HIDDEN IN A residential crescent, Philbeach Gardens, near Earls Court is a late Victorian church, whose exterior is far from attractive. However, St Cuthbert (completed 1888) has an interior which cannot fail to amaze the visitor’s eyes. The church contains what can only be described as an ‘over-the top’ array of decorative features. Some of them are typical of the Gothic Revival style beloved of Victorian church designers, and others that are typical of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which flourished in the last decades of the 19th and the first few of the 20th century.
One item in the church, which is particularly eye-catching, is made of wrought iron and hammered (repoussé) copper. It is a lectern with two large arms on either side of the leather-covered book holder. These are supports for large candles. The lectern is approached by a small set of stairs whose treads have studs on them. The studs are arranged to spell out words, which I found difficult to decipher. The part of the base facing the congregation is an intricately decorated folded screen with Arts and Crafts Style decorative motifs. Most probably handmade, the lectern, although fantastically crafted, has a very slightly amateurish look about it. It is more unusual and eye-catching than beautiful.
I would not have visited St Cuthbert had my friend, the excellent Olsi Qinami, not been conducting the London City Philharmonic Orchestra performing a concert there. The church with its colourful marble pillars and almost surreal interior is well worth a visit even if there is no concert being performed. It is a ‘must-see’ for lovers of Victorian church architecture.