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Drawn by T Faulkner
South-east View of St Saviour's, Southwark, shewing the Lady Chapel restored.
Gent. Mag. Feb. 1832, Pt.1. p.104
Lady Chapel of St. Saviour's, Southwark.
trace the history of architecture from the Norman Conquest to the period of the Reformation. With the White Tower and the crypt beneath Bow Church, he may commence his researches, and prosecute them with St. Bartholomew's Priory, Smithfield, and the Temple Church, until he arrives at the adoption of the Pointed style. Of this style in its perfect form, St. Mary Overy's Choir and Lady Chapel will be his first specimen; for, although the nave of this Church, and the circular Church in the Temple, afford earlier examples of Pointed arches, yet both these specimens possess a Norman character, which in the Choir and Lady Chapel is quite abandoned. Specimens of the architecture of a subsequent period will be found here and elsewhere, which the limits of this article will not allow me to particularize. And, if he extends his line of observation beyond the metropolis, and views the present church in comparison with other buildings in the same style, the following list will point out the page it is entitled to occupy in the annals of the Pointed style: De Lucy's work, Winchester Cathedral, between 1189 and 1204
Rochester Cathedral, (Choir) 1179
It will be only necessary to add, that, as St. Mary Overy's Church forms such an essential link in the chain of historical evidence relating to the progress of the Pointed style, its existence must be a matter of the greatest interest, not only to the antiquary, but to the artist, the historian, and the man of taste; to all indeed who wish to study with minuteness the history of their native country, its arts and customs, and its state in former times.
I shall now proceed to notice briefly a few of the architectural peculiarities of this interesting building.
In the north flank is a window of a
still more modern date, perhaps as late as the reign of Edward II., which would almost give weight to the supposition that even at that early period an attempt at modernising the Chapel, if the expression is allowable, had been attempted; but, as the only settlement GENT. MAG. February, 1832.
which has taken place in this Chapel, is apparent in this north wall, it is not improbable that this window was inserted in consequence of an early failure having occurred in that portion of the structure. Although the ancient altar-screen now forms a solid termination of the choir, it does not appear to have always been in that state. Any one who has seen the Cathedrals of Salisbury and Wells, will not fail to have remarked the beautiful effect produced by the Lady Chapels of both of those churches, when viewed from the choir, through the open arches at the east end. In Wells especially, the Lady Chapel forms one of the most picturesque objects that can be imagined. It is highly probable that the Lady Chapel of St. Mary Overie was open to the choir in a like manner; but, in consequence perhaps of the draughts of air passing into the church, the arches were first filled up with elegant tracery, in the best style of Edward the Third's reign, and subsequently with masonry, when the splendid altar-screen was erected.*
At an early period, a Chapel was erected at the east end of the Lady Chapel, and with a boldness of execution known only to the architects of our ancient buildings, one of the triple lancet windows, with a portion of its piers, was removed, and an arch of communication made between the Chapel and the Church; this extraneous structure was doubtless dedicated to some saint, but the name of the patron is lost, or became merged in themodern appellation of the Bishop's Chapel. In the summer of 1830, this Chapel was removed, and the arch walled up; but, on taking it down, the lancet window in the gable of the principal structure was disclosed, which becomes a valuable document to aid the restoration of the entire structure. The mouldings of the Chapel are simple, but bold; the prevailing ornament is the diagonal flower or dog-tooth moulding (as it is usually but improperly termed). The archivolt mouldings of the windows spring from small pillars attached to the piers, which are generally in a good state of preservation. At the north-east angle remains some workmanship of a later date, which
"At the back of the altar screen of the
choir are some fine tracery compartments, supposed once to give view through them into our Lady's Chapel."-Carter.
seems to indicate the existence of an altar. Among this is a small statue of a Saint. Such of your readers who may wish for a more detailed account of the structure at large, will find an accurate survey by the late Mr. Carter, in Gent. Mag. vol. LXXVIII. pp. 606, 699, who justly observes, with reference to this Chapel, that "the whole scene is impressive and solemn."
Of the many vicissitudes this Chapel has undergone, since the mass was sung, and the incense smoked, and the candles burnt before the altar of Our Lady, the most degrading was its conversion into a bakehouse, in which state of humiliation it continued for "threescore and some odde yeeres.' I mention this, to show an act of liberality in the parish, at that time, which ought not to be forgotten at the present. In the year 1624, when the baker, with his faggots, and his ovens, and his hog-troughs, was ejected, the parish expended the sum of 2007. on its repair; a sum, let it be recollected, which bears no comparison to the same amount at the present time.
The Committee purpose to restore the Lady Chapel in the same style, as the choir was so successfully restored by Mr. Gwilt. Instead, then, of the present patched and broken walls, partly brick and partly stone, a building will shew itself at the entrance of London which the stranger will pause and admire; and when he sees such a splendid monument of art in a Suburb, what will be his ideas of the wealth and magnificence of the Metropolis itself?
Of the proposed restorations, it will be necessary, for the information of those who have not seen the Chapel in its present state, to observe that neither of the four gables which are represented in our view are so perfect as they are there shown to be; the first and second are in the best state of preservation, the third and fourth have been bunglingly rebuilt in brick, without the least attempt at architectural display. The singular pinnacle at the north-east angle, covering a staircase turret, (which is now concealed by a casing of brick, and crowned with a low-tiled roof,) has been restored, from a careful survey and admeasurement, made by Mr. Cottingham,* to whom
* We are indebted to this gentleman for permission to copy our print of the outside of the Lady Chapel, from a fine folio plate he has lately published, for the benefit of the Restoration fund.-EDIT.
indeed the credit of the restored design is justly due; the open turret and spire are of course designed to harmonize with Mr. Gwilt's turrets at the angles of the choir.
Our interior view is taken from the eastern end of the north aile of the choir; the perfect lancet window of three lights, shown in the centre of the print, is substituted for the arch of communication between this Chapel and the former Bishop's Chapel; and in the distance may be seen a portion of the window styled by John Carter the "three in one," and before noticed; which is at present walled up. With the assistance of these prints, such of your readers who have not had an opportunity of visiting the Lady Chapel, will be enabled to form an idea of what will be the result of the labours of the Committee.
There have been numerous engravings, published at different times, of this Chapel; there is a fine interior view in Moss's History of St. Saviour's, 4to. 1818; and in Mr. Taylor's History of the Church and Parish, now in course of publication, is contained a very accurate elevation of the east front of the Lady Chapel, as it now is; which, with the restored design, will form a valuable record to posterity of the extent of the restorations. In the same work is an interior view of the Lady Chapel, from a drawing by the late John Carter, and also an exterior view of the destroyed chapel, called the Bishop's Chapel.
Allow me to conclude this lengthened article with expressing my confident hope that the generosity of the public will enable the Committee to restore the whole design, in such a manner, that the Church of St. Mary Overy will become, what it anciently was, the glory and splendour of the southern district of the Metropolis. E. I. C.