This description of St Mary's Church is extracted from the TACS Gazetteer of British Tile and Architectural Ceramics Locations, due to be published by Richard Dennis Publications in 2005.
St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Place, is a superb medieval church which also offers an insight into early Victorian encaustic tile design, with pavements by major manufacturers Minton, Godwin and Maw, and the bonus of a reredos featuring Powell’s glass tiles and opus sectile work. Tiles cover almost the whole floor area, those in the expansive nave being Minton’s (although the font dais tiling is by Godwin’s). This grid-patterned pavement - overlooked by hovering timber angels in a roof of contrasting complexity - dates from 1864. At the junction with the choir is a broad strip of elaborate and colourful tiling, while the chancel and sanctuary (Godwin’s, c1868) have a wide variety of designs including symbols of St Mary and the four evangelists. To the south is the Trinity Chapel, its rebuilding completed in 1888. The floor tiles are by Maw while the reredos, with two delicate blue angels in opus sectile work and much subtly-patterned red glass tiling, was designed by Powell’s of Whitefriars and installed in 1908.
There is still more: the most unusual pavement in the church is that of St Catherine’s Chapel, north of the choir. This tiny area - which also functions as a foyer for the well-hidden café to the rear - has an excellent display of Minton tiling laid during the 1840s (relaid 1865), including many of the designs from the Earliest Pattern Book which pre-dated the 1842 Catalogue. One of the most delightful is the horseman copied from the medieval tiles of the Westminster Abbey Chapter House floor. St Mary’s Church has been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust since 1987, and the entire floor of their ’cathedral’ was cleaned and restored in 1998; this involved the replacement of around 120 tiles with copies produced by H. & R. Johnson’s.
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