St Paul's was built thanks to the patronage of William Cavendish the 7th Duke of Devonshire. It was designed by the English architect Henry Currey (1820-1900) and built in 1872.
Henry Currey was educated at Eton, and then articled to an architect's firm in Gray's Inn, London. In 1859, he was appointed by the 7th Duke of Devonshire (the owner of many buildings and much land in Eastbourne) and he designed the original College House for Eastbourne College and the school's Cavendish Library. Between 1874 and 1875, he designed the Winter Garden, Pavilion and Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne; buildings which were influenced by his travels to Italy in the early 1860s. He designed St Thomas’s Hospital in London built in the 'pavilion style', which opened on the Albert Embankment in 1871, including a teaching hospital and a nursing school to a design approved by Florence Nightingale. He was also the architect and surveyor to Coram’s Foundling Hospital and the Magdalene Hospital in London. Other notable works include the hotel at London Bridge Station and the Pump Room at Buxton and the nearby Baths.
The Duke of Devonshire (1808-1891) had a significant impact on Chiswick besides the foundation of St Paul's Church! In 1883 the Duke leased a piece of land to Chiswick residents who wished to form a sports club. Cricket, football, lawn tennis and bowls were played at the Club, all by women as well as men. Chiswick Park Lawn Tennis Club was for many years the scene of the annual Middlesex Open Tennis Championships, making the venue second only to Wimbledon in importance. Furthermore the Turnham Green Cricket Club was formed in 1853 as the Turnham Green Devonshire cricket club, so called because the Duke of Devonshire was its patron. The Horticultural Society had its experimental gardens in Chiswick from 1822 to 1904. The Society leased the 33 acres from the Duke of Devonshire. They adjoined the grounds of Chiswick House so a private gate was inserted between the two properties to enable the Duke to enter the gardens whenever he chose! Although the family, for all its benefactions and patronages, took little active part in local affairs, however the interest was officially recognized in the duke's right to be represented on the local board of health and widely commemorated in roads recalling the Cavendish family, their titles, and possessions. For more information on the influences on many Chiswick's local street names go to http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/local-history/places/street-names-of-chiswick/
The Duke himself was seen as a prime example of the industrious, abstemious, virtuous, public-spirited, mid-Victorian aristocrat. He married his cousin, Lady Blanche Georgiana. Blanche, almost a child bride, was as serious, earnest, and devout as her husband. A well-matched pair, they were happiest when reading Wesley's sermons together. Unfortunately she died in 1840, probably of tuberculosis, and following the death of his beloved wife, Cavendish initially became something of a recluse – spending his time looking after its famous herd of shorthorns. However, very soon he threw himself into the serious and useful work of the personal management of his estates which was to occupy the rest of his life. He played an important role in the development of Furness (playing a leading role in launching the Furness Railway in 1843) and then the development of Eastbourne. He never had a rentier attitude towards his possessions – instead of simply pocketing his mineral royalties and railway dividends he regarded it as a matter of moral duty to use them to finance the further development of the region. This, coupled with his close attention to all the businesses with which he became involved, made him into a regional entrepreneur of the first rank. He also invested in the development of Barrow, and this increased steadily so that by 1874 the duke, with a gross income of more than £300,000, was probably the richest individual in the land.
After 1874 however, misfortune struck. Firstly, the whole British economy suffered a setback, and secondly, Barrow was hit especially hard by the ending of the ‘Bessemer boom’ in the steel industry. During this period the Duke poured money into 'his' firms in a frantic effort to prop up the ailing steel, shipbuilding, shipping, and jute companies. The result of this was that at his death in 1891 he left debts of some £2 million, all sunk in what had turned into unproductive investments.
St Paul's Church is in many ways a typical Victorian church; however it has an unusual fleche (a small slender spire placed on the ridge of a church roof) and mock belfry (a belfry is a structure enclosing bells for ringing as part of building). The high altar was designed by Lord Norton and brought from St Margaret’s Church in Birmingham in the 1950s. The Stations of the Cross were painted by Enid Chadwick and the large painting of the Transfiguration was painted in 16th century Florence.
Church records tell us that the Church had one assistant curate 1905 and 1926, two in 1961-2 and 1965-6, and none in 1973-4. The attendance 1903 was 324 people at the morning service and 212 at the evening service. From copies of The London Gazette from 1872 we have information about the foundation of our Church (which was formed as a culmination of several parishes) as well as a grant for the Vicarage and a yearly fund paid to the Church. The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published. It claims to be the oldest surviving English newspaper having been first published on 7 November 1665 as The Oxford Gazette. The articles are below.
During WWII the church hall was destroyed and the church suffered damage to the east end, to all the windows and to the south transept. This was later converted from a Lady Chapel into a Community Room. The summer of 2006 saw major works carried out to the church hall; now called the Isis Rooms. A floor was added, giving us more flexible space, a fully equipped kitchen and toilets, including disabled facilities. Many community groups enjoy this space - please see the contacts page for more information.
Within the church, the pews have been stripped back to their original pine, making the whole body of the church seem lighter and more welcoming. Recently, we have also redecorated the inside of the church, have had the picture restored and attended to the floor tiles. In the last couple of years a new state of the art lighting and sound system have also been added.
Taken by local photographer Ian Wylie, this lovely photograph shows our church from the river, as royal rowbarge Gloriana leads the Tudor Pull
(in 2013) from Hampton Court to the Tower of London.
Information on the Duke of Devonshire came from the
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
What connects Dylan Thomas, John Le Carre, Zadie Smith, Inspector Morse, Sylvia Plath, Stephen Hawking and Kenneth Grahame? Our vicarage! Now occupied by our vicar, it has seen many famous faces pass through its doors. Perhaps the most bohemian is the poet Dylan Thomas, whose works include the poem Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, and the play Under Milkwood. He lived at St Paul’s Vicarage during the early 1940’s with his wife Caitlin Macnamara (whom he had married in 1937). The ground floor of the vicarage was converted into a bed-sit at that time.
A letter below from Dylan Thomas to the poet and literary editor John Bayliss, confirms that he was living there; it is published in Dylan Thomas: Collected Letters. However, the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society think that the sugested date of 1944 is probably wrong, and it was more likely to have been written sometime between 1938 and 1941.
The literary theme continues...
Nowadays, the vicarage, garden and church continue to have artistic and celebrity connections, as they are frequently used as locations by TV and film companies.
The vicarage was used for the 2011 Cold War espionage film, Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy, based on the 1974 John Le Carre novel of the same name starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch.
And in 2014, both the vicarage and church garden were used extensively in the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
Below are some location shots, showing the film's director James Marsh instructing the actors in the garden.
The hit BBC drama Killing Eve was also filmed in the vicarage. It became the house of the enigmatic Aaron Peel, seen here when Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) visit him.
TV companies seem to favour the vicarage as a location for detective stories! Both Lewis, the spin off from the Inspector Morse series starting Kevin Whateley and Laurence Fox, and Grantchester, the ITV detective drama starring James Norton and Robson Green, have been filmed here. And excitingly, the new series of Endeavour, the hugely popular prequel to the Inspector Morse stories, will be filmed in the vicarage during 2021!
The 2002 Channel 4 series White Teeth, based on the novel by Zadie Smith and starring Om Puri, Naomie Jones, Robert Bathhurst and James McAvoy, was also filmed in the vicarage.
In July 2015, the BBC screened their moving drama about the 7/7 bombings, A Song for Jenny starring Emily Watson, which used both the vicarage and church.
Other films filmed at St Paul's include Sylvia (2003), about the life of Sylvia Plath, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig, and True Blue (1996) about the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race.
Another BBC film, Best Possible Taste: The life of Kenny Everett, used the vicarage for some of the the interior shots.
Coming up in 2021, the vicarage will be used for location shots in a forthcoming biopic, Banking on Mr Toad. Starring Brian Blessed, Sally Phillips, Alexander Armstrong and Toby Kebbell; this is about the writer Kenneth Grahame and the birth of his much beloved children’s classic The Wind In The Willows.
The vicarage is also sometimes used by companies filming commercials. Recent clients have included a credit score company and a furniture showroom!
Rev'd Michael Riley
St Paul's Church
64 Grove Park Road
London W4 3SB
020 8994 4387
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