Croydon Episcopal Area
Details of the Church
Sir Herbert Baker
Although the church was only built in 1933, the massive stonework and flint-faced walls give the impression that it is much older. The architect was Sir Herbert Baker. The foundation stone on the outside west wall of the tower declares the church to be a memorial to the first Lord Inchcape, chairman of the P & O Steam Navigation Company. Inside the church on the north wall a wooden plaque commemorates Alexander Shaw, the 2nd Lord Craigmyle, son-in-law to Lord Inchcape. Lord Craigmyle, who lived in Woldingham and was a churchwarden, gave the building as a memorial to his father-in-law. Around the outside of the tower run the words of the Benedicite, “Praise Him and magnify Him for ever”. One of the chief glories of the church is its stained glass windows, which are always yielding something fresh to the gaze. The east and west windows are the work of Dr Douglas Strachan, who designed the great east window at Winchelsea parish church and those in the nave are by H Hendrie who also designed the three medallions in the windows of the chancel.
Round the font runs an anagram which in the Greek lettering reads the same either way, “Wash my sins, not only my face”. In the dome above in gold letters are two lines from a long Latin poem by the 12th century poet Bernard of Morlaix, which included the original of our hymn “Jerusalem the Golden”. Translated, these lines read: “Who then are they that shall enjoy the peace which is above all other? Even all such as are pure, such as are gentle in spirit, steadfast in the right way, holy in word”.
The three Baptistry windows are the work of Dr. Strachan. They show the baptism of Jesus in the centre. Note the two angels holding the crown of thorns and the crown of glory, surmounted by the Dove. On the left the wise men and shepherds visit the infant Christ. On the right Jesus blesses the children, one of whom holds a ball. In contrast with the Lord’s welcome we see the disapproving disciples and in the distance what seems to be the Holy Family fleeing from the disapproval of Herod.
There are nine windows on the north and south walls of the church, three sets of three. These are the work of H Hendrie. From east to west on the south wall we have Goodness, Truth and Beauty. The Goodness window shows us Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and Peter, the disciple who “made good”. In the panel, Mary, the good woman who brings the Divine Goodness into the world, is shown. The Truth window has the wise men, representing human Wisdom, offering their treasures to the infant Christ, God’s Truth incarnate. In the panel above we see the flight into Egypt, warning us that men often reject God’s Truth, thinking they know better. The Beauty window shows us St. Margaret of Scotland, and the figure of Hope, manacled but with eyes looking up to the light, and in the panel above Christ in glory.
The second trio depicts Faith, Hope and Charity. The last one on the south wall is the Faith window in which Jesus rewards the persevering faith of the Canaanite woman, while above Paul and Barnabas heal the lame man at Lystra. On the north wall at the west end is the Hope window. We see beneath the rainbow, the symbol of hope, King David, the psalmist, harp in hand, singing “Blessed is he whose hope is in the Lord his God”, and St. Paul with quill poised and ink-horn at his waist, writing “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing”. Above, Christ rises from the tomb, the source of Christian hope. Next, the Charity window shows us Dorcas, spinning her thread to make clothes for the poor, and Lydia, who gave hospitality to Paul, dipping her cloth in the purple dye. Above, St. Paul writes “the greatest of these is charity”.
The third trio is inspired by the three virtues in the Craigmyle arms, Misericordia (pity), Fidelitas (faithfulness) and Jus (justice). For Misericordia we have Christ healing the blind and the disciple giving the cup of cold water, and above, Christ preaching good tidings to the poor. Fidelitas gives us St. John with pilgrim’s staff faithfully following his Master, St. Paul holding the sword of martyrdom, and above, Jesus on the cross with Mary and John close beside him. The Jus window has the blindfolded figure of Justice with sword and scales, and, charmingly, Christ tipping the scales in Mary Magdalen’s favour by throwing in his crown of thorns. Above is the Last Judgement.
The very fine but small organ was built by Harrison of Durham with a carefully balanced choice of stops to suit the size of the building.
Hendrie was also responsible for the three medallions in the windows of the chancel, the arms of Bombay on the north side, and on the south the arms of Burma and the arms of Scotland, where Lord Craigmyle had an estate.
On the rounded wall of the sanctuary agates from India glint, showing up the white stone lettering of the angels’ song. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace”. In the stone roof above is the chalice in gold and the early Christian monograms in Greek letters for “Jesus Christ”. The massive altar has a block of solid oak to support its top.
The five windows above the altar like those in the Baptistry are the work of Dr. Strachan. They recall the Church’s association with a great shipping company. They show the ship in the service of the Gospel and reflect the varying moods of the sea. In the centre window, Christ walks on the water in the eerie moonlight and reassures his disciples with the words, “Be of good cheer, it is I. Be not afraid”. On the extreme left Henry the Navigator, Prince of Portugal, whose ships explored the west coast of Africa, peers through the darkness, lantern in hand. On the plaque on the wall below we see the pilot’s wheel, the stars of navigation and the pillared crosses which the explorers set tip on the African promontories. Next is St. Augustine, coming with the sunrise to the coast of Kent, and on the plaque below the arms of the see of Canterbury. The window to the right of the centre shows St. Aidan, arriving from Iona in a shower with a rainbow in the sky, to evangelise the north of England. On the extreme right St. Francis Xavier is shown holding up his crucifix in the full glare of the oriental sun, with an Indian temple in the background. The two plaques beneath have Aidan’s symbol of the stag, and for Francis, the Bible and the Cross with the lotus of India and the chrysanthemum of Japan.