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St Cyprian’s
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St Cyprian’s

St Cyprian’s owes its existence to a distinguished priest, Charles Gutch, who nevertheless died before it was built. He was an Anglo-Catholic pioneer, who settled in St Marylebone in 1866. He ran a highly successful parish for 30 years – a hero of the Victorian Church – and he ought to have been able to build a permanent church. Instead, he had to make do with two converted houses, because the local landowner, Viscount Portman, disliked Gutch’s High Churchmanship and declined to make a site available. After Gutch died, a site was reluctantly offered and so in 1902-3 a church was duly built. Ninian Comper was chosen to design it, and he produced an important Anglo-Catholic church in an East Anglian Perpendicular style, which he proceeded to fit out and adorn over several decades.

Why St Cyprian’s? The saint was a 3rd-century Bishop of Carthage, whose letters struck Charles Gutch as providing a model for his own ministry.

St Cyprian’s

The rood, with figures of the Virgin Mary and St John and two flanking angels, is a fine example of a type of furnishing revived in the Church of England in the early 20th century.

The Bishop of London preferred an Apostle, but it was pointed out that many recent churches had been named after saints other than Apostles. Gutch won the day and his parish kept its distinctive name.

St Cyprian’s

Comper’s late mediaeval interior in the East Anglian style focuses on the great rood screen stretching across the church, and on the high alter and the east window beyond.

The church is a plain towerless rectangle in red brick. It has seven-bay arcades without structural division. All the details are Perpendicular. The main east window has five transomed lights and the chancel chapels have four-light windows. The north aisle windows have simpler tracery than those on the south, which face Glentworth Street. The church concentrates its riches at the east end. A painted and gilded rood screen, which was completed in 1924, is the most striking fitting. It starts two bays from the east end and stretches across nave and aisles. There are 32 painted figures in its lower panels and a loft with elaborate coving. Above, there is a rood, with the Virgin Mary and St John, and two angles at the sides, all gilded. The tall font cover is also inspired by 15th-century East Anglian examples, but it does incorporate some Classical elements, too, for Comper increasingly mixed his styles; it is the one ornate fitting at the west end. This part of the church was not completed until 1930. The high alter is one of Comper’s “English altars”, surrounded by curtains, a dossal, and angles on top of riddle posts. A canopy of honour that he painted as late as 1948 hangs high above it. The alter has been splendidly restored quite recently. The stained glass shows Comper’s usual predominant blues and yellows. St Cyprian appears in the main east window. The oak pulpit, with linenfold panels and a tester, is in a later, Elizabethan, style.

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