Friday, 14 July 2017

Portsmouth Interiors

While I'm preparing some more complicated thoughts, here are two nice church interiors for you, from my day out in Portsmouth yesterday. Of course the most startling church in the city is Fr Dolling's St Agatha's, now a parish of the Ordinariate, but these are also very pleasing.

The last time I visited Portsmouth Cathedral it hadn't been finished. It is of course an overgrown parish church bumped up to cathedral status in 1927. Now it has a pair of stumpy towers at the west end of its nave, an effect which looks more Rhenish than English. Inside, despite its small size, it's divided into very distinct areas which give a variety of interesting vistas. The most beautiful space is around the high altar. The tester hanging over the (rather tiny) stone table is sort of sub-Ninian Comper (Comper would have designed something far more, well, commanding). The crown-shaped hanging pyx glints in the light, while the bare iron cross and candlesticks are precisely right. Even the cut-out coloured feet (not a permanent part of the design) add something helpful: they look like a splash of multicoloured light filtering from windows which aren't actually there.

I walked over the memorial slab to Bishop Kenneth Stevenson; the day before moving me in to Swanvale Halt rectory, the removal men had shifted Bishop Stevenson out of the Bishop's Palace in Portsmouth. 'He had a lot of books', they said, with some ruefulness.

Later on I found myself at St George's, Portsea, an 18th-century church in a square, now surrounded by post-War (and in fact mainly post-1960s) flats and houses. Of course I rather like my churches full of statues and candles, but the gentle simplicity of this space, with its colouring of soft pink and mint green, punctuated by the old cross and candlesticks against the east wall, the altar table, and the candle in front of the Blessed Sacrament off to the left, is welcoming and calm. They worship in the round here, which again is not my inclination, but it seems appropriate to the space. 

(photo from the church website)


  1. Did you notice that Portsmouth Cathedral organ looks like a cartoon monkey? Google images of it to see...

  2. One of my photos has the organ in the background and - yes! Someone had a sense of humour.