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Description: Church of Holy Trinity
Date Listed: 14 July 1955
English Heritage Building ID: 204108
OS Grid Reference: TQ2916575361
OS Grid Coordinates: 529165, 175361
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4625, -0.1421
963/16/185 CLAPHAM COMMON NORTH SIDE SW4
14-JUL-55 CLAPHAM COMMON
CHURCH OF HOLY TRINITY
The church of Holy Trinity, Clapham, is located to the south of Clapham Common North Side. 1774-6 by Kenton Couse. West porch built in 1812 by Francis Hurlbatt. Apse replaced by chancel, with Lady Chapel to south and vestry and offices to north, 1902-3, by Beresford Pite. Restoration following damage suffered during Second World War. Further internal adaptations by Purcell, Miller, Tritton in 1991-4: the west end screened beneath the gallery, a central platform created, and the Lady Chapel converted into the William Wilberforce Centre.
EXTERIOR: Stock brick classical church with stone quoins, window surrounds and cornice. Hurlbatt's single-storey Doric porch across west end. Two storeys. Arched windows. West front of five bays, the central three bays contained within a pedimented projection at first-floor level. These three bays consist of a window flanked by two niches; the niches are echoed at ground-floor level by a pair of war memorials (First World War) in the form of arched stone wall-tablets. Low stone tower with octagonal, domed, belfry at west end. Return walls of six bays, with similar c.1902-3 extensions flanking the chancel: to south, the former Lady Chapel, to north, the vestry and offices. In each extension a door, and windows including a Venetian window, and a round window. The original east window of the church was re-used as the Venetian window in the south wall of the Lady Chapel. At the east end, the chancel projects from the extensions: a brick podium above which three arched windows are separated by four stone pilasters surmounted by a pediment in which is a cross. The elements of the upper part of the facade in three different stones. At the centre of the podium, a stone plaque reads 'To the Glory of God MCMII'.
INTERIOR: Galleries on three sides on fluted wooden Doric columns, reached by staircases to north and south. Coved ceiling with simple decorative plasterwork (restored 1981). Across the west end, a glazed screen of 1992. Panelled dado. At east end the 1776 reredos stands behind the high altar of the 1902-3 chancel. In north part of chancel, early-C20 organ by Alfred Hunter, a local organ-builder and one of the churchwardens of Holy Trinity. Stained glass of 1952 in east windows commemorates members of the Clapham Sect and their work. Monuments include wall tablet to Bishop John Jebb, d.1833, with medallion bust, by E. H. Baily; wall tablet to John Venn, d.1813; and at the east ends of the north and south galleries, a striking pair of wall tablets, each in the form of a column, one to John Castell, d. 1804, the other to John Thornton, d. 1790 (the monument erected 1816), by J. Bacon Jun. Original box pews replaced in 1875. Original benches remain, steeply banked, in galleries. Simple carved pulpit of 1776; originally three-decker, reduced by A. W. Blomfield. Communion table of 1776.
HISTORY: Built to replace the original parish church, St Paul's, in Rectory Grove, which had become inconvenient and ruinous. St Paul's was re-built c.1815, on the initiative of the Rector of Clapham, the Reverend John Venn, to relieve pressure on Holy Trinity, where he had taken to relaying his sermons to the overflowing congregation by means of a metal speaking tube.
In the 1790s Holy Trinity became much frequented by the group of evangelical Christians who later became known as the Clapham Sect; the contemporary term for them was 'Saints'. The group flourished in Clapham from 1792 to 1808, drawn to the area initially by the Thornton family - wealthy bankers, and cousins to the Wilberforces; John Thornton was a major contributor to the building of Holy Trinity. Henry Thornton, John's son, owned a large house called Battersea Rise, into which William Wilberforce moved in 1792. Others living in the area during this time included Zachary Macaulay and James Stephen; John Venn was rector of Clapham from 1792 until his death in 1813. Granville Sharp and Hannah More were regular visitors to Clapham, and are often associated with the group. The Claphamites were united by the commitment to 'practical Christianity' which underlay their social and political activities. Of these, the central shared passion was opposition to slavery; without the combined efforts and talents of the group the abolition bill would certainly not have been passed as early as 1807. The attempt to develop Sierra Leone as a colony for former slaves was a project supported in Clapham; members of the group were also involved in the formation of the Church Missionary Society (founded 1799) and the Bible Society (founded 1804), and were occupied with the 'reformation of manners' at home. Between 1799 and 1806 Clapham was home to the African Academy, set up by Macaulay and others to educate boys from Sierra Leone; the baptisms and burials of some of them are recorded in the parish registers of Holy Trinity. The Clapham Sect was a community of families as well as individuals, several families living in the same or adjacent houses, and domestic Christian commitment was a prominent aspect of their collective ethos. Property in the village of Clapham was expensive and desirable, and the anti-slavery campaigners also counted amongst their neighbours a number of merchants, shippers, and bankers with an interest in preserving the slave trade. Notable amongst these was George Hibbert, a West India Merchant and the foremost Parliamentary opponent of abolition. By 1808 key figures around whom the Clapham Sect had formed had begun to move from Clapham, although the church remained an evangelical centre.
In the C20 a stone plaque was erected on the south side of the church recording the names of several members of the group, who 'laboured so abundantly for national righteousness and the conversion of the heathen, and rested not until the curse of slavery was swept away from all parts of the British dominions.' A Greater London Council Blue Plaque of 1983 in the portico marks the connection with William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect: 'Their campaigning resulted in the abolition of slavery in the British Dominions 1833'.
Before the church to west, a Second World War memorial, in the form of a cross. The church stands at the northernmost edge of Clapham Common; to south-east, on the common, stands a drinking fountain of 1884, erected by the United Kingdom Temperence and General Provident Institution (moved from London Bridge in 1895) (q.v.). To west of church, nos 12-21 Clapham Common North Side is a listed terrace of c.1720.
B. Cherry and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 2: South (1983), 380; ed. Alyson Wilson, The Buildings of Clapham (2000); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Holy Trinity Clapham: a history and guide (2006); http://www.claphamcommon.org/
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The list entry for the church of Holy Trinity, Clapham, which is already designated at Grade II*, has been amended for the following principal reasons:
* Plain classical church of 1774-6, exemplifying the characteristics of the 'preaching box', with original galleries
* Original building by little-known architect Kenton Couse modified effectively in the C19 and early C20
* Strong connection with the Clapham Sect, a group active in campaigning for the abolition of the slave trade, adds to historical interest of building. This amendment is written in 2007, the bicentenary year of the 1807 Abolition Act.
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.