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English Church Architecture -

London: City of Westminster

 

St. Vedast alias Foster, Foster Lane (TQ 322 812)   (August 2014)

 

The dedication of this church is unusual and shared only by one other church in England, at Tathwell in Lincolnshire, but the curious name of the building, at a corner in Foster Lane, can be better understood when it is realised that "Foster" is a corruption of "Vedast", as explained by Gerald Cobb in London City Churches (Batsford, 1977).  Sir Christopher Wren (1632 - 1723) oversaw the construction of the present building (which stands on the site of a mediaeval one) in 1695 - 1700, but the steeple, added ten years later, was in Pevsner's opinion, very possibly designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661 - 1736), and since the church was yet another City church seriously damaged by German bombing raids in 1940, the interior today is largely the work of Stephen Dykes Bower (1908-94), albeit that the organ case, reredos and pulpit are genuine late seventeenth/ early eighteenth century pieces, gathered together from elsewhere.

 

The church comprises a nave and chancel forming a single unit, with a S. aisle and a tower tucked in at the southwest (as seen in the photograph, left).  The tower rises in two stages, each subdivided into two, and is lit by tall round-arched windows in stage 1b (as it were) and circular windows in stage 2a, and pierced by the segmental-arched bell-openings in stage 2b.  Save only for these, the walls are plain, and the tower needs its admirably designed spire in order to make an effect, which, if it is by Wren, is not typical of his work, being composed of three stages of essentially square section, the first with concave sides pierced by rectangular openings with keystones, set between projecting clusters of diagonally-aligned composite pilasters at the angles, the second with convex sides (sic) with simple rectangular openings, set between simpler projecting groups of plain pilasters, and the third forming the spire proper, with panelled sides and projecting mouldings at the angles, rising from scrolls at the base.  Pevsner gave the total cost of the spire as 2,958, which would have been a very considerable sum at the time of its erection.

 

Windows elsewhere in the church include the group of three round-arched ones in the E. wall of the sanctuary, the central one wider and taller than the outer two, and the three-light, square-headed, transomed window in the W. wall of the nave, set between two more round-headed ones.  The S. aisle is lit by a single round-headed window towards the west but is otherwise windowless, but there is a clerestory of segmental-arched windows above the aisle, allowing light directly into the nave.  Entrance to the church is gained from Foster Lane, through a segmental-arched door in the nave W. wall, beneath the square-headed window.

 

As for the interior of the building, as restored by Dykes Bower, this is at one and the same time, simple and pleasant (as seen right, in the view looking east).  The S. arcade formed of unmoulded round-headed arches with plain soffits, supported on Tuscan columns with square capitals, is now closed off from the nave by wooden screens, and there is matching wooden panelling set against the N. wall of the nave, and also the E. wall, on each side of the reredos.  The pews are arranged college-wise and have attractive panelled fronts with little electric lamps on top.  The ceiling is panelled with a design based on an oval set in a rectangle, but the black and white fret patterning on the floor, sets the cool, restrained tone.  It is all executed with Dykes Bower's usual good taste and the church could have done no better in 1952 than to come under his care.