Every day (except Tuesday)8am Morning Prayer
Tuesday7.30am Morning Prayer8am Eurcharist
The Chapel of 1951, a simple brick-faced portal frame, and a monument to post-war austerity is important in the history of
English architecture, if only because it is the precursor of a much grander, important church nearby, St Paul’s Bow Common.
As first conceived, the plain plastered interior both acted as a foil to the exceptional fittings preserved from the mediaeval site, (mostly placed at the west end) and was the envelope for controversial radical furnishings in 1954 designed by Keith Murray.
The centrepiece of this was a free-standing slate altar, placed well forward on a platform, to allow the priest to face the congregation. It was engraved with lettering by Ralph Bayer, later to do distinguished work at Coventry Cathedral, and above it hung a skeletal spidery iron baldacchino.
In 2003-4 a more balanced, but less intense re-ordering was made by Jonathan Dinnewell, of Christopher Smallwood Architects, in which old and new were more decoratively integrated into a brighter and lighter interior.
Outside the West Door stand two figures of King Edward III and his Queen, Philippa probably dating from the 19th century.
Here we find a font, given by Queen Victoria when Patron. This has a marble bowl in a wooden surround made up from linen-fold panelling and standing on a late 17th century column.
There is also a Paschal Candlestick taking the form of a barley-sugar column and a base depicting St Blaise and St Katharine. This also dates from the later 17th century. There is also a monument to Joanna Caesar (died 1694) and a tablet commemorating the re-ordering of the Chapel in memory of the late patron, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in 2004.
Above the main door is a stained glass window by Alan Younger bearing the Coat of Arms of Her Late Majesty, inside a surround bearing key words from the Foundation’s Charter about its ministry: “Worship, Hospitality and Service”.
These fine doors with gothic tracery and coloured marginal glazing appear to come from Ambrose Poynter’s chapel of 1828 in Regent’s Park. Passing through these, we enter the re-ordered Royal Chapel. Above you, are three 17th century carved panels with putti, the side
ones making music and singing. (When St. Katharine’s was in Regent’s Park these panels were set below the organ and there is much evidence to suggest that in the 1820’s a big effort was made to provide a sympathetic setting for what could be rescued from the wood work that had accumulated over the centuries).
High above us on the West Wall hangs a majestic, stylised crucifixion, in teak, carved by Dr Michael Groser, son of the first post-war Master, The Rev St John Groser, 1948-63.
The richly carved choir stalls, from the medieval Chapel of St. Katharine, are outstanding on a national level, the only example in London to demonstrate the high standard of 14th century wood carving under royal patronage. They are, alas, only a fragment of what still existed in the 18th century, when A C Ducarel’s book of 1780 showed 24 canopied stalls, 15 of them with miserichords.
The two groups of these now standing at the east end and much restored in the 19th century, have gabled canopies, along the lines of a single original traceried canopy preserved in the Victorian and Albert Museum. Tall-canopied stalls were a 14th century fashion. The design of these is simpler than similar ones at Lincoln of about 1370 AD and so suggests that they date from the 1360’s when St Katharine’s was being remodelled after the new ordinances of Queen Philippa. These groups have lost their miserichords and their front stalls now have an assortment of later carving: eight classical panels with busts and medallions surrounded by Renaissance grotesques; and four standing figures with exuberant draperies, including Charity and Faith which probably date from the later 16th or early 17th centuries.