On the 1868 map (shown on the right) Trinity Church is clearly marked with a large churchyard, school building and a driveway that opened out onto Trinity Street. I have highlighted it in green for ease of identification. It was flanked by residential areas on three sides and by Acorn Yard on its other. In the Downtown area of Rotherhithe, it served a newly expanding area of residential, as well as commercial development.
Today Trinity Street is the part of Rotherhithe Street that forms the right turn off Salter Road. You can see its exact position on Streetmaps here. The Trinity churchyard stood in the corner where Salter Road and Rotherhithe Street now meet. The entrance is close to the Surrey Dock Farm, on the left as you proceed from the postbox on the corner of Salter Road towards the Farm, where today a modern Holy Trinity Church stands.
The former churchyard now ends behind the new church and is shared by the the original 1836 school building. The modern residential Church Court seems to be built on the site of a former complex of buildings that were not associated with the churchyard (shown to the bottom left of the green-highlighted area on the above map).
|From the The British Critic Quarterly Theological Review |
and Ecclesiastical Record (Volume 28, 1840)
The design, by Sampson Kempthorne, is Victorian Gothic Revival, a popular style for its day. Kempthorne specialized in designing workhouses, for which he was very highly regarded, but he designed a number of churches including Trinity and another Gothic Revival Rotherhithe Church, All Saints (which was consecrated in 1839).
The Reverend Beck, who provided quite detailed listings of some of the clergy in the area, says that the first rector of Trinity was Reverend William Hutchinson M.A. from All Souls College, Oxford, and that he was the incumbent from 1839 to 1850. He moved on to serve in other parishes. Between 1851 and 1859 the incumbent was he Reverend J.R. Turing, M.A. of Trinity College, Cambridge. According to Beck, he was "much liked by his parishioners" and produced a printed volume of six of his sermons, one of which was delivered on the 21st anniversary of the dedication of Trinity Church. He was succeeded by the Reverend James Wilson M.A. of Emmanuel College, Cambridge "and here he was devoted to the work of the schools and of the parish for 29 years, till his health and his voice completely failed, and he was constrained to reign his charge, to the great regret of his parishioners and friends." His successor, Reverend Henry Horne Selby-Hele was vicar of Trinity until 1900, when he swapped positions with Reverend W.D. Weeting, M.A. who held the position until 1905. He was in turn succeeded by Reverend H.R.P. Tringham M.A..
Beck also says that the three new churches established by Edward Blick cost, in total, £13,525, and that Trinity itself was provided with a £150 a year endowment.
"The church consists of a shallow sanctuary recess and a wide barn-like nave with vestibules and a tower at the west. The nave is lit by large lancet windows and the whole church is meanly designed in 13th-century style. The tower has an embattled parapet."
Edward Walford, in his series of publications Old and New London, covered Rotherhithe in Volume VI, "The Southern Suburbs" but his brief survey of the area only has the following to say on the subject:
"Holy Trinity Church, in the eastern part of the parish, is a spacious edifice, in the Pointed style, capable of accommodating 1,000 persons. this church was consecrated in 1839."
The term "Pointed" refers to the pointed arches and doorways of the Gothic tradition.
"These churches have so little pretension, and have so evidently been subjected to the economizing process, that we would rather pass them sub silentio but that something in the way of comment is looked for. . . . each are designed to hold 1000 persons, cost about 3400/. and are arranged for one-third pews, one-third sittings at a low rate for the middling classes, and one-third free seats. Both of these churches have steeples, which we think, under such circumstances, an error in judgement: and these steeples rise out of the body instead of being projected from the front" (p.496).
"It only positively offends when it ceases to be plain. The corner buttresses, surmounted by weathered canopies rising above the parapet seem more fortuitous appendages. the break in the line of the east wall spoils what little symmetry there is in such a building, and only suggests the idea of a nave, and aisles enough to remind us that there are none" (p.497).
|Trinity Church. From the Diocese of Southwark |
The illustrations suggest that the tower was designed to hold a bell, although it seems unlikely that it ever had one, as I have seen no mention of it and apparently no remains of it are found after the church was bombed in the war.
The Victorian attraction to the Gothic style, which expressed itself in the form of Gothic Revival (also known as neo-Gothic and Victorian Gothic), was inspired by the sense that Christianity in its purest and most beautiful form emerged the Medieval period. The often richly decorative and flamboyant architectural motifs of Gothic architecture and decorative art also appealed to to the Romantic movement, and these ideas were combined in the form of art, architecture and craft. The architectural results are found across Europe, expressed in the form of the extravagance of buildings like the Palace of Westminster and Cologne Cathedral to more modest versions that sprung up in small communities all over the Britain. In Britain, most of the more elaborate examples of Gothic Revival architecture are secular rather than religious, and much of the style in religious structures survives in the more modest form of relatively small provincial and suburban churches of very varying quality.
|Holy Trinity Church|
Apologies for the lack of an interior photograph. There is, however, a photograph of the interior and the mural on the Holy Trinity Church website (go to the "Local History" section, then go to the the very end of the page and click on the "See Inside The Church" link).
The Diocese of Southwark describes the church as follows:
"The church is of an orthodox plan on an east west axis, the sacristy being to the east. The main nave has simple aisles, there is a vestry, parish office and kitchen area to the east end and Lady Chapel with two entrances / exits, vestibules to the west end."
Surprisingly, I have been unable to find out anything useful about Thomas Ford (apart from the fact that he remodeled the interior of St John’s Church, Waterloo, ten years after it was bombed in 1940). I am grateful to Ed Aldred for the information that he was involved in maintaining, repairing and replacing various bomb-damaged churches in the Southwark area, and that he built Christ Church and St Stephen in Battersea (which has a number of recognizable elements in common with Holy Trinity). There's a colour photograph of it on the Geograph website here.
The mural painter Hans Feibusch (1898-1998) is still quite highly regarded and therefore well recorded. Feibusch was a German Jew who converted to Christianity when he escaped to England. A talented painter, he eventually specialized in murals, which are faintly Expressionist in style. He was a friend of Clough Williams-Ellis and was commissioned by him to paint a number of murals in Portmeirion. With Thomas Ford, he also contributed to the renovation of St John's Church at Waterloo. You can find out about him on Wikipedia and on the Holy Trinity site in the Local History section (click on the "The Mural" link under "Local History"). There's a slideshow of 51 of his paintings on the BBC website.
|Infant School, from within the churchyard|
The round plaque on the wall facing into Rotherhithe Street (under the central window in the photograph below) mentions two restored rope wells. These are not on display to the public because they are below the modern floors.