Saturday, 3 December 2011

St Christopher's Church & the Foundry Meadow artisans: Part 1

After talking to the lovely ladies of St Christopher's Church at the Haslemere Society AGM, I had a really interesting visit and tour of the church a few days ago.  This beautiful Arts and Crafts church was consecrated in 1903.  It contains identified work by Arthur Romney Green (woodwork) and Luther Hooper (silk damasks) who both worked in Foundry Meadow, Kings Road, Haslemere.   In addition, they have a wall hanging which is probably the product of the Haslemere Weaving Industry, the Weaving House, Kings Road.  

St. Christopher's Church, Haslemere
designed by Charles Spooner, 1903
The fact that all of these establishments could be viewed across the railway line, from the churchgate, reflects the value of local craftmanship that underpins the whole design and build of the church.  Indeed the church congregation originally met on Kings Road.  According to Philip Unwin (St. Christopher's: the first 75 years, pamphlet) "for a few years at the turn of the century, to meet the needs of the growing population in Weyhill and Camelsdale, Misson services in the evenings only had been held from September to Easter Day in a little iron roofed hall in Gas Works - now Kings Road.  There, a future Vicar of Grayswood, the Rev. Martin Leake conducted them from a temporary altar and pulpit erected each Saturday evening.  By 1901 the idea of a new church was under discussion..."
St Christopher's Church is across the railway line
from Foundry Meadow, now Kings Road

I had first thought that this may have been the 'Country Church' which met in St George's Hall, Kings Road and founded by Godfrey Blount.  However reading a letter written by Godfrey Blount held by Haslemere Educational Museum, it is clear that these churches both started on Kings Road a few years apart: "I opened the Country Church in 1908 in the weaving shops vacated by Mr Luther Hooper, in Foundry Meadow, Kings Road.  The buildings were used by the Roberts of Collards for the manufacture of rainwater separators before Mr Joseph King bought the meadow off Mr Roberts...I painted and decorated the upper storey and opened it for services." (Godfrey Blount).
Looking across to St Christopher's Green from Foundry Meadow today
with the back of the Dye House in the foreground

St Christopher's is known as a fine example of the Arts and Crafts movement.  Listed as a Grade II building, it's importance is described as "A little altered Arts and Crafts Free Late Gothic style church built by the notable Arts and Crafts architect Charles Spooner. It is built of beautifully crafted local materials and has good quality interior fittings of varying dates by Spooner and his wife, the artist, Minnie Dibden Davison. An additional point of interest is that, unusually for a Church of England church, it was built by a Quaker who ran the company on co-operative principles." (British Listed Buildings).  
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere c.1910
from Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture,
Technical Journals Ltd., London

Unwin (ibid) calls the Rev. George Herbert Aitken "the guiding spirit behind its creation"; he was Rector of Haslemere from 1897-1917.  Aitken is quoted in another church leaflet recounting that "the Committee resolved from the first that they would not be content to put into our little House of Prayer anything cheap or ordinary.  Each piece of furniture has been specially designed and made..."Only the best" we have said "for the Service of God's House"".
St. Christopher's Church, Haslemere

Charles Spooner was a member of the Art Workers Guild (1887) and was elected to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1890 and won the Royal Academy Travelling Studentship (Dictionary of Scottish Architects).

I did not appreciate the uniqueness of this church until I went inside.
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere

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