Church Development Project – 2016 overview

2016 has been a busy year at S. Paul’s Deptford and next year is set to be even busier, as plans for the redevelopment project commence, and the main works with Tideway Tunnel begin in spring. However it is worth looking back over the past year to highlight what we have been up to.



Over the past year, we have come a long way with building up key contacts and relationships with Tideway. We have made much progress on taking plans forward to conserve and protect the building, during the Tideway construction work. This is important so as not to disrupt the day-to-day life of the church.

Vibration monitoring equipment was installed in the church over various periods this year to assess the early works. So far the results have proved that there is no cause for alarm or threat to the building. This monitoring will continue once the major works begin next year. A strategic meeting was held in October to discuss the next phase for monitoring and conservation action with members from Tideway, History England, The Diocese of Southwark and the appointed church architect. The main works programme will have the peak period 2017 – 2018, when shaft excavation commences. The structural support for the building has not been considered a requirement, monitoring of building survey reports are both during and after the works. The church will appoint an independent structural engineer who will assist and provide advise to S. Paul’s with this work, which currently is coordinated between the Rector of the Parish and Project Officer.

Project Officer Overview


One of the key priorities has been about building a case for support and consulting with the church council on plans for the redevelopment. The vision plan that was presented is now at the stage in which we can move towards developing this further into a business plan. We are talking to possible partners who might help us develop our business plan, consultation and development.

Public engagement has also been developed to promote and build awareness among the community and beyond with the blog and through our twitter account. The other key priority has been to actively fundraise for repair grants for the roof/fabric of the building which now requires urgent attention. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in the Government Roof Repair Fund and have now applied to other organisations, which we hope to hear from in the New Year.

What is happening in 2017…


Tideway works are split into three construction phases. The first two phases would primarily comprise site preparation and construction of the shaft and during these phases a hoarding would run around the perimeter of the Crossfield Open Space. Phase three involves construction of other on site structures with the primary works being construction of the interception chamber within Deptford Church Street. Furthmore, a survey of the clock tower and spire are still required and will need to be planned accordingly

In Deptford and New Cross, dozens of projects are underway that will provide significant numbers of new homes and jobs for the area, along with major improvements to the local infrastructure and environment.

This statement comes from Lewisham Council’s website and demonstrates the changes that are taking place in the area. The church is a focal point in the Deptford landscape and community and we are actively keeping informed of all developments. We are now working with the council on improvement plans to the Deptford high street, which include proposals for a new entrance area to the churchyard. Similar plans are also in motion with another organisation who will be re-landscaping Crossfield Green once the Tideway works have been completed.


Church Focus – F. Mellish, curate of S. Paul’s and wartime hero


Fr. Edward Noel Mellish is one of S. Paul’s past curates and was the first Army Chaplain to win the Victoria Cross.

He was born in 1880 in Barnet, North London and was educated at Saffron Walden Grammer School before becoming a member of the Artists Rifles. In 1900 he began serving with Baden-Powell’s police against the Boers in South Africa.

He became curate of s. Paul’s in 1912 and took part in many community parish projects such as working with the Church Lads Brigade opening the Noel Club. Once the First World War broke out, F. Mellish became an army chaplain, serving from 1915 to 1919. His brother Second Lieutenant Richard Mellish was killed in action whilst serving with the 1st Middlesex Regiment at the Battle of Loos in 1915. F. Mellish was attached to the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers in Ypres Salient in 1916 and it was then that he performed the action for which he was awarded the Victorian Cross in the action at S. Eloi, Belgium. On the three days 27 – 29 March 1916, during the heavy fighting he worked continuously attending to and rescuing wounded men.

An officer witness these actions:

Into this tempest of fire the brave Parson walked with a prayer book under his arm as though on church parade in peace time.

Some of the men would not have survived the ordeal had it not been for the prompt assistance rendered to them by Mr Mellish.

Mellish survived the war and was the first Army Chaplain to be awarded the Victorian Cross for his bravery. Today the VC is displayed at the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London and Replica medals are on display at the Museum of Army Chaplaincy.

Church Focus – John Harrison, founder and first surgeon of the London Hospital

Of the many interesting memorial plaques at S. Paul’s, John Harrison’s is a notable one to mention. He was the founder and first surgeon of the London Hospital and his plaque can be viewed in the interior south end of the church today.

By the mid-18th century there were five voluntary hospitals in London – St BartsGuy’s, St Thomas’Westminster and St George’s, which provided free medical care to those who could not afford it, however there were none in the east of the City, serving the rapidly growing, and impoverished population there – this was the void that the London Hospital was to fill.


London Hospital, Whitechapel in 1753 engraving

In 1740, a group of 7 gentlemen led by 22 year old surgeon John Harrison, met at the Feathers Tavern, Cheapside and established the London Infirmary in Featherstone Street, Moorfields. In 1742 the Infirmary moved to Prescott Street and in 1748, the 2nd Duke of Richmond was asked by John Harrison, to become the first president of the new hospital, at which point it was renamed the London Hospital. However, it wasn’t until June 1752 that it was reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine that ‘The first stone was laid for the foundations of the new London Hospital near White Chapel’. The hospital was able to grow its public support and expand in successive years following the rise of the population and successive outbreaks of cholera between 1830 -1866. In 1990 the Queen visited the hospital and added ‘Royal’ to the name, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding.


From 1731 – 75 James Bate was Rector of S. Paul’s. Mr Bate had been a fellow of St. John’s Cambridge. He gave a 15th century Persian manuscript to the college in ‘grateful remembrance of the happy years’. He was also an author ‘An address to his parishioners on the occasion of the Rebellion’ (the rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745). When John Harrison died in 1753, he was buried in S. Paul’s churchyard during Mr Bate’s incumbency. In 1913 S. Paul’s erected a tablet in memory of John Harrison. (For further information see records held by London Metropolitan Archives:


Church Focus: The Turner ‘Glory’


The Turner ‘Glory’ reinstated – image copyright S. Paul’s Deptford

Henry Turner, who was appointed as painter by the commissioners on 18 September 1716, was employed firstly to paint and guild ‘the vase and fane upon the stone spire of the new Church Erecting in the parish of Deptford’. In 1724 he was instructed to ‘paint and guild about the altar’ and to include ‘a large curtain, cherub heads and a Glory in the spherical arch’. Turner’s original 1724 ‘glory’ in the apse of the church was only discovered in 1975 by Peter Foster, and fully reinstated in 2002 by Richard Ireland, due to damage caused by the fire of 29 May 2000.


A watercolour picture shows the replaced ‘glory’ with another composition including fictive drapery, which is attributed to the painter Benjamin West (1723–1820). It was also at this point that most of the architecture was painted in ‘imitation of white marble, with grey veins, again with trompe l’oeil enrichments and fictive fluting on the columns and pilasters’, as seen in the Scharf watercolour.

The team involved in the HLF interior restoration of S. Paul’s (2000 – 2003) carried out investigative work in order to decide how to restore this painting. The Doric order of the altarpiece was identified as painted in a pale grey imitating English alabaster, along with moulding enriched with trompe l’oeil and also the heavy retouching of the 1970s paint on the original Turner ‘glory’. However it was eventually decided that since most of Turner’s paintwork had been so badly damaged, the team would ‘re-create the whole of his scheme anew, making allowance for discolouration’, led by Wim & Joy Huning. The paint was prepared and based on the paints found under the microscope, thus preserving the original scheme.


Church Focus: Revd. Charles Burney

The key figures to a church community are the wardens who are elected annually by their parish and appointed to care for the church and its community. The duties of a church warden at S. Paul’s Deptford usually extend beyond this. One of the key responsibilities however is to maintain the fabric of the church and its contents. We recently completed an up to date inventory of the contents of the church. The terrier and the inventory are generally published together as the ‘church property register’ and are submitted by the PCC (parochial church council) annually. Furthermore, an annual written report  is produced on the fabric, fixtures, fittings and furniture of the church summarizing all the maintenance and repairs, which can include proposals and plans to carry out any future repair works.

It was really quite amazing putting together an inventory for S. Paul’s Deptford and realising once again what a fascinating and important building S. Paul’s is and has been for generations. I would like to share some of these items and the people connected to them, by publishing a series entitled ‘Church Focus’ each week.


Charles Burney the Younger.jpg

Description: Carrara marble portrait bust of Revd. Charles Burney the Younger (1757-1817) by Joseph Nollekens RA (1727-1823) British Museum. Collection No. 1944.0704.2

Rev. Charles Burney (Born in 1757, died 1817) was a school master, a classical scholar and a rector of S. Paul’s Deptford from 1811 – 17. He was the son of the eminent music historian, Charles Burney and the brother of the novelist Fanny Burney. His brother, James, sailed with Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages and became an admiral.

Music historian Charles Burney by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1781

Burney was a pupil at a school in Chiswick run by Dr Wiliam Rose, a translator of Sallust. Burney later married Dr Rose’s daughter. He moved the school to Hammersmith and then to Greenwich in 1793 where he established a private academy. Many eminent naval and military officers were educated at the academy.

Burney had an important collection of rare books and manuscripts, mostly 16th and 17th century editions, which he left behind and are now kept at the British Museum for the nation. The question however remains how Revd. Burney acquired these, especially when many books went missing when he was attending Cambridge University!


S. Paul’s Church Deptford, Portrait of Revd. Charles Burney

The memorial in the sanctuary of the church records that Revd. Burney was a Doctor of Divinity and a Fellow of the Royal Society, a prebendary of Lincoln and a Chaplain Ordinary to His Majesty (George III).

After his death a number of Burney’s most celebrated scholars assembled immediately and subscribed for a monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey. This, the noblest tribute that can be paid and was completed by Mr Gabagan and placed in the South aisle of the church, between Dr Knipe and Stepney, and consists of a tablet and bust, copied from the excellent likeness taken by Nollekens.

In the varied and important duties of a Parish Priest Dr. Burney proved himself thoroughly qualified and a monument to his memory was completed by Goblet and the inscription was provided by his friend, the Rev. Josiah Thomas, Archdeacon of Bath stating:

In him was united the highest attainments in learning, with manners at once diginified and attractive, peculiar promptitude and accuracy of judgment, with equal generosity and kindness of heart, his zealous attachment to the Church of England was tempered by moderation and his impressive discourses from the pulpit became doubly beneficial from the influence of his own example..

– Excerpts from Rev. Charles Burney’s Obituary, The Gentleman’s Magazine Vol. 125, 1819

Roof Repairs

Unfortunately we were unsuccessful with our bid for the Governments Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund.  The grant was to pay for roof repairs that we urgently require to prevent further water leakage to areas of deterioration of the roof.

The proposed action is to re-lay and re-baton sections of the roof, along with repairing the numerous open joints on the stringcourse of the parapet, removing vegetative growths and repointing. Damp penetration at the North wall on the east side has led to cracking of the plaster of the interior wall at the ceiling level, and flaking of the paint.

Furthermore, iron cramps that were installed are now rusted and adding to further damage to stonework and need replacing with stainless steel substitutes. There is also an area of approx. 17 m sq of zinc sheeting at the South side of the roof that has indented markings and will corrode if not replaced.

The cost of work is approx £30,000 to correct this and therefore will need a grant to cover these repair costs. We will now be looking for alternative grants to  apply for in order to action this  work.

Roof with lead cramp

Iron cramps that need replacing as corroding and causing damage to stonework

leaks in roof

Section in the roof of church showing the water leakage issues

plasterwork damage from leak

Plasterwork with showing signs of water ingress and flaking of paintwork


St John’s Cathedral, Malta

Having just returned from a trip to Malta I thought I would share one of the sites I visited – St John’s Cathedral located in the capital Valletta. It is one of the finest cathedrals and examples of high Baroque architecture I have seen.

A complete marvel of art and architecture, St John’s was originally built for the Knights of St John in the 1570s, commissioned by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière,  and designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar. It was later in the 17th century that its interior was redecorated in the Baroque style by Mattia Preti and other leading artists. The lavish and ornate interior is in stark contrast to its simple stone-clad exterior, which alludes to an architectural fortress style seen throughout Malta and connecting it to the country’s turbulent past.

The cathedral also includes a museum which houses many works of art, most notably two paintings by Caravaggio and tapestries designed by Peter Paul Rubens. I couldn’t help but make some links to St Paul’s, which architect Thomas Archer was probably inspired by his own travels and views of Italian Baroque churches throughout the Mediterranean and led him to include such links within his own English designs.

st johns

A view of the famous marble floor with the 400 Kinghts tombs arranged according to rank


Caravaggio’s depiction of The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608) was commissioned for the Oratory of the church and is his only painting to be signed. Impressive for both the scale and masterful use of chiaroscuro technique. The oratory also houses Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome Writing (1607)


Paint Investigations

Restorations (1813 – 1975)

Repairs to the fabric of a building require a sensitive approach in terms of the prevention of deterioration, consolidation of the fabric, rehabilitation, reproduction and reconstruction when recreating old or lost schemes of interior decoration. The various painted surfaces in a room can reveal much about the way a room was decorated and treated. By analysing the various layers using microscopic analysis to determine the progression the findings from these can add to revealing the architectural changes. So for example the use of French ultramarine (extracted from lapis lazuli) would suggest paint no older than 1840s. Finlay, in his article Recreating Historic Schemes of Interior Decoration, notes that ‘the value of paint analysis lies in the way in which it is presented and communicated, and how the evidence is recorded’ while at the same time ‘decorative paint evidence is often the most robust physical guide to the superficial appearance of previous schemes of decoration’.   

The restoration of St. Paul’s offers the most recent opportunity to study the interior painting scheme. An investigation identifying the documentation for evidence of significant alterations and phases of redecoration. There is a limited amount of records relating to those in the eighteenth century. The Vestry Order Book (1730-96) states that on 5 July 1774 ‘repairing cleaning and beautifying the inside of the church and portico’ was ordered. Dr Ian Bristow’s investigations on the paint samples from the altarpiece reveal that there were in fact two or three interventions between 1730 and the early nineteenth century. Firstly, Turner’s work was retouched, and then a layer a varnishing was applied, with later additions added to the decorative paint. While in 1813 under the rectorship of Charles Burney the Younger, the Vestry minutes for 6 May 1813 record that it was ‘expedient the church and organ should be put into immediate repair, and for that purpose the church should be shut for some time’. The original plain glazing in the east window was replaced by glass painted by William Collins including a figure of St Paul’s. Within the Scharf watercolour (Fig. 1) Turner’s ‘glory’ has also been replaced by another composition including fictive drapery and Bristow states is very likely to be attributed to the painter Benjamin West (1738-1820). It was also at this point that most of the architecture was painted in ‘imitation of white marble, with grey veins, again with trompe l’oeil enrichments and fictive fluting on the columns and pilasters’ as seen in the Scharf watercolour.


Fig. 1

Later redecorating of the interior took place in 1856 under John Whichcord the Younger (1823-85), in 1883 under Thomas Dinwiddy (1845-1928) and a third in 1895. The first was recorded by in the Kentish and Surrey Mercury and Home Counties Advertiser on 26th April 1856, who indicated the church had been closed on 4th February, ‘warming apparatus’ introduced, and the building thoroughly repaired in the course of eight weeks, noting ‘the architectural beauties of the interior have been heightened by the judicious employment of colour’. The 1895 faculty permitted extensive alterations of the furnishings and there was disfavour to ‘the old three decker pulpit cut down in 1873…while the carved oak sounding board was entirely removed…and fine old dutch oak pews are now in course of demolition’. Paint samples reveal that the ceiling was painted in a white distemper, with red-brown in the ground of the panels, while the walls were painted in a blued white distemper and columns a stone colour. Bristow states that these changes and other alterations to the painting ‘were most damaging’ and a photograph published in 1912 ‘shows the dreary result with Archer’s liturgical spaces destroyed’. (Fig. 2)

St Pauls interior 1902

Fig. 2

When in 1933 under the direction of architects F. C. Eden & R Marchant an event recorded by the Rector states that ‘the whole interior has been painted a broken white, relived by gilding up the tops of the pillars and blue colouring as a background to the plaster work on the roof’. Bristow in his report confirms that the paint samples are off-white and gold treatment and window ferramenta painted black, replacing the Victorian browns. In 1975 under Peter Forster this scheme was repeated, along with restoring Turner’s ‘glory’ with added swags to either side.

2002 Restoration

 The above-mentioned the various phases of restorations, however it was not until more recently that the interior decoration has been studied in any detail or recorded, which has now resulted in essential data for future conservation programmes or architectural history.

Discussions on the internal restoration began in 1996 and in October 2002, the congregation raised £262,000 partnership funding in 20 weeks to secure the remaining Heritage Lottery Fund grant and allow for work to proceed. Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund was awarded to St Paul’s at a total cost of £2,777.000, which at the time was the largest grant to be awarded to a parish church. The first phase consisted of roof and major stonework repairs started in 2000, while Phase 2 included the complete restoration of the church interior.

The project was complicated by a serious fire, which occurred between the two phases in May 2000. Fortunately the structural damage was confined to the East end, where much of the stained glass was lost and joinery and decorative finishes were badly charred. The whole of the interior, including the fine organ case were badly blackened by smoke. The fire gave an opportunity for the historic decorative scheme of the east end to be investigated in detail and enabled an authentic recreation of the elaborate 1730’s decorative scheme to be undertaken.

Few compromises were made on the work of the interior of the church in the 2002 restoration and the detailed research carried out by Richard Ireland and Dr Ian Bristow revealed the rich and elaborate decorative scheme to the east end, dating from 1725.

Once the original scheme had been revealed it was proposed to recreate this with a high degree of accuracy based on the large amount of evidence available as a result of Richard Ireland’s careful uncovering of successive paint layers within the apse. Ireland carried out cross-sections in April, May, June 2002 to check that the correct layers were being exposed. Since Turner’s scheme is generally very distinctive, (Fig 3) only a small number were needed. A key feature of the recreation was the gilded panels of trompe l’oeil foliage to the walls on either side of the apse, together with the reinstatement of fluted pilasters between the panels. In accordance with Dr Bristow’s research, the remainder of the interior was to remain relatively plain, with a warm stone colour for the walls and columns, and white ceiling and entablature. The decision was also taken to replace the stained glass to the east window, which had been badly damaged in the fire of 2000 and replace with clear leaded lights in Vauxhall glass in a 1725 decorative pattern.

Turners Glory_paint analysis

Fig. 3

Current overview

 While the building was fully restored in 2004, the issue of continuing this programme of repair and restoration is an on-going dilemma today, with limited financial resources, the church faces new challenges and innovative changes will be required in order to set the church on a self-sustaining footing, to generate income that will allow for on-going building maintenance.

A report carried out by Hirst Conservation, in November 2015, includes a full account of the current paint surface. I have summarised the main points as follows:

  • Significant level of delamination in the extant paint layers over the decorative plaster work, although not visible to naked eye
  • Close examination of previous repairs reveal areas of prior paint loss now over-painted and reference to the instability of existing build-up of paint (an 1884 scheme of oil above the previous distemper) itself exacerbated by the steam resulting from May 2000 fire ‘the use of Classidur was specified by Thomas Ford & Partners, since the cost of wholesale stripping could not be contemplated the risk of flaking would have to be accepted’.
  • The extent of current plaint flaking, as described must therefore be considered in this context and will continue over time and will be exacerbated by any fluctuations in environmental conditions (temperature, humidity and noise vibrations).
  • Position and extent of any losses should be recorded when flakes are seen, to form an ongoing system to monitor these losses.




Secondary window glazing at S. Paul’s: May 2016

S. Paul’s, built under the ’50 New Churches Act of 1711’ along with St Nicholas’ and the new terraces in Albury Street, is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the area. The church designed by Thomas Archer in 1713 and consecrated in 1730 is described by Pevsner as ‘one of the most moving 18th century churches in London’.

On the 7 December 1716, the minutes from the Commissioners recorded that proposals were read ‘for glazier’s work at Deptford new church from Chas Scriven, Thos Commings, Jos. Goodchild, Wm Ransom’. On the 10 December 1716, it was confirmed that ‘Commings to be employed for glazing Deptford new church with crown glass, with lead of 9 inches to the ounce’. (The Commission for Building Fifty New Church the Minute Books, 1711 – 27)

Repairs to the church have been undertaken in 1856 (John Whitcord), 1883 (Thomas Dinwiddy), 1930s (Eden & Marchant), 1975-85 (Marshall Sisson), 1990’s (Marshall Sisson), 2003 (HLF & Thomas Ford and Partners).

The windows have wrought iron frames incorporating leaded glazing. The east window is in the form of a Venetian window but following the curve of the apse, ‘a very Baroque trait’, Pevsner observed.

The recent church quinquennial report highlighted that the windows at St. Paul’s are in fairly good order, although some cracks have been reported and generally are in need of a good clean.

There have been many discussions over the past year with Tideway whether or not secondary window glazing would be of benefit in sound proofing the church.

The initial proposal by Tideway was to secondary window glaze the south side of the church, directly overlooking the construction site. However, there is strong opinion to suggest that the east side will be just as affected, as it has a direct line of sight over to the works site alongside Church Street. For secondary glazing to have a meaningful impact, both sides ideally would need to be treated.

The other consideration that needs to be accounted for are, aesthetic and conservation approaches. Ideally the quality of the architecture would benefit from all windows treated rather than a portion, since there will be differences which would be more apparent between treated and untreated windows. This has obvious cost implication which not surprisingly, would be quite significant.

Our church architect Nicholas Weedon has advised that, ‘inconsistency’ is not recommended, unless there is a very clear programme. Furthermore, the installation of internal secondary glazing would be a very sensitive matter and any repairs or alterations of this scale would require the church applying for faculty.

Finally the project coordination of any type of work like this would need careful planning and consideration in light of the current Tideway works and on-going church activities and services.

As part of Tideway’s TAPs (trigger action plan), we met with the main contractor ‘CVB’ towards the end of last month, to take these discussions further along with their appointed heritage consultants and window Specialist Company. An assessment of the building and report with proposed actions will follow in due course, which the church and advisors will need to consider carefully.

Venetian Window East
Venetian east side window
South Windows
South side windows
Glazier signature
Glazier’s signature in glass

Utility diversions and building monitoring: April 2016

Having recently celebrated Holy Easter week at S. Paul’s, much of the focus of the project has been to make provision and time for these church activities. Therefore the next month will see a return to the project and focus on moving steadily forward with this work. Discussions are now starting with the PCC and congregation that will set the tone and pace for a clear project plan, however this must happen progressively in order to build the support and foundations that will be required to take this forward. A project or steering team will be appointed in due course, while many more discussions will be required with stakeholders and wider community.

While we are working steadily on these project plans, the Tideway Tunnel works are also progressing. We had an incident with the vibration monitoring equipment and unfortunately there was heavy construction during this period, which now means a follow up survey will be required by Hirst Conservators in order to assess how this may have impacted the building. Over the next month the utility diversions will begin and are expected to last approximately 11 months. Starting along Coffey Street and moving along Deptford Church Street. The standard working hours, having been listed as 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturday. On the 19, 20, 21 April from 7am – 7pm.