Tucked away on a side street near Marble Arch is a solidly built brick church from the outside, that’s a richly decorated church on the inside — the Annunciation Marble Arch.
Originally built as the Quebec Chapel in 1787 by Lord Portman, who owned a large amount of land in the area, the church was substantially rebuilt in the 1850s.
In 1894 the church site was bought by the parish from the Portman Estates, as part of a never carried out plan to buy up the entire block that the church stood on. They did though rebuild the church, again, in what’s commonly known as Edwardian Gothic, in that it resembles a gothic revival church, but built from brick rather than stone.
A series of flying buttresses line the northern side, more as a decorative feature though as by then building techniques no longer required the sideways support to hold the walls upright. What marks the church’s appearance from the outside is the absence of windows until you get up to the upper levels, creating a solid brick fortress of a building from the street level.
Inside though is a totally different affair.
A hint of something good can be found above the door with a richly carved stone lintel, but inside is almost gothic in appearance, with tall stone columns holding up the ceiling and Norman-style pointed arches at the rear.
Although Church of England, it’s Anglo-Catholic in worship, a 19th-century idea that merged some aspects of Anglican and Catholic practices.
Incongruously, there’s a medieval knight standing guard on one corner, a memorial to a victim of WW1, and more conventionally, there’s a decorative wooden rood screen in front of the main altar. The high altar reredos was designed by Tapper and executed by J.C. Bewsey, who also designed the stained glass.
Painted stations of the cross line the otherwise plain walls, and there’s a replica medieval bronze in the floor of the altar space. Do notice the lampidarium spanning the arch between the sanctuary and the Lady Chapel, which is from St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham and was designed by the gothic master, Augustus Pugin.
Nikolaus Pevsner referred to the church in his Buildings of England as “a fragment of a major medieval church”, and he’s totally right about that.
The church is very much worth popping in to have a look if in the area.