St Matthew Westminster - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Matthew Westminster

• St Matthew's Church, Westminster is located in the heart of the capital, close to the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Church House, St Matthew’s has been closely associated with the recovery of the Catholic heritage of the Church of England from its early days. One of the foremost leaders of that movement, Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzibar, served at St Matthew’s from 1916-18.

• St Matthew's was built between 1849 and 1851 to the design of Sir George Gilbert Scott, assisted by his brother-in-law, George Frederick Bodley. Scott's son John Oldrid Scott designed the clergy house.[2]Subsequently, Sir Ninian Comper added the Lady chapel (approached by the staircase in the Narthex). The interior was greatly enriched by the work of Bodley, Charles Kempe, W.E. Tower and Martin Travers.

• The church is in one of the poorer districts of the borough of Westminster and was founded to alleviate the overcrowded St John Westminster (which has since been deconsecrated and converted into a concert hall) in nearby Smith Square. At that time, the new parish was located close to a slum and the site was purchased piecemeal at a total cost of about £6,000. This resulted in the "very irregular and unfavourable form" of the "L"-shaped church building.

• The church, except for the Lady Chapel, was almost totally destroyed by fire in May 1977. The new church was dedicated in November 1984 and, while much smaller than the previous church, retains much of its atmosphere as well as some of the original stone-work and many of the contents rescued from the destruction.

• Entering the church, via the narthex, visitors will see a stained glass window of St Michael by Tower. All the stained glass was badly damaged but some of the figures were saved and placed in new settings (most notably the east window and the Annunciation scene in the N.E. window). Here also is Tower’s panel of the crucifixion. The 14 Stations of the Cross line the walls and were sculpted by Joseph Cribb, a pupil of Eric Gill.

• The Lady Chapel is the earliest example of Comper’s work in England, and the ‘English altar’ with its riddle posts is, he maintained, the first of its type since the Reformation. and private discussions.

• St Michael’s Chapel houses a stone altar by Bodley, which contains a relic of St Matthew.

• There is a fine Spanish lectern from the 15th century. Statues are the work of Tower and depict St Edward the Confessor, St George (with dragon), St Michael and St Matthew.

• The recent addition of a modern carving of the Madonna and Child maintains the creative link between the church and the arts. It was sculpted by Guy Reid, a former Artist in Residence at St Matthew’s, and has a real theological intensity.

• The parish school was opened in 1854 and is located next to the church, at Old Pye Street. Links between the church and school remain strong, with the vicar serving as the chair of governors and the church's pastoral assistants taking an active part in the spiritual life of the pupils.


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