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Church of St Paul, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Description: Church of St Paul

Grade: II
Date Listed: 7 June 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 168155

OS Grid Reference: TQ5666439217
OS Grid Coordinates: 556664, 139217
Latitude/Longitude: 51.1308, 0.2376

Location: Nevill Ridge, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8XD

Locality: Royal Tunbridge Wells
Local Authority: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
County: Kent
Country: England
Postcode: TN4 8XD

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Listing Text


1849-50 by H I Stevens of Derby. N aisle added 1864-5 by Stevens and Robinson. W narthex-porch added 1913.

MATERIALS: Local sandstone ashlar. Clay tile roofs

PLAN: Nave, chancel, crossing tower, N aisle. N porch, N and S transepts, N vestries.

EXTERIOR: St Paul is built in a severe early C13 style and shows the shift that took place in the 1840s towards a serious archaeological approach in the use of Gothic for churches. The core of the building is an unaisled cruciform structure of 1849-50. This has a six-bay nave in which the bays are divided by buttresses with offsets. Each bay contains a slender lancet window, without cusping. The crossing tower has three stages, the upper (belfry) one has four narrow, equal-height lancets. The top of the tower terminates in a plain parapet. At the NE corner there is a polygonal stair turret rising to the base of the belfry stage. The W end of the nave has a large five-light window with an inventive mixture of vertical mullions and intersecting tracery. Across the W end of the nave is a narthex-porch added in 1913 with a N-S gabled roof, a N and W entrance, the latter being richly moulded and having a tall gable over it. The N aisle, added in the 1860s, has its own gable and is almost as large as the nave. It has a three-light Geometrical W window and N windows of single and paired lancets. The E end terminates in a window with three graded lancets.

INTERIOR: The severe external architecture is continued inside. The walls are of bare sandstone ashlar and the S wall of the nave has a rather remarkable display of deep window reveals that are extended to the ground and have cusped heads framing the tops of the windows. The dominant feature is the N arcade dating from the 1860s extension separating the nave and added N aisle. It has short, dark marble quatrefoil piers on high moulded bases and a series of varied foliage capitals. The arches have multiple mouldings. The roof over the nave is steeply pitched and has a collar to the main trusses. Over the crossing there is an impressive roof with intersecting diagonals and a raised centre portion.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: A significant collection of fixtures remain from the original building. The font is of 1850 and has a foliated octagonal bowl with angle shafts and a moulded circular base. The pulpit has open sides, Gothic canopies and marble shafts at the corners. The pews are largely intact and have shaped and moulded ends. The most ornate item is the elaborately canopied reredos of 1869 designed by John Norton and carved by 'Mr. Farmer of Westminster Road' - probably by William Farmer of what would become the famous firm of carvers Farmer and Brindley: the central portion depicts the Supper at Emmaus with the side panels showing the Road to Calvary and the Entombment. There is extensive stained glass including the E window by Ward and Hughes.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the W of the church are the former schools, with multiple gables and Gothic windows, now converted to domestic accommodation. N of the church, on the boundary between the churchyard and the road is a magnificently stern, tall war memorial cross by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott bearing the names of the fallen in the First World War and constructed of Hollington stone.

HISTORY: St Paul's was built on the edge of a common on a site which was part of the Nevill Park estate, begun in 1833 by the earl of Abergavenny. The choice of an architect from Derbyshire is an unusual but the explanation may lie in the fact that H I Stevens was already building Fordcombe church a few miles to the W. Here the finance was provided by Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge (governor-general of India from 1844 and who returned home in 1848). The Hardinge family may well have been familiar with Stevens as they had a seat at King's Newton in Derbyshire. Another possible link is that Stevens' brother, Nehemiah Edward, practised as a minor architect in Tunbridge Wells and is said (Newman) to have been involved (in an unspecified way) with work at St Paul's: however, original evidence for this is lacking (Copus).

Henry Isaac Stevens (1806-73) enjoyed a long and prolific career between the mid-1830s and his death. Much but by no means all of his work was ecclesiastical
and was concentrated in the East Midlands. He began practice in 1834, and from 1859 was in partnership with F J Robinson (1833 or '34-92).

Geoffrey Copus, St Paul¿s Parish Church Rusthall 1850-2000, 2000.
Roger Homan, The Victorian Churches of Kent, 1984, p63.
John Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, 1980, p314.

The church of St Paul is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is a building of special interest as a good example of an Early English Gothic Revival church showing a good understanding of medieval architecture and its application to the design of an early Victorian Anglican church.
* It has a fine extension of the 1860s to meet increasing accommodation needs.
* It retains a largely complete ensemble of C19 fixtures.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.