However remarkable St Martin's, Gospel Oak is today - the back story here - its original appearance was even more outlandish. The tower is now shorn of turret and steeples - largely the result of bomb damage. But this drawing of the original construction - from The Builder in 1866, and republished in the Camden History Society's excellent Streets of Gospel Oak - shows the church in its pristine glory. The brothers Grimm would have felt absolutely at home in late Victorian Gospel Oak.
And the original design is of more than antiquarian interest. The vicar, Chris Brice, tells me that Heritage Lottery Fund money will allow restoration of the tower's stone work - and the restitution of the missing spires (I'm not clear whether the turret will make a return, but no show - I suppose - without this remarkable ecclesiastical punch). The church is keen for any drawings which might give more detail of the original spires - if you know of any, do email the church or add a comment on this posting and I'll pass the information on
Here's the tower as it is today - bereft of late Gothic fancies. You can spot it from the Heath because of its narrow, incomplete, assymetrical appearance - and the St George's flag that flutters atop. A longstanding tradition which the parishioners are keen to cleave to, I'm told.
Parishioners were out in force yesterday evening, St Martin's Day, for the formal installation - technically, it's an institution and induction - of Chris Brice as vicar. He's been priest-in-charge for the past five years, so it was about time to regularise the arrangement.
The bishop was in attendance, replete with collapsible mitre (I always thought they were a bit more substantial) - and the patron - and amid much 'All Gas and Gaiters'-style flummery, which no one seemed to take especially seriously, the archdeacon (there was also a dean in attendance - I didn't refer to 'All Gas and Gaiters' lightly) led the new incumbent off to the (unused) main door, and placed the Rev's hand on the handle, declaring: "By virtue of this mandate, I do induct you into the real, actual and corporeal possession of this church and benefice."
All this happened out of view of a craning and slightly confused congregation - then, as if white smoke at St Peter's, the church bell began to toll. 'Habemus Papem', local C of E style. Chris Brice himself was pulling away at the bell rope 'to signify his taking possession of the Parish church'. Poor man!
And this, by clerical standards, is what's deemed to be low church. If all services were quite so enticing, I might attend more than once a decade.
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