Nairn’s London #11
St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, West Ferry Rd
THEN: I always expect this astonishing little building to have gone by my next visit: it seems such an improbably fierce survival. The chapel committee chose the young Mr Knightley, who afterwards went on to do many other things, including the old Queen’s Hall and the late wild Westminster Bank in Holborn. Mr Knightley in turn chose to recreate Pisa on the Isle of Dogs: a fussy piece of Romanesque, fighting mad, polychrome from end to end. The front diminishes in arcaded tiers, the four bays are given a circumstantial arcaded clerestory, slate-hung for good measure. It is a very loveable firework, and needs to be much better known.
NOW: A little walk from the Cutty Sark, but with influences a long way from London. The building ceased being a church years ago, and now operates as ‘The Space’ – a community theatre and café. But the exterior remains unchanged, and it’s a fine and elaborate structure surrounded on all sides by ugly residential flats. Worth a look.