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!


Later Addition

Sue from Richmond Avenue has contacted us with these delightful memories of the crypt, a nearby youth club and life as a child in the area from years ago:

"These are my memories.  I went down the crypt twice with some friends and the vicar. The entrance was on the left hand side from Stonefield Street.  We went down some stairs and there were stone coffins. You can imagine as 6,7 year olds we were fascinated.  As for the youth club that was held in what is now the Montessori nursery in Richmond Avenue.  I am not sure whether Holy Trinity Church ran it or not, but it was run by nuns and monks.  Funnily enough that is what the local kids of the area named our gang.  We would go every Sunday and pay about 10p.  For that we played games, mostly football, and after the nuns would read from text from the bible and after that we would get orange juice and biscuits.  We all did this for around 2 years.  At the same time there was a English school run on Sunday for Chinese children in what was known as the Samuel Rhodes school.  When it was all finished we would play a football match with them.  It was quite funny we thought that every Chinese person knew karate because of Bruce Lee and they would do the karate kicks and we believed them.  This also went on every Sunday for around 2 years."


Intriguing stuff!  Does anyone else have memories of this time or know more about the history of youth club which Sue attended?  The building, Beckett House, is still there just next to Dowry St behind the new schools, but I can't find anything online about its history.  Can anyone help?  Here's a picture from Google Maps.

Beckett House 



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."


North Window 2 - September 2021, post building work (thanks to Jenny and Kieran)

PSX 20210921 211908 Keiran



East Window - Detail - Richard Cloudesley

Richard Cloudesley

Inscribed: "By Thomas Willement"



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

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.



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 

 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!


Harvest Festival

As part of its harvest Festival, the Celestial Church of Christ is having a BBQ Day and Community Outreach event at 3.00pm on Saturday 8th August.  Everyone in the neighbourhood is invited!  It's always great fun so make sure you come! 

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.


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.

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]

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!

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


And here's a detailed image of Richard Cloudesley (kindly supplied by Melanie Griffiths of the Cloudesley Trust, photo courtesy of Janie Airey):



The wildflowers and other plants on the South side of the church are all coming into bloom, as are the climbing and rambling roses and other climbers working their way up the railings.  Feast your eyes on these beauties!  Better still, swing round and have a look yourselves!  Let me know of any serious misidentifications. 


IMG_1391.jpgIMG 1389















IMG 1396














IMG 1393

IMG 1395























Almost a year since the last entry in this blog and nothing new has happened at the Church.  We did receive a questionnaire about possible community uses for the "Cloudesley Centre" but it hasn't opened yet and we have no indication from the Diocese about future plans.  However, the building looks much better now that the repairs have been completed and all the scaffolding has come down (all except for the structure around the West porch which is apparently there for health and safety reasons).

But Historic England have been busy taking photos of the repair work and making them available on their Archive service.  If you go to and use the search facility (using, eg, "Holy Trinity Islington", or "Cloudesley" for a wider range of images) then you will find several superb photos of the church during and after restoration.  Unfortunately I can't find an easy way to copy the images here - the best I can do is this rather poor quality screenshot of "Detail looking up at the former church's nave roof and the ceiling above its sanctuary and apse, following restoration".  There are many similar images so I urge you to go online and explore.

Historic England Church Ceiling Photo


Meanwhile, Spring has sprung and the church garden is beginning to burst into bloom, at least on the South side.  Here below are some pictures of flowers to lift your spirits (hover cursor over images for my attempts at identification).

IMG 1354IMG 1349













IMG 1353

IMG 1350













There's also a ground covering of some sort of weed with tiny little blue flowers just appearing.  The "Google Lens" feature on my new smartphone tells me it's Veronica Hedera, or Ivy Leafed Speedwell (how on earth does it know?) - can anyone confirm that?

IMG 1358





The work on the nave ceiling is now complete and the interior scaffolding is coming down, but some temporary additional scaffolding has been erected to carry out further repairs to the outside of the building, of which more below. 

Danny's photos below show aspects of the new ceiling in all its glory!

Nave Ceiling 2

 Ceiling 1Stencils on CeilingCeiling 2




Note the exquisite detailing of the mouldings and the soft brown colouring of the chancel ceiling, chosen to be faithful to Barry's original design (the only trouble is it highlights the shabby state of the adjacent walls - let's hope the Diocese can get funding to address these too before long!).  The image on the right shows a corner during the work where some of the original stencilling was preserved - I'm not sure whether it's still there.  And now for a view of the whole nave.  Magnificent isn't it?

Whole Nave Processed


Rosie, from the Diocese, has kindly sent us the following update on the works:

"Thanks for your email. The works should now be complete mid August as we decided to undertake extra repairs whilst we were on site.  The ceiling has been fully repaired and decorated. We have replaced / repaired two badly eroded pinnacles on the north elevation and repaired 4 clerestory windows with working casements to enable natural ventilation in the building.  This scaffolding should come down at the beginning of August.  The internal scaffolding is currently being taken down and then we will undertake works to a number of the pew platforms to create a level access within parts of the building. 

I’m fundraising for further funding so we can install meanwhile uses in the building and so this is a work in progress at the moment. 

We are still in the the process of negotiating funding for the Crypt and I’ll let you have an update on that as soon as I know."  


A clerestory window is simply a window placed high up on a wall, above eye-level, so as to flood the interior space with attractive ambient light.  If the windows can be opened, they also serve the useful purpose of providing natural ventilation.  The Cloudesley clerestory windows are leaded glass, casement windows and Danny and his team have taken the opportunity to repair the opening mechanisms as well as the actual windows and the surrounding stonework, as you can see in the "before and after" photos below left.  The photo on the right is from the inside - note the intricate patterning of the leaded glass in the top section, and the "hopper window" in the open position (controlled using a rope and pulley system).


 Window Inside 1Window BeforeClerestory window under repair showing leaded glass and casement mechanism


The pinnacles along each side of the nave roof were repaired as part of work which took place about 20 years ago.  The present work is to the stone blocks on which they sit, as you can see in the photos below.  Hopefully the whole nave is now sound for a century or two!

Pinnacle 3

Pinnacle 1Pinnacle 2


Update, 4.8.21

Yesterday, I got chatting to Glenn, who is working on the clerestory windows.  He told me that he used to be employed by Dove Brothers, and remembers first working on Holy Trinity Church as a 17 year old in 1974!  He says it's great to be back!


Gardening Update

The "Cornfield Mix" wildflowers which were sown earlier in the year, mainly in the south-east corner of the churchyard (i.e., the view from my bedroom!), have proved surprisingly successful and the roses trained up the railings are also thriving, as you can see.

Wildflowers 1

Wildflowers 2












Wildflowers 4Wildflowers 3











According to the supplier's notes, I think I can identify:

  • Cornflowers (blue)
  • Corncockles (purple)
  • Corn Marigolds (yellow) - also some of Jo's Marigolds (orange)
  • Corn Chamomile (white)
  • Common Poppy (red) - also some of Jo's Opium and Welsh Poppies

Sadly, almost nothing has emerged in the areas closer to the church, apart from weeds (Dog's Mercury and Green Alkanet, mostly).  These areas were sown with "Woodland Flower Mix" - maybe they will appear later in the summer or next year, or maybe there's just not enough light.



With the opening up of the south aisle, some mysterious blue and red markings have appeared on the inside wall of the church where the ugly muddy-yellow plaster has peeled away.  Jenny says these are the remains of stencils around the windows which she remembers from a choral event staged in the church back in the 1980s.  She claims they were attractive floral designs in the style of William Morris and if you look closely you can indeed make out some leaves and I for one think they still have a certain charm!  Despite looking through the records, we can find no references to when these decorations were added or why, and sadly, no photographs of them in their prime.  Perhaps someone still has a picture or two?


Stencils 1.1

Stencils 2
















Stencils 3





The four hard hat tours of the nave ceiling, advertised in the last newsletter, were a big success.  Danny not only gave up his Saturdays, but guided us up the ladders on the second Saturday with a broken ankle!  He gave us a hands-on demonstration of the lath and plaster technique described in the last blog post and also explained how the many ornaments on the ceiling have been reproduced using plaster molds.  When I went up we nagged him to let us each have a plaster ornament to take away - see below.  Given that these were rejects, the level of craftsmanship is remarkable.

Rosie will be posting further details of the tours on the CloudesleyCentre website.  Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos which I took, as well as photos of my own plaster cast, both in its original form and after I was inspired to paint it!  Whether this is anything like the correct colour scheme I have no idea!


Plaster Stuff 2Danny and Rosie 2













Plaster Cast Original

Plaster Cast Painted











Later: here's some photos which Jenny took on the tour.  Bear in mind that everything which looks like wood is in fact painted plaster.  It's incredible the trouble Barry and his men went to, especially given that no-one would see their work up close until 200 years later!




Nave Ceiling

The whole of the nave ceiling is being replaced with new lath and plaster panels.

The diagram below shows how this is done.  Lime plaster is applied in three or more layers to "laths" - thin strips of wood - attached to the ceiling joists.  The hand-riven chestnut laths have a rough surface which improves the adhesion of the plaster.  More importantly, when the first, render layer is applied, much of the plaster is forced through the gaps between the laths where it spills over to form "keys" or "snots", which hold the plaster up when they harden.  When Islington was bombed during WW2, the vibrations often fractured the snots, weakening the lath and plaster ceilings in our houses, some of which then sagged and eventually collapsed many years later (I speak from experience!).


lath plaster


The first layer of plaster usually contains horse hair for extra strength.  After the first two layers are applied, they are scored then left to dry out, to provide a secure key for the next layer.  This can be seen in the photos below.

LathsScored Plaster 1













Here's a picture spanning the whole width of the nave roof showing work in progress.

Nave Ceiling



Meanwhile, as a separate activity, we've been tidying up the churchyard and planting seeds on the South side.  As previously explained, there is a limit to what can be done at this stage since parts of the garden will need to be dug up again soon for drainage and other infrastructure works.  But we've mowed the grass and planted a lot of wildflower seeds - a "woodland mix" in the more shady areas such as up against the church itself and against the garden walls, and a "cornfield mix" everywhere else.  Hopefully this will result in a riot of colour in the summer!  Jo Murray also donated a number of other types of seed.  And some roses and other climbers have been planted at the edges of the churchyard to grow up the railings.  Here's a plan of the planting scheme for those of us eager to see what grows where in the months to come!

Planting Plan South April 2021


Update: early May

Several neighbours have kindly donated plants to the garden.  Jo from Barnsbury Street has added five more geraniums to her previous contributions.  Josie-Anne from the Square has given us a Marguerite and three Agapanthus.  And Louise from Cloudesley Street has contributed two large yew bushes which we've transplanted either side of the South gate; these had rather sparse roots so it's not certain they will survive, but if they do they will be a fine addition to the churchyard!  

Meanwhile, a profusion of green shoots are pushing up in all the areas above where wildflower seeds were sown.  Of course these could all be weeds - it's too early to tell - but hopefully they will burst into bloom in the not too distant future.  All the climbers seem to be thriving apart from the "Pink Perpetue" rose which was dug up, probably by a fox, and now looks rather poorly.  And of course the pre-existing bluebells and alkanet have been magnificent over the past month (alkanet, related to comfrey, is usually regarded as a weed, but I love its blue flowers).


Finally, it's taken a long time to get it into place, but the new stone cross over the South porch is a joy to behold:

New Cross 1

New Cross 2

Danny Cross


Fullers are making excellent progress on the church.  The scaffolding around the North aisle has come down and work has started inside the church on the nave ceiling.


The North aisle is now more or less completely repaired.  Linda Payne, who lives on the North Side of the Square, has emailed us to say “What a joy it is now to look out onto a much improved church exterior!” – my sentiments too, from a Southern perspective!  Here’s Linda’s photo showing the brand new roof:

IMG 20210224 142503006 Linda 2


Here’s a close-up of the roof taken by Danny:

Roof Danny


And here’s the view South from Stonefield Street:

View South


Note the new stonework around the porch.  The pièce de résistance is the new cross at the top of the porch which I spotted beforehand in Danny’s office.  As always, it has been carved in bath stone by Wells Cathedral Stonemasons.  Here’s some close ups, before and after:

Cross 1Cross 2Cross 3


The main task inside the church is to install a new nave ceiling – a massive job.  To do this, the interior has been filled with scaffolding to provide a platform at the top for working on the ceiling.

Scaffolding Inside


The ceiling will be repaired using traditional lath and plaster.  The laths are chestnut wood and have been split, naturally, in the British style, rather than cut – a truly authentic touch!



The ceiling is in a fairly dreadful state, as are the beams.  Like the beams in the aisles these are not made of wood, although you wouldn't know from below, but have instead been moulded from plaster.  Many will need to be repaired and/or reinforced with steel beams.

Beam 1

Beam 2











Finally, above the chancel, a special treat!  Some intricately designed decorations which you’d never guess were there looking up from below.  And the whole ceiling is decorated with golden stars!  Will they be restored?  Let’s hope so!

Ornament 1

 Ornament 2













Today's the day!  (Wednesday, November 11).  After 5 long years the scaffolding is finally coming down from the turrets at the west end of the church.  For those of us on the west side of Cloudesley Square this is good news indeed!

Before turning to the appearance of the new, improved turrets themselves, here's what's been happening over the last month, illustrated as always by Danny's fine photos.

Work on the north aisle is well underway.  As with the south aisle, a temporary roof has been installed and the slates removed to reveal the rafters.  Once again this has revealed significant damage.  The damage to the wood is slightly less because the trees on this side are smaller and don't overhang the roof as much - note that the ends of the rafters where they meet the gutters are not rotted as much as they were on the south roof.  But the damage to stonework and brickwork is worse - probably because there is just more "weather" from the north.  Oddly, however, the pointing is in slightly better condition - perhaps it was carried out with better materials or skill.  The internal plaster beams are in a fairly sorry state, though.

North Aisle 1


Wood Damage 1


Brick and Stone damage 1


Beam Damage 1


Turning to the towers, here are some photos which Danny took at the top.  First, a view of the nave roof looking east.  This is in good condition - it was repaired in a major renovation project some years ago which, sadly, ran out of money! 

Nave Roof 1


Second, a photo of the original bell which is still there in the tower on the right.  Note that the interior walls of the tower are in quite a good condition, in contrast to the detailed stone carving on the outside which is badly weathered.

Bell in Right Tower


Jenny has unearthed the following amusing report about this bell from the Islington Gazette of 1857:

Islington Gazette 10 January 1857

Noisy “Ben” of Trinity

"Sir, I believe any subject connected with the Parish of Islington, finds a ready place in your columns, more particularly if the same is regarded by a number of parishioners as a positive nuisance, and one to be corrected. You must understand that there are two bells bearing the name of “Ben”, one is the fine toned “Big Ben of Westminster”, and the other, as above being a bell hung in the turret, of the Holy Trinity Church in Cloudesley Square, which is altogether un-musical and jarring to the ear as “Big Ben of Westminster" is pleasing. The nuisance is that the bell is tolled for half an hour on Sunday mornings, and the same length of time in the evenings, during which time any persons residing in the square, or immediate thereto, are compelled to shut all doors and windows to keep out as much as possible the horrible Dong! dong! dong! of this very noisy bell, which, by the way, is tolled by a very energetic person, who evidently prides himself in keeping pace with time, for I believe sometimes he “dongs” out 60 “dongs” in a minute. Should any person passing through the square at the time this bell is being tolled meet a friend, they cannot converse until they get a respectable distance away, or they could not hear themselves speak."


The turrets have been carefully wrapped in special (highly expensive!) stainless steel mesh which is then bolted either directly on to the stone or on to wooden battens running up the sides.  Sturdy blue tapes are then bound round the mesh for good measure.  The effect is undoubtedly far superior to the previous ugly plastic and will hopefully stabilise the turrets and protect passers-by from falling masonry until such time as funds are raised to carry out detailed restoration work on the external stonework.

Turret 1Middle of turret 1 

















And finally, here's the result.  This was the view from my bedroom window this morning with the sunlight glinting off the turrets.  What a difference!  I think they look great!  What does everyone else think (feel free to comment below)?

From Bedroom 1


Left Tower Scaffolding RemovalRight Tower in Sunlight
















Later Addition: And here's another photo, complete with rainbow, captured by Lawrence from No 9.

Rainbow Turret 1