The Cloudesley Association has been contacted by the Church Commissioners who have prepared a “Legal Scheme” and related documents setting out the Diocese’s proposals for renovating the church. They are inviting representations from interested parties for or against the proposals, which must be received by 14 April 2019. You can view the proposals here:

As mentioned in the most recent newsletter, our first impression is that this development is just a standard legal procedure to prepare the ground for the renovation project proper, but if you have any views, positive or negative, or informed opinions on the proposals, then please do make your representations known to the Church Commissioners by the April 14 deadline, or email Amanda and Florence before then at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There will also be an opportunity to discuss this subject at the next Meeting in May.

Later addition (11 April 2019): Representation letter to Commissioners from Nick Collin, Cloudesley Square (your website manager).  Comments welcome!

Holy Trinity Church, Cloudesley Square


A personal appreciation of its historic fabric and condition.
By John Scholes ( j.scholes@gmail. com )

 

1. Prologue

To declare my credentials, I come to this topic as an amateur. I'm a retired academic living round the corner, with a private interest in the place of architecture in social history and some practical knowledge of building practices.

I believe that Holy Trinity is a London church of quite exceptional architectural interest and potential for restoration. My interest was awakened by the historical material on the Cloudesley Association's excellent website.

I will write firstly about the church's dilapidated exterior and then turn to the neglected vision that is hidden away within it.

2. The exterior shell; is it more than a pile of bricks?

Martin van der Weyer, a markets analyst, recently, remarked that the Government's worthy sounding target to build 300,000 new homes in its remaining 5 year term is "simply unachievable". How so? Britain, he declared, no longer has the clay pits and the kilns to manufacture the vast numbers of bricks needed to fulfil this pledge, such as were excavated, cut and fired in truly astronomical numbers during the great Georgian building spree that unrolled the street plan of London today, the Cloudesley Estate included. This prompted me to take a walk round Cloudesley Square and survey the dilapidated masonry of Holy Trinity to consider what is it built of, and what are its prospects.

This tour convinced me that the church was built from a unique kind of precious creamy white bricks called white Gault bricks (AKA Suffolk Whites).

 

Yellow gaults russell hotel maidstone 01 Apr 14 a 600x600

 

Here, then, is a personal view of what I see as the architectural magic of Holy Trinity. It looks pretty derelict now, but its masonry has an underlying romance of its own that I'll try to convey, notwithstanding the grim black neglected appearance of its soot-engrained and weather-streaked exterior.

To get a glimpse of how the church could look again if properly restored as it surely deserves, you need only to stroll down the hill to be dazzled by the white elevations of another Gault building, the brilliantly restored Watch Tower Building on the corner of the Gray's Inn Road at Kings Cross. This restoration was accomplished by an innovative young Practice called Latitude architects. They look to me young, lively and hungry; Google them when you've a moment.

 

Lighthouse Building

 

 

2.1 Returning to Holy Trinity itself.

When the church was completed in the early 19th century, I imagine that its white Gault masonry would have stood out like an apparition in Cloudesley Square, with the luminous whiteness of a priestly surplice. It must have contrasted brightly with the warm honey colour of the traditional London stock brick masonry of the surrounding dwellings, such as in Stonefield St, and around the Square itself. This contrast could, I suppose, (but who can know now?) have been the express intention of its busy young architect, Charles Barry (1795-1860), in order to enhance the holy aspect of his new church, set in place amidst a pre-existing congregation of earlier Georgian buildings, in Stonefield St, Cloudesley Rd, as well as in Cloudesley Square itself, whose facades, unlike the church, have been providently maintained and restored in recent times.

But what exactly are Gault bricks and whence comes their Whiteness? Among the colours of the spectrum, Isaac Newton's White is the strangest of all, with a quality of its own, to which holiness and godliness seem to have got attached in our minds. It seemed unbelievable to Newton's contemporaries that White, being the mixture of all colours, is somehow not mud coloured.

The term Gault refers to the clay from which these bricks were made, that was laid down about 100 million years ago as an important geological horizon, the Albian stage of the Cretaceous Era, in whose warm seas thrived the rich calcareous microfauna whose remains sedimented down to deposit the chalky white cliffs of SE England on top of this thick (30m) layer of stiff, solid, blueish Gault clay that you can still view today, peeping out towards the sea from beneath the overlying white cliffs at Beachy Head.

This thick layer of clay came to line the sea bed before the Cretaceous was kicked in by whatever the climate changes were that favoured all that calcareous fauna deposited on top of the gault. I wonder if the Gault was an immense estuarine deposit but I haven't yet found any hard science bearing on this.
The earth's continuing crustal movements have thrust this clay up to the surface in all sorts of different places in SE England, where clay pits were dug to make the stuff into bricks.

One of the major sites for manufacturing gault brick was near Huntingdon but, as Van Der Weyer noted, times move on in unexpected ways. I have read somewhere that its former claypits have now been submerged to provide the local amenity of a waterfowl reserve.

2.2. The colour of the bricks develops when they are fired.

The unlikely magic of the Gault clay is that it turns from muddy-blue to white during the firing process. By way of illustration, consider how the iron content of the clay used for traditional London stock bricks can streak them delicately with attractive red or purple hues when they are fired, thus conferring the charm for which they are so valued architecturally. By a similar sort of magic, Gault clay turns radiant white as it hardens in the kiln.

Clay, then, is very strange stuff.  Some scientists think it may have been the substrate which catalysed the origin of life on earth.  When clay was first baked into bricks perhaps 5-10 thousand years ago to build proto-cities like Harappa in the Indus Delta, it seeded civilisation as we know it. Bricks, then, are in the bones of our species, but I'm afraid they have lapsed into a pretty sorry state in the masonry of Holy Trinity, Cloudesley Square.  This seems to have come about through what I can only call Neglect by Proxy. The proxy here was the Celestial Church of Christ, an important world-status body of great benign influence in Africa, to whose North London Parish the Diocese granted the lease of Holy Trinity many years ago, with repair obligations that the Celestial Church was unable to fulfill, despite their best intentions and resourceful efforts (such as raising significant but wasted Lottery funding).

In this light, I reckon the Diocese will need much support and encouragement now that it has resolved to close the book on this flawed partnership of its own making.

But what next? This is a matter for the Diocese and the Cloudesley Association, in which the interests of the residents of the Square should be paramount.
It's none of my business but I can't resist turning the pages back to consider the fearsomely mixed legacy left by that busy young architect Charles Barry (he who went on to design the Palace of Westminster, no less). Let's ask where he got it right and got it wrong in Cloudesley Square. I will put this like a balance sheet headed Assets and liabilities.

3.1 Assets.

Gault bricks were characteristically cut rather longer than other bricks, so, subject to a proper structural survey, they may have lasted these two centuries as well bonded load-bearing masonry worth restoring and cleaning to the lovely effect achieved for the Watchtower Building at Kings Cross mentioned above.

3.2 Liabilities.

Barry adorned the church with contrasting sandstone features like the west turrets flanking the porch. Beautiful as this contrast with the Gault white will have seemed at the time, Barry could not have foreseen the damage that would be wrought by the acid rain from London's coal-burning sulphurous skies. Had silicone impregnation been in his tool kit, those turrets might have looked much happier bunnies than they do today.

From the ground it looks to me as if the soft sandstone that Barry used to ornament the turrets and other features was simply dissolved and crumbled by this unforeseeable acid attack. No doubt the blue scaffold bandages used to wrap the turrets some years ago have contained the rubble that might have been blown off by Autumn gales, but that was just sticking plaster and I wonder if water will have continued to seep into the masonry beneath and freeze during some quite severe winters since that safety measure was taken.

Returning again to Martin Van der Weyer, let's consider, just for fun, the worth of Holy Trinity considered as a recyclable stockpile of the interesting bricks that I've described. Each will have a value and there are countless numbers of them. This may sound crazy, but their worth could be appreciable besides the £5-10 million that the Diocese estimates may be needed just to make the structure safe enough for people to enter it.

My point here is not, not, not, absolutely not, to recommend flogging the pile as a job lot to some reclaimed brick merchant. My impertinent valuation is simply to calibrate the task of making good what has been lost by wishful thinking and neglect over the best part of two centuries since the church was no more than a glint in the eager young Charles Barry's eye.

Forgive me, but it is as if everyone has crossed their fingers in the hope that the Lord will somehow provide.

4. The secrets within

It is a rewarding pursuit to admire fine church architecture from the outside, but the true theatre lies within.

Access to Holy Trinity is now barred so I speak only from dim memories and some photos I've found on the net. I suspect that the interior of Holy Trinity was once exceptionally beautiful and here are three features of its design that I think may have made it so.

First, the great East window which seems to me a Victorian classic of its kind.

Second, the galleries that face each other across the nave and flank this splendid window.

Third, the possibility of instating/re-instating a West Choir inside and above the porch. I gather this is an auspicious layout for fine ecclesiastical choristry. A related point is that the design of the church, which is said to be modelled on Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, is likely to be acoustically perfect for choral Services or performances.

 

Church Interior

 A fairly recent image on the church interior - Ed

 

Church Interior Old

An earlier image, and possible vision for the future? - Ed

 

[To be continued]

Extract from Parish Churches of London by Basil Clarke, Batsford, 1966

Holy Trinity, Cloudesley Square

In 1517 Richard Cloudesley left to the parish a parcel of land called Stone Field, and this was used as the site for the church. James Savage made plans, but the Commissioners rejected them, and Charles Barry's were adopted instead. The foundation stone was laid on 15 July 1826 and the consecration was on 19 March 1829. The cost was £11,900; the Commissioners granted £9,231. It is Perpendicular in style, of brick, with an aisled nave, turrets at the four corners, and a small sanctuary and north vestry. It was restored by Ewan Christian, who did the usual things: the organ was removed and choir stalls were inserted. A faculty was given on 24 July 1900 to re-seat, raise the east end, and take down the north and south galleries. Another 5 June 1915 for new choir vestry, new organ screen, etc. The church is not bad as Sir Charles, in his later days, liked to think: it is straightforward Commissioners' Perpendicular. But the alterations have not improved it much. The best thing in the interior is the glass in the east window, by Willement, 1828, with a kneeling figure of Richard Cloudesley.

In late 2017 the Celestial Church of Christ left Holy Trinity Church for pastures new and the church has now passed back into the possession of the London Diocese.  The Celestials have been good neighbours for many years and we are sorry to see them go.  But on the other hand it opens the way for a major programme of restoration.  Click here to see a letter of January 24, 2018 from the Diocese updating us on progress in repairing and renovating the church.  Susan Speece from the Diocese will be speaking about this work and future plans at the next Association meeting on February 27th and will answer questions from residents.

 

 7th May 2015 - Holy Trinity Church in Cloudesley Square has been chosen as the local polling station.
Don't forget to vote!
 

Polling Day 2Polling Day 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          Ready to vote ...                                                                                                                                                            ... Job well done!

StephenCryptLast weekend, Stephen, pictured, kindly showed us around the crypt which lies underneath Holy Trinity church.  The crypt is a massive space comprising several vaulted chambers each the length of the church and extending right out to the railings on either side.  It's quite spooky!

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many coffins in the crypt, of all shapes and sizes.  Several are protected with chains or iron bars, which, as Stephen explained, was to guard against the attention of grave robbers.  In the early 19th century as medical science began to flourish, there were insufficient cadavers available to meet the needs of anatomy schools and this led to a grisly trade in grave robbing or body snatching.

Coffins Chains

Coffins Bars

 Charles MasonthorpePlaque on coffin inscribed: "Mr Charles Mason Sharpe died 30th August 1849 in his 36th year."

 

During the first world war the crypt was used as a shelter from air raids for up to 2000 people at a time, as a plaque on the front of the church attests: "In the midst of peril, we came to no harm".  Apparently, there's even a secret tunnel linking the crypt to Westminster!

 

Reaching Out

 

The Church of Celestial Christ is eager to reach out to the community and share the church with local residents for any of a range of activities such as:

  • Functions
  • Meetings
  • Coffee Mornings
  • Guided Tours
  • Childrens Parties
  • Dance Classes
  • Music Classes
  • Singing
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Charity Activities

This is a tremendous opportunity for residents.  It will also help the Diocese to raise funds for the restoration of the church, as explained in the minutes of the recent Association meeting.

Although the interior of the church is badly in need of refurbishment, it is a terrific space with some really amazing features such as the stained glass windows featured here. There's even a huge crypt!

Anyone interested in this initiative or with ideas about what the Church and the Association can do together please get in touch or just add your comments below.

Coffee Morning

Cloudesley Square representative Nick Collin at the recent coffee morning on 28th March with friends from the Church 

More images of stained glass windows in the church

 

South Window 1 - Detail - St John

St John

Inscribed: "To the Glory of God and in Loving memory of Lawrence Major, for many years Master of the Cloudesley Schools"

 

South Window 2 - Detail - Christ on Cross with Centurion

Truly This Was The Son Of God

Inscribed: "Truly, this was the Son of God"

 

North Window 1 - "He is Risen"

He Is Risen

Inscribed: "Fear not Ye, He is Risen"

 

North Window 2 - Detail - Maria Gates

Maria Gates

Inscribed: "In Loving memory of Maria Gates, a Lover of Little Children and Superintendent of the Girls Sunday School for Sixty Years.   .....   Died March 7 1924."

 

East Window - Detail - Richard Cloudesley

Richard Cloudesley

Inscribed: "By Thomas Willement"

 

 


This lovely picture of the superb East window in Holy Trinity Church was kindly supplied by Michael Magbagbeola of the Church of Celestial Christ. It was designed by Thomas Willement, the "father of Victorian stained glass". It shows Sir Richard Cloudesley kneeling with an inscription of his donation to the parish and his initials, R and C, on either side. Willement (1786–1871) was, to quote from his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “pre-eminent among a small group of stained-glass artists, who, in the early nineteenth century, utilized the medieval method of making a stained-glass window from separate pieces of coloured glass bound together with lead strips, rather than, as with eighteenth-century artists, using coloured enamels to paint pictures on glass”. Preserving priceless examples of heritage like this is what the church restoration project is all about.

 

Church East Window 2

The church in Cloudesley Square is built on an area of land called Stonyfield donated by Sir Richard Cloudesley in 1517 to atone for his sins (sadly, we don't know what they were)!  In 1811 a carpenter, John Emmet, acquired leases to this land and started developing the area.

Holy Trinity Church was designed by Sir Charles Barry, who was also responsible for the Houses of Parliament.  The church was built between 1826 and 1829 and is said to be modelled on Kings College Chapel, Cambridge.  It is a handsome building in Tudor Gothic style and is Grade II* listed.  The stained glass east window, by Thomas Willement, shows Richard Cloudesley kneeling.

After years of neglect, in the 1970s the church was made redundant and in the 1980s it was leased to the Celestial Church of Christ, a Nigerian Pentecostal community familiar to the residents of the Square for their white robes and hearty singing.  In 2018 the Celestials moved out and the church has been taken back into ownership by the London Diocese of the Anglican Church.

Today, the church is in a sorry state.  Although an English Heritage grant was used for essential maintenance work about 15 years ago, the money ran out and as a result the West towers have been sheathed in an unattractive plastic sheeting ever since.  In 2015 scaffolding was added as a health and safety measure; more scaffolding has been erected inside the church.  Recently the London Diocese have started work on repairing and improving the church and hopefully this will ultimately lead to a full restoration project if funding can be secured, most likely from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Click here for the latest update from the Diocese on this work.  

Historic England description of the church

Islington Tribune article on SAVE report about the church

 

 

 

 

Holy Trinity Cloudesley Square - Turret Repair Action Plan 

       
Task no. Task  Start date  Completion date 
1 Scaffold specification to be prepared, including a fan to catch loose stonework 03/12/2014 10/12/2014
2 Send specification to scaffold installer to obtain competitive prices  10/12/2014 10/12/2014
3 Receive prices from scaffold contractors  17/12/2014 17/12/2014
  Agree lease/licence structure with all parties 20/12/2104 20/12/2014
5 Selected scaffold installer instructed to errect scaffold  02/01/2015 02/01/2015
6 Scaffold erected  06/01/2015 10/01/2015
7 Loose pieces removed from turrets and covering adjusted and enhanced to ensure loose pieces in the future are secured 10/01/2015 15/01/2015
8 Grant funding options considered; HLF application prepared; matched funders approached 15/01/2015 01/06/2015
  Heads of terms agreed 01/02/2015 01/02/2015
4 Draft lease/licence documentation circulated for comments/agreement 01/04/2015 01/04/2015
  Lease/licence agreement signed 01/05/2015 01/05/2015
9 Grant application considered by grant funders  01/06/2015 17/09/2015
10 Stage 1 grant offered 17/09/2015 17/09/2015
11 Assuming HLF grant obtained, specification, schedule of works, and drawings prepared; tender package and budget costs for repair works prepared  18/09/2015 18/11/2015
12 Tender package sent out to contractors  19/11/2015 19/12/2015
13 Permissions process undertaken (LBC or faculty, as appropriate) 02/01/2016 06/01/2016
14 Tenders returned  13/01/2016 13/01/2016
15 Tender report prepared  16/01/2016 20/01/2016
16 Chancellor considers faculty application  09/01/2016 09/03/2016
17 Stage 2 grant application submitted 09/04/2016 09/04/2016
18 Stage 2 grant received 09/07/2016 09/07/2016
19 Instruction issued to selected contractor to commence repair works  15/08/2016 15/09/2016
20 Contractor commences repair works  16/09/2016 15/10/2016
21 Repair of turrets complete  TBC TBC

 

Prepared by London Diocese, Anglican Church, December 2014.