Friday, 9 December 2011

St Christopher's Church & Arthur Romney Green's table

The work of Arthur Romney Green is prominent in St Christopher's Church.  In the words of St Christopher's architect, Charles Spooner, "the oak, "Holy Table" was made in the local workshop of Mr. Romney Green and is set against a reredos of oak with carved enrichments gilded and a number of panels which are to be decorated with tempera paintings by Mrs. Spooner" (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910).   

Holy table by Arthur Romney Green,(Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910)
A current woodworker called Bert Wynn is quoted as stating that Arthur Romney Green's "best work (is) outstanding for 'the sheer quality and artistry of the design.'  Having himself tried to make tables and chairs to Green's designs, he finds that 'the reason modern furniture makers cannot produce those things is that they can be executed only with hand tools.  I think Green was easily the most gifted designer working in the period 1900-1940, although he goes largely unrecognised' (Elkin, Susan, Life to the Lees: A Biography of Arthur Romney Green, The Cromwell Press Limited, 1998).

Arthur Romney Green was based in Foundry Meadow from 1902 to 1908 or 1909.  He had a workshop with a showroom above it.  I wonder whereabouts on the current Kings Road he would have been based.  I presume his workshop and showroom would have stood either between the Dye House and Greenbushes, or on the other side of the road, backing onto the railway line somewhere past the Tapestry Studio, up to anywhere opposite the Dye House.  
Handicrafts of Haslemere leaflet, 1902
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum,
Arthur Romney Green's Woodworking Industry features
at the bottom of the listing shown

The building must have been reasonably large given that himself and Harold Murray "started an Independent Labour Party (ILP) group which met in the showroom...Sometimes as many as 40 or 50 people attended the meetings: a mixture of small tradesmen, artisans, the men who worked for Green, and sometimes, a sprinkling of local bigwigs" (Elkin, ibid).  It was with Harold's wife, Bertha, that Green would leave Haslemere "in disgrace" some years later, but more on that in another post!  It does however make you wonder what the parishioners must have thought in 1909 about having a Holy Table made by a local married man who had "ran off" with another local man's wife.

Sadly the beautifully decorated table legs of the Holy Table are now hidden by the altar cloths.  Clearly the legs were intended to be seen, as shown in the photograph above.  The hexagonal shaping of the legs, decorated with interspersed diagonal stripes and leaves is clearly recognizable as a Arthur Romney Green (A.R.G.) design.  Much of A.R.G's work reflected his mathematical training through strong geometrical patterning.  

Peeping under the altar cloth,
detail of Arthur Romney Green 'Holy Table'
at St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
The detail can be better seen in the photograph below, which is taken from the Record recently made by the Haslemere Decorative and Fine Art Society (DFAS) which painstakingly recorded every item within St Christopher's Church according to a standard format designated by the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).  I had thought the leaves depicted were oak leaves, but looking at the detail on the photograph below, perhaps they are vine leaves which the Peasant Arts movement frequently used to decorate craft pieces.

Arthur Romney Green 'Holy Table' leg detail,
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
from St Christopher's Church DFAS Record
A present day picture without the altar cloth, contained in the DFAS Record provides a contrast to the c.1910 photograph of the same subject.  Mrs Spooner's tempera panels are now in place.

Holy Table by Arthur Romney Green,
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
from St Christopher's Church DFAS Record
'Holy Table' by Arthur Romney Green at
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
from Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C.,
Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture,
 Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910
The Holy Table as it is seen in St Christopher's Church today, with no clue of what lies beneath the altar cloth.

St Christopher's Church Holy Table, Haslemere

There are a number of examples of tables designed by A.R.G. on the internet, although none look similar to the Holy Table.

Arthur Romney Green table
at Hill House Antiques
The legs on the table designed by Ernest Gimson, another and more famous woodworker of A.R.G.'s time, below have been attributed to H. Pugsley, and appear to be similar to the Holy Table legs.  Hill House Antiques note the similarity of what they describe as "heavily chamfered/ typically fawcetted legs" to A.R.G.'s work, and suggest that he was influenced by Gimson's work.  No doubt he was, but this piece appears to have been made after A.R.G.'s Holy Table: the Gimson table was made in 1906, whereas the Holy Table is attributed to A.R.G. in the October 1903 Parish Magazine (St Christopher's Church DFAS Record).

Gimson table c.1906
from Hill House Antiques
Chamfered table leg detail, Ernest Gimson
from Hill House Antiques


  1. Fascinating to see these. Thank you.

    I am hoping to visit the Priory Church at Christchurch again soon, to see if I can find A.R.Gs work. There is a room in the Red House Museum at Christchurch which shows examples of his later work. Beautifully made and such a distinctive style.

  2. Thank you. The wonderful book 'A Life to the Lees' has really opened my eyes to Green's contribution and importance to the Haslemere movement.

    There is another piece in the church which I'll do a post on shortly. I feel certain that his unpublished autobiography which is held in the National Art Library, V&A Museum, has some further information on Green's time at Foundry Meadow.

  3. Having failed to gain entrance to said church as it has limited opening to the public, I was greatly impressed on reading your account above-well done

  4. Thanks Dunc. Yes it's not open all the time, as I've discovered!

    The church is open on Wednesday mornings and for services of course. They have limited opening as unfortunately things have been stolen in the past, including the lead St Christopher figure outside by the West door which Mrs Spooner made (the architect's wife), they have a replica in place now.


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