What connects the Palace of Westminster, Sir Christopher Wren, a best-selling Victorian author (who no-one now has heard of), a family of 18th century painters, some medieval wall art and one of the first umbrellas in Britain?
Don’t know? Can’t say I blame you, I didn’t until Saturday. Don’t care? Tough, I’m going to tell you anyway :)
It’s this place pictured above. The old parish church at Albury, Surrey – the church of St Peter and St Paul.
On Saturday, on a roll from checking off three Churches Conservation Trust churches in Hampshire and still with some time on my hands, I decided to venture into deepest darkest Surrey and take a look at this one.
The weird little hat on the tower is called a cupola, it is 18th century but the church is much, much older than that and a real mish mash of architecture. The church is believed to have originated in Saxon times, extended from the 12th century, remodeled during the 14th, and added to again and again over the centuries.
This Medieval wall painting depicts St Christopher, it is gorgeous. There is also an ancient piscine nearby set into the limewashed walls. The glass in the windows is clear, I like that. Don’t get me wrong, I like stained glass windows too, but there was something appropriately simple about the clear glass in these panes.
On another wall is this plaque. I thought that was pretty cool.
So, we have Christopher Wren and a medieval wall painting.
It is inscribed with the names Martin Tupper, Anthony Devis and his neice Ellin Devis. Anthony Devis was a well-known water colour painter (although his half-brother Arthur was the more famous artist). His neice Ellin owned and ran a very posh establishment for young ladies in London.
Martin Tupper was another relative, Arthur Devis’s great grandson. In his day he was one of the leading literary lights of Victorian England. Queen Victoria is said to have read his popular work Proverbial Philosophy, a book that had similar sales to the Bible and Shakespeare.
When Wordsworth died, he was a contender for Poet Laureate … but Tennyson got the job instead.
Why is he not so well known now?
Well apparently he fell out of favour and suddenly became the most ridiculed author in English history, then people forgot about him. He remained well liked locally though. Local kids used to love him because he gave them gingerbread. They called him the Man Mushroom because he was one of the earliest users of a new fashion accessory, the umbrella. They thought he looked like a mushroom.
So we have Christopher Wren, Medieval wall art, an early umbrella, artists and best-selling authors.
What about Westminster Palace?
The secret is behind these doors.
Pugin. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Artist, critic, architect and designer to royalty, the man single-handedly credited with the Victorian Gothic Revival style is behind these doors. The same Pugin who is responsible for the interior of Westminster Palace.
At the grand old age of 27, he created this amazing mortuary chapel for the then lord of the manor Henry Drummond. Drummond had financed the building of a new parish church for Albury in 1839, which was consecrated three years later. Drummond kept the old parish church and commissioned Pugin to create the mortuary chapel.
So there you have it, a complete romp through history in one, small, disused parish church.
And that is why I love visiting the churches looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust – cos you really never know what’s going to be inside that big church door.