A cathedral by any other name…

A few weeks ago a couple of friends, Mat M & Matt C, found themselves caught in a (good natured) Twitter argument about churches and tax. I work with listed buildings, documenting them and educating visitors and owners about architectural heritage, so was delighted when they mutually concluded that conservation is valuable, especially on a local level. Being both local lads, the even more delightful outcome of their discussion was Matt’s offer of showing us around St Augustine’s church, by the South Kilburn Estate.

Between the three of us, we form a perfect team for such an outing. Mat M is one of Kilburn’s biggest fans, hosting a regular soul night at the brilliant Priory Tavern. Matt C not only sits on the council at St Augustine’s, but also works as an ecclesiastical lawyer. I’m pretty sure that means we can’t legally get in any trouble for sneaking around of an afternoon. As for me, this was my third in the trio of Kilburn’s quirky churches, having been inside the Tin Church last summer, and attempting to document some of the social history of the State cinema, now used as a church.

Matt C, Mat M & Me

Matt C, Mat M & Me

St Augustine’s is truly massive and is stuffed with traditional detail and iconography. It is quirky in as much as it doesn’t seem to have an identifiable front elevation, rather several quite different facades depending on which direction you approach it from, with each doorway or spire appearing inviting rather than imposing, despite it’s vast Victorian Gothic scale.

St Augustine's

The many faces of St Augustine’s

The existing building was completed in 1880, and was designed by architect John Loughborough Pearson, who used 13th Century Gothic revival elements such as vaulted ceilings and stone sculpture for the interior. Pearson is quoted as saying that the architecture and design should “draw people to their knees”. There is even some interior detail by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (designer of Battersea Power Station and the iconic red telephone box – although I’m sure you knew that already). The historian Edward Walford described St Augustine’s as “one of the finest ecclesiastical structures in London.”

A little note in the visitors book read “This is better than Westminster cathedral!!”

More photos I took in this Flickr album.

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