A unique church in the heart of the City…

 

Greater London, DOCKLANDS, St Peters Barge

Navigating the urban jungle that is the Docklands area of London is always an interesting experience… surrounded by the huge glass cathedrals of trade and commerce and yet finding constant reminders of the areas heritage, a bustling and world’s largest trading post, with ships from around the globe gathering to trade goods and ideas.

Docklands has an interesting collection of churches worth exploring, built by workers and company owners, and reflecting a range of architectural styles.

However, right at the heart of the area, between Canary Wharf and West India Quay is a unique and yet perfectly formed church, one which both reflects the heritage of the area and provides services to its current and future communities.

St Peter’s Barge is London’s only floating church and hosts a wide range of activities and events.  It’s also well worth a visit to see the very calm and light space that has been created aboard, amongst the hustle and bustle of the area.

To find out more about St Peter’s Barge visit their website

 

To learn about the history of docklands, view this short BBC film

Virtual technology for churches

Modern technology for opening, interpreting and using churches is getting easier and cheaper to use… 

Guest blogger Chris Jones from LeicesterPhotoDesign writes:

There are three things I have a passion for, photography, technology and churches. This may seem an odd mixture but bringing them together results in opening our churches to a wider audience.

Photography has always been an interest, and since 2008 a profession, I also have been visiting my local churches and completing photography of the interiors and exteriors for my own project on Leicestershire & Rutland churches and others across the UK. In 2012 I was approached by Google to launch their Google Business Views project with 360° imagery of ‘business interiors’ using their streetview technology – basically bringing their streetview views inside.

In August 2012 I completed the first church in the UK at St Mary de Castro in Leicester giving them a Google 360° virtual tour for their spire appeal. From there I have spoken at various conferences on this new technology and its place in helping churches gain a wider audience. Since then I have completed many churches with the 360° tours and recently we created a tour for St Wulfram’s in Grantham.

We were approached by St Wulfram’s to highlight their spire appeal and to create a 360° tour of the church for embedding on their website. Because this is Google’s streetview technology we can extend it from the street and ‘walk’ to the church as below, you can also make it full screen by clicking the ‘view larger map’ for a better effect. It also appears in Google Maps, Google search results and enables anyone from around the world to get a real insight into the church.

It also is easily embedded into websites and you can start the tour wherever you want to. We also advise adding some ‘life’ to 360° church tours, so at St Wulfram’s we organised the Cafe to be open and people (all faces are blurred for privacy) to be in the virtual tour to ensure that the church was not empty.

The photography took most of the day and over 2,000 images were taken to create the tour and it was on-line within a few days, as to cost I charge less than our commercial rates for churches as I have a real interest in them. There are also new enhancements being developed which I am really excited about. Moving around large virtual tours is a pleasure but can be tiresome clicking through all the arrows, what we wanted was a method to ‘jump’ to specific parts of the tour and have pop-ups and embedded information within the tours. This has now been accomplished and we are testing some new technology which allows this. You can see St Wulphram’s with and without this new feature here. At the moment it only works on desktops and laptops but smartphones and tablets will be supported shortly.

Technology is always moving on but at this moment we have some great tools to enable anyone from around the world to look around our heritage and churches like never before. I am sometimes questioned that “surely having such a tour means people would not bother to visit as they can now view it on-line”. I disagree, so many people look for for information on-line and many of our churches are locked or not easily accessible. This allows anyone to have a real insight into their local church or places they may want to visit. Perhaps more importantly your church is accessible to the worldwide public like never before. Google recently did a tour of Ankor Wat, now I know I am probably never going to physically get there, but at least now I can get better experience of this famous landmark.

 

From the church’s point of view: Don Sission from Silkstone All Saints has previously written about Google InsideView in his church. 

NCT Grants: we have given grants to both Leicester St Mary de Castro and Grantham St Wulfram. Find out more about our grants on our website.

 

 

 

 

Cherish the Chapel

by Huw Edwards, journalist and broadcaster
Published in 2012 in The National Churches Trust Annual Review

Huw Edwards

Huw Edwards

The chapels of Wales need friends.

The past half-century, a period of base neglect, has seen hundreds of cherished buildings flattened without heed.

There is a bitter twist at work here. Wales has suffered a campaign of cultural sacking approved by elected and unelected officials; but many of those responsible have had little understanding of the scale of the loss.

In Wales today, those tokens of Plantagenet savagery, the medieval castles, are cared for with a vigilance approaching the fetishistic. We willingly revere these symbols of our oppression. And it follows that our national authorities accord them maximum listed protection.

Chapel

Chapel

In this same Wales, those heroic symbols of our Nonconformist freedom, the chapels, are neglected, disdained and spurned. They lie rotting and decomposed in town centres, casually vandalised. They are invisible and irrelevant. They seldom pierce the people’s awareness, but when they do, they provoke repugnance and scorn.

The popular memory is pitifully short. Even those who vilify religion praise the chapels for enriching the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. These places of worship gave essential literacy and numeracy skills to children and adults; they provided the poor with food and clothing; and they operated an effective welfare system while state and parish dodged their duties.

In rejecting the state religion of England, the Nonconformist movement offered a new definition of Welshness. It really is no exaggeration to say that the spirit of the chapels shaped modern Wales.

But modern Wales doesn’t want to know.

These days, the fact of that transformative contribution is an irritant. The chapels are unsettling reminders of a very different past. To acknowledge the greatness of their contribution is to invite inescapable questions about their present lot. And that is acutely wearisome for a generation whose rejection of the chapel is absolute and final.

The official guardian of our built heritage of Wales is CADW. Unlike Historic Scotland, CADW does not appear to offer a website with a searchable database of listed buildings. What it does provide is an interactive map which locates countless castles, fortresses and monuments of importance.

Try locating Maesyronnen chapel, one of the earliest Nonconformist places of worship. It should be immediately visible as one of the prime religious sites of Wales. It is not. This lack of prominence is even more shocking for a building listed Grade I by CADW.

Rather more bewildering is the knowledge that of the 30,000 buildings listed by CADW following the national survey completed in 2005, very few chapels were accorded the integral protection afforded by Grade I status.

Chapel

Chapel

CADW’s own listing criteria are clear. Buildings of ‘architectural interest… which illustrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural or military history’ are worthy of listed status. So are buildings with ‘close historical associations with people or events of importance to Wales’. The majority ‘of special interest’ are in Grade II. A much smaller number of particularly important buildings are listed Grade II*. Buildings of exceptional interest (around 2 per cent of the total) are in Grade I.

Nonconformist Wales

A visit to my home town of Llanelli, one of the strongholds of Nonconformist Wales, will reveal the folly and injustice of the listing process.

The only Grade I listed building is Llanelly House, a particularly fine Georgian town house now being restored in an impressive £6 million scheme. It certainly deserves its full-scale protection. Across the road lies St Elli’s Church, listed Grade II* thanks to its medieval west tower and fifteenth-century chancel. A short walk away we find Tabernacl Chapel, one of the most impressive chapel buildings in Wales, also ranked Grade II*. Tabernacl was designed by John Humphrey, whose much bigger Tabernacl in Morriston is listed Grade I.

So far, so good. But a longer walk around the town centre raises some unsettling questions which also apply to many other parts of Wales.

Capel Als, the oldest Nonconformist cause in Llanelli, is given the minimal protection of Grade II listing, despite an opulent interior rightly regarded as one of the finest chapel designs anywhere in the United Kingdom. It was designed by Owen Morris Roberts who also rebuilt Llanelli’s Capel Newydd. Here, too, he delivered an exquisite interior considered to be one of the best examples of Edwardian chapel design and craftsmanship.

For reasons which are difficult to fathom, both Capel Als and Capel Newydd are lumped together with the majority of chapel buildings in Llanelli in the basic Grade II band, a category which also includes some decidedly mediocre buildings and monuments. The historically significant Adulam Baptist Chapel in nearby Felin-foel, the oldest Nonconformist cause in this part of Carmarthenshire, is also considered worthy of a basic Grade II.

A real problem

This lack of consistency is a real problem. In Carmarthen, George Morgan’s Baptist Chapel in Lammas Street is Grade II*. His equally glorious Dinas Noddfa, Landore, inanely accorded Grade II status, is heading for the same fate as his Calfaria, Llanelli, a rotting mass on the steep slope of Bigyn Hill for the past decade.

This is plainly unjust. But the evident inadequacies of listed protection predate CADW, it must be said, and start with the implementation of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. It is clear that successive generations of officials have either failed or refused to acknowledge the architectural and cultural importance of Nonconformist chapels in Wales.

Llanelli does, however, offer some hope for the future. It once boasted 22 chapels in a compact town centre, several of which have been acceptably converted. Glenalla is one of the best examples: here we have a solid Edwardian chapel reborn in 1987 as a community centre and concert hall. A decade earlier, Siloh was the first Llanelli chapel to be refurbished, as a sports and social centre. It has proved to be a popular and valuable local asset. Zion, an elegant chapel design by Henry Rogers, is now part of a major theatre complex which involved one of the best heritage protection schemes in Wales.

It can be done.

The chapels of Wales, those distinctive emblems of Welshness, need many more friends. From the unadorned charm of Soar-y-mynydd, in the depths of Cardiganshire, to the flamboyant grandeur of Bethesda, Ton Pentre, in the heart of the industrial Rhondda. They all deserve protection and preservation. They are all part of the story of Wales.

Search is on for the UK’s Best Modern Churches

24 churches have been shortlisted for the Best Modern Churches architecture competition being run by the National Churches Trust, The Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association and the 20th Century Society.

A special website give details of all the shortlisted churches www.bestmodernchurches.org.uk  and the churches and chapels are listed at the bottom of this page.

St Francis Xavier, Falkir

St Francis Xavier, Falkir

From the shortlist of 24, judges will announce a Top 10 Best Modern Churches and award a ‘National Churches Trust Diamond Jubilee Architecture’ prize to the three places of worship judged to be the best sacred spaces built in the last 60 years at a ceremony to be held at Lambeth Palace on 7  November 2013.  The awards will be presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Over 200 churches were nominated for the competition by members of the public, churches and heritage organisations, Church buildings or significant extensions to an existing building of any Christian denomination in the United Kingdom which opened for worship after 1st January 1953 are eligible for the competition.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: “As a nation we are rightly proud of our magnificent heritage of historic churches. But there are also many exciting churches which have been built in the last 60 years designed for the changing nature of religious liturgy and practice which reflect modern architecture and design. The challenge of helping people catch a glimpse of heaven has always produced highly creative and imaginative architecture. This competition will  help discover some of  the best examples of modern church architecture and allow us to honour those responsible.”

The Best Modern Churches competition is being held to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Churches Trust. Since 1953 the Trust has provided over 12,000 grants and loans worth £85 million to help fund the repair and modernisation of Christian places of worship.

Judges for the awards are:  Sherry Bates, President Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association, Richard Carr-Archer, Trustee of the National Churches Trust, Catherine Croft, Director of the 20th Century Society, Jonathan Glancey, writer and architecture critic.

Churches and chapels nominated can be found below. together with the name of the architect year of construction.

  • Our Lady and St Columba RC Church, Wallsend    Vincente Stienlet    1957
  • English Martyrs RC Church, Wallasey    F X Velarde    1953
  • St Mary’s RC Church, Leyland    Jerzy Faczynski (Weightman and Bullen)    1964
  • Scargill Chapel, Skipton    George Pace    1960
  • St Mark’s Church, Broomhill, Sheffield    George Pace    1963
  • St John the Baptist Church, Lincoln    Sam Scorer    1963
  • St Joseph’s RC Church, Leicester    T E Wilson    1968
  • St Paul’s Church, Harlow    Derrick Humphreys    1959
  • St Paul’s Church, Bow Common    Maguire & Murray    1960
  • Lumen United Reformed Church, Tavistock Place, London WC1     Thies & Kahn    2008
  • St Paul the Apostle, Harringay    Inskip & Jenkins    1991
  • All Saints Church, Croydon    Curtis Green    1956
  • SS Mary & Joseph RC Church, Poplar    Adrian Gilbert Scott    1954
  • London     Church of the Ascension, Wembley Park     J Harold Gibbons     1957
  • Abbey Church, Douai Abbey, Woolhampton    Michael Blee     1993
  • West of England    Church of the Ascension, Crownhill, Plymouth    Potter & Hare    1958
  • Bishop Edward King Chapel, Ripon College Cuddesdon    Niall McLaughlin Architects    2013
  • RC Chapel of St Albert the Great, Edinburgh University    Stuart Allan, Simpson & Brown    2012
  • Brucefield Church of Scotland, Whitburn, East Lothian    Row and Anderson Kininmonth and Paul    1965 – 1966
  • St Francis Xavier RC Church, Falkirk    A R Conlin    1961
  • St Bride’s RC Church, East Kilbride    Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan (Gillespie, Kidd & Coia)    1964
  • Kildrum Parish Church, Cumbernauld       Reiach & Hall     1965
  • Our Lady of Lourdes RC Church, Steelstown     Liam McCormick     1975
  • St Molua’s Church, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast Denis O’D Hanna 1963
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