half right [east southeast] into the S. chapel and sharp left [north northeast] into the chancel.)  In particular, the 'central' pier is necessarily asymmetrical and composed of a single shaft of White Guiting stone (from the stratum immediately above the Yellow Guiting) towards the west, and two narrow polished marble shafts sandwiching a narrow Guiting stone shaft towards the east.  Modest structural polychromy of this sort is another of the delights of this interior and one that is largely absence in the later churches of Pearson. Also of great interest is Street's treatment of the W. bay of the nave (illustrated left), which is separated from the other bays by a stepped arcade with a wide, stilted central arch, springing from quatrefoil piers standing on a stone screen decorated with trefoil-cusped blank arcading. This takes forward an idea Street had explored on a smaller scale a couple of years earlier at Wansford (East Riding of Yorkshire), ostensibly to provide support for a wooden bell-turret, but here the west bay is covered by a pointed, ribbed tunnel vault while the other three bays of the nave have been given a heavy wooden roof essentially of hammerbeam form, albeit with some hybrid features. 


The large N. chapel communicates with the remainder of the church through two tall arches opening respectively into the nave and the chancel.  It is vaulted in two quadripartite bays with an additional rib to the west in the western bay and to the east in the eastern bay, and enriched beneath the windows with a series of blank cinquefoil-cusped recesses.  The chapel's function is precluded from almost any useful purpose by the enormous tomb-chest in the centre, dedicated to and featuring recumbent effigies of Charles Hanbury-Tracy, first Lord Sudeley (d. 1858), and his wife, Henrietta, depicting him looking upwards and with his left hand by his side, and she looking slightly away (to the south), with both hands on her chest.  The north and south sides of the monument are decorated with angels at the corners and a pair of Evangelists at the midpoints.  Lord Sudeley left £5,000 towards this enormous piece of work, perhaps the equivalent of more than £2 million pounds today - an exercise in self-aggrandisement by the standards of any age.   It was designed by John Graham Lough (1798-1876) (Rupert Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculpture: 1660-1851, London, The Abbey Library, 1951, p. 244), who 'suffered all his life from being absurdly over-praised in one section of the Press and unfairly criticized by another'.  His monument here is a good one however, as shown in the photograph, left, showing the upper portion of Lord Sudeley's effigy.   It is impossible to photograph the entire monument from any position at ground level.  


Other purely architectural features of the building include:  (i) the high octopartite vault beneath the tower (the lower stage of which now acts as an organ chamber);  (ii) the chancel vault in three quadripartite bays where the central one is much narrower than those to the east and west (in order to align it with the narrow E. bay of the S. chapel); and (iii), the trefoil-cusped blank arcading around the three sides of the sanctuary (as seen in the photograph, left), with deeply cut leaf tracery in the spandrels, polished marble colonnettes, and some of the backs of the arches decorated with carved diapering.  (Further evidence of the incomplete state of the work that this suggests is also to be seen on the screen fronting the nave W. bay, where only some of the attractive bird label stops have been attempted.)  Another fine aspect of the building is the treatment of the window rere-arches, which have mouldings carried on marble side-shafts, and a second, outer order of shafts, further away, rising from floor level to enclose the windows in large-scale blank arcading.  


Finally, Street's furnishings include:  (i) the font (below left), with carved vine patterns alternating with blank cinquefoil-cusped arches containing shields, decorating a circular bowl supported on a base with stubby marble shafts at the corners;  and (ii), the pulpit (below right), which is another of Street's fine essays on this subject, featuring carved, two-bay blind 'windows', and polished marble columns both to support the cornice and to decorate the angles of the drum.  The building has no chancel screen and very little has been attempted in the church with the floor tiling patterns (contrast this building with some of the others by Street illustrated on this web-site), but there is some attractive glass by Hardman (chancel E. window), Clayton & Bell (the westernmost N. window in the nave), and James Powell & Sons (nave S. windows) (Rev. P.L.C. Richard, St. Andrew's Church, Toddington, 2001, pp. 3-4). 

















[Other churches by Street featured on this web-site are Fimber and Wansford in the East Riding of Yorkshire, East Heslerton, Helperthorpe, Howsham, Robin Hood's Bay, Thixendale, West Lutton and Whitwell-on-the-Hill in North Yorkshire, Denstone in Staffordshire,  Torquay in Torbay, Brightwalton and Eastbury in West Berkshire, and St. Mary Magdalene's Rowington Close and St. James's Thorndike Street in the City of Westminster.]