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.


Digging up Deptford’s past

As is common practice with all major construction projects, archaeological ground investigations should be carried out in order to evaluate and identify any historical remains or evidence.

Tideway have already undertaken an archaeological trench evaluation at Deptford Church Street, specifically at the location where the shaft will be located. The site comprises areas of the Crossfield Open Space. Four archaeological evaluation trenches were excavated on the site. The results of the evaluation trenches and assessment revealed no finds of medieval and earlier date. However a number of post-medieval finds were identified.

Archaeological finds_drawing

Deptford Church Street site and heritage find locations marked in brown 


Trench excavation locations marked in green with St. Paul’s in top section


The historical context of this site – St Paul’s Church rectory, once existed on this site but was demolished in the 19th century. The Grade II railway viaduct was added to the south in 1836. Housing appeared from at least mid-18th century. A terrace of 24 houses, including a pub onto Deptford Street were located here and in the 19th century, housing was extended along the northern side of Crossfield. St Joseph’s School was built at this time. These houses suffered bombing damage during the Second World War and in late 20th century were removed.

Here is a nice chronological summary of what has been identified from this archaeological investigation:

Pre-historic period (700,000BC – AD 43)

  • No known remains date to this period within the site or assessment area. Outside the assessment area, a Paleolithic tranchet axe was recovered from the Ravensbourne River at the Century Works, Conington Road. Bronze Age artefacts have also been recovered from the Ravensbourne and its floodplain in Lewisham 1.5km to the south of the site.

Roman period (AD 43 – 410)

  • No known remains within the site or assessment area. Watling Street, a Roman road was a major route and is believed to have crossed Deptford Creek c. 250m east of the site.

Medieval (Saxon) period (AD 410 – `1066)

  • No known remains dated to this period. The site is believed to have been in open fields outside of, and between Saxon settlements of Deptford Green and Deptford Bridge. The name Deptford is thought to be Anglo-Saxon in origin. Saxon pottery was found nearby on the former Deptford Power Station, c. 300m northeast of the site. Two 7th century burials with grave goods of jewelry and personal items were found 410m southwest of the site. At the end of the medieval period, Domesday Book (1086), records, that West Greenwich (or Deptford) comprised two manors (estates held by Early Harold and Beorhtsige).
  • After the Norman conquest the manor (estate of Depford) passed from Gilbert De Magminot (1066-1191), de Say Family, Knights Templar, King John (1223-1487).
  • The main settlement of Deptford was focused on the church of St Nicholas, c. 190m northeast to the site

Post-medieval period (AD 1485 – present)

  • Majority of known archaeological remains date from the 17th – 19th centuries, reflecting the rapid growth of Deptford as a centre of manufacturing and industry centred in the Kings Royal Dockyard.
  • The area was urbanized during the 18th and 19th Remains of 19th century building were recorded.


Star finds on the site include the following:

  • Three ceramic clay tabacco pipes bowls were recovered and dares to 16th – 18th centuries and are typical of London manufacture.
  • A miniature or model cannon, made from cast iron and 118mm long. The cannon appears to a be a replica 18th or early 19th century cannon. If funding allows the recommendation is for a naval historian to accurately plaice it within its historic context.

Copper cannon

  • Three fragments of post-medieval glass were recorded dating to 1680-1740 all coming from wine bottles.
  • Five fragments of inscribed grave markers were recovered and dated to 19th century and are thought to have been brought from St. Paul’s Churchyard when the churchyard was cleared of many tombstones and turned in to a garden in 1912-1913.



Church heritage blog – January update

Full speed ahead for New Year activities at St. Paul’s Church…

Update on Tideway works:

Tideway utility works are currently underway on Crossfield Street and by mid-February the next phase will begin along Coffey Street. The works will take approximately four months and working hours are 8 – 6pm Monday to Friday and 8 – 1pm on Saturday. J Murphys and Sons have been the appointed contractors carrying out these works. For further information or queries contact

While these works are in place vibration monitoring of the church will be organised in order to safeguard and protect the fabric while works are underway. These utility works will provide us with a good indication and measure for the main works that will commence in 2017.

Fundraising plans:

We are aiming to submit an application for the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund and are hoping that this will help us to repair and restore damage to the roof.

We attended an informative HLF workshop on the 27 January at Trinity House, London entitled: ‘structural/monument repairs and better community use of churches’. This will allow us to channel the discussions we are now having and would like to progress in order to formulate a strong project.

That’s a wrap for 2015!


It’s always good to stock check and take time to review work completed. So in order to look forward and plan ahead here is a summary of work completed over the past seven months.

In July 2015 an architectural quinquennial report was completed by HMDW. This covered a full detailed report of the church interior, exterior and burial grounds. It also highlighted problematic areas or building repairs and actions to remedy any structural work both long-term and in light of work ahead in connection with Thames Tideway.

We have had a full laser survey carried out of the building, which has produced some highly detailed and informative 3D images of the interior of the church. The scans were then used by Hirst Conservation who, after studying these, carried out a full inspection of the plasterwork and interiors.

Other survey work included that of the organ and also vibration monitoring of the structural fabric of the building, which will take place in the New Year.

Further work that will be required will be a survey of the clock tower and spire as the last report carried out in 2007 and the most recent one in July have highlighted structural issues.

On the 2nd December I attended the annual Historic Buildings Alliance conference. As well as many interesting talks and discussions, Janet Gough, Director of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division talked about the recent Church of England’s Review of its buildings, a copy of the report can be viewed here:

Similarly it was interesting to hear about the most current fundraising approaches and grant bodies that are relevant to churches such as S. Paul’s. The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund, is now available to apply for, which is something that we are keen to do. This is a generous one-off grant scheme from the government, which is widely appreciated for its relative ease of application, and focus on the needs of the building.

From current conservation measures and baseline monitoring activities, we will soon begin to consider how to move forward with the benchmarking that has been carried out and report that was produced. In the New Year our aim will be to consult with the parish and community in order to make an informed decision on the approach we will take and the vision that we start to inform the new design and development.