Sunday, July 17, 2016

Martin Travers' forgotten church: a fascinating story.

Living in Rome, surrounded by 17th century Baroque art, I had never really been touched by Martin Traver's work, in order not to be so dismissive about him I decided to do some research. I am not sure if I succeeded but I did find an interesting story that I am sure my readers will find interesting too.
If you read through R. Warraner and M. Yelton's Martin Travers you will find a section about the forgotten St. Saviour's Church Hoxton, designed by Victorian architect James Brooks and built in 1865/66. 

The history of St. Saviour's is a fun one, especially when Fr. Ernest Kilburn was appointed vicar on 26th October 1907, the Bishop of London had intervened to procure the living for the priest, after it was proposed by the Crown. Initially Fr. Kilburn seemed to be quite moderate in his views, and followed the English Use. However, he soon turned out to be a thorn in the side of the tolerant Bishop: by 1910 incense was being used in the church, by 1911 the main service was referred to as "Mass" and by the end of the First World War he had turned the church into a Roman Basilica replica. "Mass" was always said in Latin after 1919-20 and all the usual Roman devotions were observed. The evening service on a Sunday was regularly Vespers and Benediction. In 1917 the Bishop banned the parish after a particularly elaborate Corpus Christi procession. High Churchman Dom Anselm Hughes wrote a history of the Catholic Movement in the 20th century in which he sympathetically observes how occasionally an individual has made the mistake of moving too far ahead of the front line and so losing contact altogether. This is almost certainly true of E. E. Kilburn . . .' The problem facing the authorities was that Kilburn himself was a saintly figure, and the church was always full when others were not. Fr. D. A. Ross became vicar in 1927 and he had to promise that the service would have been in vernacular - though the church kept its papist practices. It housed the offices of the Confraternity for Unity, a movement for reunion with Rome, until 1929. In 1932 Travers returned to decorate the sanctuary with tiles. Tragically, the church was almost destroyed by an air raid in 1940 and since the area was rapidly being depopulated, it was never rebuilt. Sadly, all of Travers' exotic work was lost but we are left with a mighty fine photograph of the Dedication Festival of the church in May 1936.

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