Wednesday, October 04, 2017

More on Drayton Green IPC History

From Historic England.

Chapel to former St.Helena's Home  

II Chapel, 1912-3 (the laundry of 1897 and link corridor of 1965 are not of special interest.)

ARCHITECT: John Ninian Comper (1864-1960)

MATERIALS: Brown brick with limestone dressings; plastered interior with concrete vaulted roof.

PLAN: Simple basilican plan with four-bay arcades and narrow passage aisles.

EXTERIOR: The unbuttressed side elevations each have four tall two-light Gothic windows connected by projecting string-courses; secondary glazing units have been fitted into the window reveals. The east elevation has a larger three-light window with flowing Decorated tracery set between two stepped buttresses. The west elevation has similar buttresses but is windowless. A small bellcote, with an ogee-arched head and a cross finial, is set into the parapet. The west doorway, enclosed within a link corridor, is a moulded three-centred arch containing double six-panel doors.

INTERIORS: The four-bay arcades have unfluted Doric columns of stone supporting simple pointed arches, their soffits now plain but originally coffered; similar transverse arches span the concrete groin-vault of the nave, with smaller arches across the aisles. The east arcade responds, one of which contains an arched piscina, are treated as flat Doric pilasters, while those to the west are double scroll brackets. The windows are filled with bulls-eye roundels of plain glass set in thick lead cames. The original fittings have been removed with the exception of a single oak stall-front, now set against the east wall, with floral relief ornament and the text 'Ecce Ancilla Domini' ('Behold the Handmaid of the Lord', from the Annunciation scene in St Luke's Gospel) carved on its mid-rail.

HISTORY: Drayton Green, originally small hamlet centred on a triangular strip of common land just north of the Uxbridge Road, was gradually incorporated into London's outer suburbs following the construction in 1870 of the GWR station at West Ealing. One of the older houses around the Green, Cleveland Lodge, was acquired in 1884 as the premises of St Helena's Home, a women's reformatory founded by the Revd Richard Temple West of St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington, and run from 1892 by an Anglican religious order, the Wantage-based Sisters of St Mary the Virgin. In 1896-7 the house itself was replaced with a larger purpose-built structure designed by the Westminster architect Ernest Pilkington, with a separate laundry building to the north. The chapel, which replaced an earlier temporary structure, was added in 1912-3 to the designs of John Ninian Comper, who had previously been engaged in remodelling the crypt at the Home's 'mother' church in Paddington. The Home remained in the care of the Wantage sisters until around 1940, when it was requisitioned by Middlesex County Council for use as a girls' remand centre. In 1965 the main building reverted to the Sisters, who used it as a base for religious retreats. The former laundry building was altered to gain extra residential accommodation, and the link to the chapel was rebuilt in its present form. The Sisters finally left in 1980, and the chapel and laundry buildings passed to their current owner, the International Presbyterian Church.

Reformatories for 'fallen' women - at first mainly ex-prostitutes - were in existence from at least the C13. These institutions were not (in theory at least) prisons, but rather voluntary reformatories to which women committed themselves for a fixed period of penitential activity before either emerging to begin new careers as respectable members of society, or else taking permanent vows and remaining within the order for life. Suppressed at the Reformation along with other religious houses, women's reformatories sprang up again in secular form during the C18, in response to the social problems created by urbanisation: the London Magdalen House, established by a group of City merchants in 1758, was the first British example. During the Victorian period, stricter codes of gender ethics saw the concept of fallenness extended to other 'problematic' women, including unmarried mothers, rape and incest victims, petty criminals, alcoholics, vagrants and the 'feeble-minded'. Christian groups came once again to the fore: Nonconformists and low-church Anglicans focused on home visiting and street-level evangelism, while Tractarian Sisterhoods founded quasi-monastic 'homes' in rural or suburban locations, where inmates could escape from their impoverished and often brutal home environments for a fixed period of penitential seclusion. The regime of labour (often laundry work) and spiritual discipline was sometimes harsh, but the aim was to combine vocational training with moral rehabilitation, allowing these outcast women eventually to return to normal society on more advantageous terms. In some cases at least, a remarkably broad-minded attitude prevailed in respect of the inmates' past lives: as one late-C19 woman missionary remarked, "I am certain that no-one among us would ever have the courage to cast the 'first stone' if we could know the awful straits which bring so many of our sisters into sin."

Sir John Ninian Comper was one of the last major architects of the Gothic Revival, and a key figure in the development of C20 Anglican liturgy and church furnishing. Born in Aberdeen, the son of a high-church Episcopalian clergyman, he initially trained with the glass painter CE Kempe before being articled to the great Gothic Revival architect GF Bodley. Bodley's mature style, a rich but refined adaptation of English C14 Gothic, decisively influenced Comper's early independent work, undertaken in partnership with William Bucknall; increasingly, however, he favoured the sparer forms of the Perpendicular Gothic - most strikingly in 1901-2 at St Cyprian's Church at Clarence Gate in London, modelled on the great C15 churches of East Anglia. Visits to Greece and Sicily in 1905-6 led him towards a syncretic style fusing late Gothic with Classical and Byzantine elements, a method he called 'Unity by Inclusion'. His chapel at St Helena's was one of the first of his buildings to reflect this new development, which reached its fullest fruition in his lavish church of St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, completed in 1931. The decline in church-building in the C20 meant that much of Comper's work went into producing fittings, vestments and stained glass; in these fields he ranked with the leading designers of his generation, gaining such prominent commissions as the Warrior's Chapel in Westminster Abbey (1925-32) and the Parliamentary war memorial window in Westminster Hall (1952).

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