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Interior of St Peter's Church, Staines, by George Halford Fellowes Prynne, FRIBA (1853-1927). 1894. Grade II listed building. The rich red brick is set off, as it is on the exterior, by stone dressings, and further enriched here by polychromy around the high stone arches. Majestic in its height and composititon, Prynne's triple-arched stone rood screen frames the beautiful east windows perfectly. It stretches across the whole chancel, springing from the wall on each side and rising right to the top of the chancel arch (see Nairn and Pevsner, 462). Prynne himself saw this "constructional Rood screen" as "one of the main features of the church" (qtd. in Taylor, Souvenir 12).
Left: Closer view of the figures at the top of the Rood Screen. The crucifixion scene, with Mary to the left and St John to the right, flanked by two angels. Right: Looking throughthe slender pillars of the rood screen towards the west.
The upper part of the screen was carved out of single piece of stone, with Prynne's design carried out by John Edward Taylerson (c.1855-1942) of Lavender Hill (Taylor, Souvenir, 12). Prynne himself described it as "enriched with tracery," explaining: "The central figure and Rood are designed to be cut out of the solid stonework of the tracery, the side figures are placed on corbels formed in the panels of the tracery" (qtd. in Taylor, Souvenir, 12). The whole is delicately carved with the trefoils in the spandrels of the arch echoed in the more open tracery at the top of all three supporting arches. Far from obscuring the chancel, the whole composition not only frames but emphasizes it. The central pillars are slender, and rise from a metal grille on a low, more chastely-carved stone wall, opening in the middle. The view westward is open and impressive too.
Left to right: (a) The pulpit, at the left of the nave next to the chancel arch. (b) The altar, with its carved wooden front. (c) The sedilia, set in the south wall of the chancel.
Besides the screen, the most elaborate fitting is the pulpit, with its stone base, alternating pink and green marble pillars, fine stone-carving and brass fretwork. It is not the original one, which was a simpler wood and rail structure, but it dates from quite soon afterwards, in 1896. It was the gift of Mr and Mrs John White. The wooden altar was there from the beginning. It was described in the Illustrated Church News of 4 August 1894, in an account based on what Prynne himself had said, as being "of very elaborate design and highly decorated in gold colours" (qtd in Sharville, "St Peter"). This was presented to the church by the founder's wife, Lady Clarke. The sedilia to the right of the altar are also intricately carved. A whole team of artisans were employed here: shortly before the church was completed, Sir Edward Clarke invited all the workmen to lunch at a local hostelry. Among them were seven carpenters, a woodcarver and three stonemasons (see Taylor, Souvenir, 10).
Left to right: (a) The finely carved Gothic font cover. (b) The organ to the north of the chancel. (c) The brass lectern.
The font cover and organ were both the gifts of Sir Edward Clarke, in 1896 and 1897 respectively (see Taylor, Centenary, 13). The organ had to be rebuilt in 1958, but presumably not the carved case. The brass lectern dates from 1910 (see Taylor, Souvenir, 13). Prynne's name does not appear among the members of the Art Workers' Guild, which was active at this time, but he seems to have been responsible for most if not all of the design work at St Peter's, including the Lych Gate of 1908. Sir Edward wrote in Prynne's obituary of his "untiring diligence in supervising every detail of the work," adding that "even the dossal and frontal and the sanctuary kneelers and cushions were designed by him" (qtd. in Sharville, "A Brief Biography").
The ashes of Sir Edward Clarke and his wife are buried under the chancel. This picture shows where Sir Edward's were buried, after his cremation at Woking. Tickets had to be issued for his funeral service.
Thanks to the generosity of the founder, whose ashes are buried under the chancel, Prynne was not working under the financial constraints here that he worked under elsewhere. and the result was much to his liking. At a reception after the consecration he stated "that he had never been more satisfied with the building, work, sculpture, or anything else connected with a place designed by him" (Taylor, Souvenir, 12). St Peter's is especially notable for what is "probably his masterpiece of a stone screen" (Sharville, "Screens"), and, as mentioned when discussing the exterior, for the windows designed by his brother, the artist Edward Arthur Prynne. It is also, arguably, his masterwork as an architect.
Clarke, Sir Edward. "Sir Edward Clarke, K.C., A Self Portrait" (Obituary). The Times. Monday 27 April 1931: 17. Times Digital Archive. Web. 17 October 2013.
"Deaths." Times. 29 April 1931: 17. Times Digital Archive. Web. 17 October 2013.
Nairn, Ian, and Nikolaus Pevsner. The Buildings of England: Surrey. 2nd ed. London: Penguin, 1971.
Sharville, Ruth. "George Fellowes Prynne: A Brief Biography." sharville.org.uk. Web. 17 October 2013.
_____. "George Fellowes Prynne: Screens." sharville.org.uk. Web. 17 October 2013.
_____. "George Fellowes Prynne: Staines, Middlesex: St Peter." sharville.org.uk. Web. 17 October 2013.
Taylor, John M. Centenary Souvenir: St Peter's Church, Staines. Shepperton: Ian Allan, 1973 (brochure available at the church). Print.
_____. Souvenir of the 75th Anniversary of St Peter's Church, Laleham Road, Staines. Shepperton: Ian Allan, 1969 (brochure available at the church). Print.
Last modified 17 October 2013