The Church Interior
Explore All Saints Margaret Street with this interactive tour of the church.
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On the north wall of the tower is the tile frieze depicting the Ascension of Christ with a verse from Acts 1:11: "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner". It completes the collection of tiles designed by Butterfield whose narrative begins on the opposite wall with the prophets foretelling the Incarnation. Completed in 1891, this was the last section of tilework to be added by Butterfield.
Tucked away at the end of the south aisle behind the vestry gates is a window depicting Christ in Majesty flanked by St Augustine and St Edward the Martyr. It was designed by Michael O’Conno and executed by Alexander Gibbs, c. 1853.
The stained-glass window in the baptistery is The Adoration of the Lamb, designed c. 1857 by William Butterfield and executed by Arthur O'Connor. It depicts the Lamb of God flanked by worshippers. Below are the emblems of the Four Evangelists: an angel (Matthew), a winged lion (Mark), a winged bull (Luke) and an eagle (John).
Originally this window was located at the east end of the church but was boarded up when the organ was enlarged in 1910. In 1996 it was uncovered and relocated in the baptistery to fill the space once occupied by a window by Gérente that had been blown out in WWII. Some small portions had to be removed from the top and bottom to fit it into the new frame.
The ceiling is decorated with the Pelican in her Piety, a symbol of Christ shedding his blood.
The window at the end of the north aisle was designed by Henri Gerente (c.1853-59). Most of Gerente's windows in All Saints were later replaced by Butterfield and this is now his only surviving work here. It depicts the Old Testament prophets Enoch, Isiah and Malachi.
The great stained-glass window of 1877 at the west end was designed by Alexander Gibbs. It depicts the Tree of Jesse, inspired by the 14th-century Jesse Tree window at Wells Cathedral in Somerset. It replaced an earlier 1858 window designed by Alfred Gerente.
Below this is an 1899 tile panel designed by Butterfield and painted by Alexander Gibbs that depicts three Old Testament scenes: Moses lifting up the serpent (which symbolises the Crucifixion); Abraham offering his only son Isaac (as God gave his Son for our sins); and Melchizedek, priest of God.
Stained-glass window depicting two martyrs of the Early Church, St Catherine of Alexandria and St Alban, designed by Alexander Gibbs, 1860s.
On entering the church, one is met by a reverential gloom, invariably infused by drifting clouds of incense. As one’s eyes become accustomed to the subdued light, a kaleidoscope of coloured tiles, brick, painting and gilding emerges. On a sunny day, shards of light cut across the chancel, spot-lighting decoration on its walls, and creating a distinction between this area of the church and the darker recesses of the nave.
The All Saints site is entered through iron gates into a courtyard (used for post-service refreshments almost year-round, All Saints’ congregation being hardy people). Immediately opposite is the great buttress with its relief carving of the Annunciation.
To the right stands the vicarage, while on the left stands the old choir school which now houses:
- (Ground Floor) the Parish Room, in what used to be the choir schoool refectory, containing a Butterfield designed fireplace, his distinctive cast iron beams, and a series of panels representing Christ and the four Evangelists, and
- (Upper Floors) residential accommodation.
Soaring above the courtyard is the 227-feet spire – higher than the towers of Westminster Abbey.
All Saints is built of brick. The Ecclesiologists had originally extolled the virtues of rough stone walls, but were converted by the brick churches of Italy and North Germany. The pink brick chosen by Butterfield was actually more expensive than stone. The bold chequered patterning is most likely to have been based on English East Anglian tradition.
The baptistery, in the south-west corner, houses the font (1857-8), and the large paschal candlestick, a copy of one in the Certosa at Pavia, Italy.
In the ceiling resides 'the Pelican in its Piety', piercing her breast to feed her young - symbolic of the Fall and Redemption of man (the pelican was supposed to slay her rebellious offspring then revive them with her own blood).
Tiling plays an important part in the decoration of the nave. The vast tiled panels on the north wall were painted by Alexander Gibbs and manufactured by Henry Poole and Sons. They are rich with Biblical symbolism and depict a variety of important figures from the Bible and the Early Church.
Click on the image to take a closer look: