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St Nicholas's (part two)
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St Nicholas's (part two)The church we see today largely dates from a rebuilding of 1697 by Charley Stanton. It is of red brick with stone dressings. The exception is the tower of Kentish ragstone, which has survived from the late Middle Ages. Its upper part was rebuilt by George Parker in 1903-4. The church was bombed and gutted in the Blitz. Restoration by Thomas F Ford and Partners was completed in 1958. Charley Stanton was also reponsible for the rebuilding of St Mary Magdalen's, Bermondsey. The plans of the two churches are similar. In this case, Stanton provided a nave of four bays, divided from wide aisles by Tuscan arcades. A crossing was provided in the second bay from the west by turning the entablatures towards the north and south walls, and although the transepts thus created do not project beyond the aisles, they are given much emphasis externally, as at Bermondsey. The big Dutch gable familiar from many pictures of the south side of the church is considered old-fashioned for a building of 1697. Within the church, there is a groined vault over the crossing. The nave and transepts have elliptical vaults. The east end formerly had a shallow chancel, but after the war the east bay of the nave was screened off, making the remainder square and symmetrical. At one time there were galleries to north, south and west, as at Bermondsey, but the galleries over the aisles were removed long ago and the west one (with its original organ case) was ruined in the bombing. The present arrangements are postwar.

St Nicholas's (part two)

The view towards the reredos, a furnishing which is closely comparable to those in Wren's City churches.

The 17th-century fittings were rescued from the wartime ruins. The pulpit is Jacobean (with fine carving on its panels and a fine staircase), but the other fittings are contemporary with the building of the church. The reredos and its associated panelling were formerly placed against the three walls of the original chancel, but now they are flattened out, so to speak, against the present east wall. The reredos incorporates paintings of Moses and Aaron, and carved figures of St John the Evangelist and a prophet, perhaps Isaiah. The ensemble is closely comparable with work in Wren's City churches. To the right there is a carving of Ezekiel's vision, which was once placed over the entrance to the Charnel House in the churchyard. This carving and the reredos have been ascribed to Grinling Gibbons, who lived in Deptford, but it is generally thought unlikely that he carved them. The communion table and chairs are 17th-century but new to the church in the postwar restoration. To the left of the reredos there is a copy of Kneller's picture of Queen Anne, which had been intended for St Paul's, Deptford, upon its opening in 1730. King William Ill's arms were replaced in 1958.

St Nicholas's (part two)

Down to the 19th century it was usual to see the Commandments inscribed on the altarpiece, and for the latter to incorporate paintings of Moses and Aaron (seen here).

The naval memorials once led to the church's being called 'the Westminster Abbey of the Navy'. Some were destroyed in the Second World War, but a good selection survives. On the north wall there is a memorial to Peter Pert (died 1652), who is credited with the introduction of the frigate and was the nephew of Phineas Pert, who designed the Sovereign of the Seas (1637). On the opposite wall another memorial commemorates Jonas Shish (died 1680), equally eminent as a shipbuilder. An earlier memorial that has often been remarked commemorates Roger Boyle and Edward Fenton. Boyle was a schoolboy and the eldest son of the first Earl of Cork, who died when he was at school at Deptford. His younger brothers included the first Earl of Burlington and Robert Boyle, the physicist. Edward Fenton was the uncle of the Earl of Cork's wife. He was an Elizabethan naval commander who sailed with Frobisher and who commanded the Mary Rose against the Armada (not the same Mary Rose that is at Portsmouth). He died in 1603. The joint memorial dates from after 1620 and was designed by Epiphanius Evesham. Near the attar there is a stone to John Benbow, the son of the admiral who lodged at Sayes Court. One memorial remains of a group that once recalled members of John Evelyn's family. It commemorates his children, Richard and Elizabeth.

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