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St Cyprian's, Clarence Gate
St Cyprian's church, Clarence Gate - geograph.org.uk - 2415240.jpg
The exterior of St Cyprian's church
51°31′28″N 00°09′36″W / 51.52444°N 0.16000°W / 51.52444; -0.16000Coordinates: 51°31′28″N 00°09′36″W / 51.52444°N 0.16000°W / 51.52444; -0.16000
Location Glentworth Street, Regent's Park, London NW1 6AX
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Anglo-Catholic
Architecture
Heritage designation Grade II* listed
Architect(s) Ninian Comper
Style Gothic Revival
Years built 1901–03
Administration
Parish St Cyprian, Marylebone
Deanery Westminster Marylebone
Archdeaconry Charing Cross
Diocese Diocese of London

St Cyprian's Church is a parish church of the Church of England in the Marylebone district of London. The church was consecrated in 1903, but the parish was founded in 1866. It is dedicated to Cyprian, a third-century martyr and bishop of Carthage and is near the Clarence Gate Gardens entrance to Regent's Park, just off Baker Street. The church is a Grade II* listed building.

The first church

The parish was formed due to the efforts of the noted 'slum priest' Father Charles Gutch, who after curacies at St Matthias', Stoke Newington, St Paul's, Knightsbridge, and All Saints, Margaret Street was anxious to be appointed to a church of his own in London. Gutch's campaigning Anglo Catholic views and strong mission to the poor led him to propose a mission church in the deprived and dilapidated northeastern corner of Marylebone, which would require a portion of the parishes of St Marylebone and St Paul, Rossmore Road to be handed over. However, neither the Rector of St Marylebone nor the Vicar of St Paul's approved of the Anglo Catholic churchmanship of Fr Gutch.

Gutch proposed to dedicate the mission to St Cyprian of Carthage, explaining:

"I was especially struck by his tender loving care for his people, the considerateness with which he treated them, explaining to them why he did this or that, leading them on, not driving them. And I said, 'If only I can copy him, and in my poor way do as he did, I too may be able to keep my little flock in the right path, the road which leads to God and Heaven'."

Only a few weeks before the mission was due to be opened Dr Tait, the Bishop of London, protested, claiming that the dedication would be against his and his predecessor's rules, and proposed the parish be named after one of the twelve Apostles instead. Fr Gutch pointed out that a number of other churches in the Diocese had recently been dedicated to non-Apostle saints, and dedication to St Cyprian was allowed to proceed. Though designed by the celebrated church architect George Edmund Street, St Cyprian's mission church was a low-budget affair, made by converting two houses and a barn, quite unlike Street's grander designs. The first Eucharist was celebrated on 29 March 1866. Over the next thirty years, St Cyprian Mission Church flourished, but the building could only hold 180 and became overcrowded. However, the 1st Viscount Portman was ground landlord and refused to make available a site for a larger replacement church, as he too did not like Gutch's churchmanship. Gutch died in 1896, with his vision of a permanent church unrealised.

Present church

The Bishop of London, Mandell Creighton, appointed the Reverend George Forbes, of St Paul's Church in Truro, Cornwall, as Gutch's successor. Forbes argued that a new permanent church was urgently required, and in 1901, the 2nd Lord Portman agreed to sell a site for £1000, well below its market value, provided that it could be demonstrated that sufficient funds were available to build the church and be ready for consecration by 1 June 1904. This coincided with the clearance of old and insanitary houses and the construction of middle class 'mansion flats' adjacent to the church on a new lease from the Portman estate. The new church was completed with almost a year to spare, and was dedicated to the glory of God and the memory of Charles Gutch by the new Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington-Ingram.

When consecrated in 1904 the church interior was sparsely decorated, although the altars were complete. The steady completion of interior decoration and fittings continued until the 1940s as funds allowed but the organ case and west gallery remain incomplete, as do minor elements of carved stone ornament.

Architecture

The present church was designed by Sir Ninian Comper in a Perpendicular Gothic style. Commissioned from the architect in 1899, it was constructed between 1901 and 1903, the first entirely new church completed by Comper.

It is of red brick with stone dressings and has a nave with clerestory and two aisles. There is no tower, but a small bellcote on Chagford Street. The architect's model for the design was the 'wool churches' of East Anglia as championed at the time as a model for Anglo-Catholics by the Alcuin Club. It features large Perpendicular windows but the stained glass, also designed by Comper, is purposely confined to the East end.

St Cyprian's was designed to reflect Comper's emphasis on the Eucharist and the influence on him of the Oxford Movement, and he said his church was to resemble "a lantern, and the altar is the flame within it". Therefore, the interior features plain whitened walls in the nave, to emphasise the contrasting richness of gilded furnishings in the sanctuary. The sanctuary fittings include a delicate carved and painted rood screen and parclose screens around an 'English Altar' i.e. altar surrounded on three sides by hangings and a painted dossal, riddel posts with angels and a painted and gilded reredos; this was the kind of altar that the Alcuin Club favoured and Comper used in his early churches. At St Cyprian's the altar is set beneath a tester placed high up in the roof. Above the rood screen is a suspended rood.

The timber hammerbeam roof features tie beam trusses with panelled tracery spandrels. Comper's stated aim was "to fulfil the ideal of the English Parish Church ... in the last manner of English Architecture". A stone font with gilded classical font cover dating from the 1930s greets the visitor at the West end, and demonstrates Comper's enjoyment, later in his career, of mixing classical and gothic features, a design strategy he called 'Unity by Inclusion.'

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