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Church of St Mark

A Grade II* Listed Building in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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Latitude: 51.1157 / 51°6'56"N

Longitude: 0.2517 / 0°15'5"E

OS Eastings: 557696

OS Northings: 137572

OS Grid: TQ576375

Mapcode National: GBR MPY.Y69

Mapcode Global: VHHQL.97X0

Plus Code: 9F324782+7M

Entry Name: Church of St Mark

Listing Date: 7 June 1974

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1083780

English Heritage Legacy ID: 167903

Location: Pantiles and St. Mark's, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN2

County: Kent

District: Tunbridge Wells

Electoral Ward/Division: Pantiles and St Mark's

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Royal Tunbridge Wells

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Tunbridge Wells St Mark (Broadwater Down)

Church of England Diocese: Rochester

Tagged with: Church building

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Royal Tunbridge Wells



(Southeast side)


1864-6 by R L Roumieu. 1903, baptistry and vestry. 1985, parish rooms on S.

MATERIALS: Rock-faced local sandstone from the Eridge estate with Bath stone dressings. The inner walls are of brick. Slate roofs with polychromatic patterning. Red clay tile crested ridges on the gabled roofs.

PLAN: Nave, lower chancel with three-sided apse, N and S aisles, W baptistry, NW steeple with porch beneath, N and S transepts, N organ chamber/vestry, SE vestry.

EXTERIOR: The show façade is to the N and the road known as Broadwater Down. It presents a complex assemblage of gables and highly individual detailing which characterise the church as being of the 1860s when there was great interest by architects and their clients in novel and interesting effects. Many churches had polychromatically treated roofs but these now rarely survive so the two-tone slate banding on the nave and chancel, and the lozenge effects on the rest of St Mark's is a feature of some interest. The slender NW steeple forms a local landmark and has particularly idiosyncratic geometry. It has angle buttresses with very tall shallow tapering offsets, and a N gabled portal with a double entrance leading into a porch. The tower has three loosely defined stages, the middle one being the tallest and carrying to very narrow slits separated by a circular colonette with a foliage corbel at the start of the belfry stage. The colonette then turns rectangular with chamfered corners and rises to the base of the spire. Either side of it are three narrow, curiously detailed narrow slits for belfry openings. The spire has broaches and also strange solid projections with tall sloping coverings and which act as continuations of the rectangular shaft separating the belfry openings.

Although the steeple is especially individual in its details, the paired, very steeply pitched windows in the aisles; the steeply sloping sills on the N transept and its fenestration; and the gable, the tapering, sloping sill and the curious tracery of the E window of the apse, are all features that tell of the architect¿s unbridled search for novelty. The clerestory is more restrained with pairs of quatrefoils to each bay, each quatrefoil being under an arched head.

INTERIOR: The walls are plastered and whitened. The nave is of five bays. The W bay of the N aisle is taken up with the tower/porch while the E arches of the arcade are higher and wider than the others and lead into the N and S transepts. The arches have hollow chamfers and have two-tone, cream and yellow voussoirs. The piers are fairly slender and have ornate foliage capitals and square bases, the corners of which are chamfered off to achieve a transition with the circular piers. The W responds of the transept arches have extraordinary angular geometry and include a central bust of an angel. The chancel arch is tall and wide and has a marble shaft rising from a tall base. The roof over the nave is tall and steeply pitched, the main arch-braced trusses springing from corbels in the spandrels of the arcade. The construction is, like much of the architecture, curious: the arch braces have voids between them and principal rafters, apart from a small linking piece halfway up to the collar. The aisle roofs are lean-tos with a large number of purlins. Over the sanctuary the ribs of the roof converge to a central point. This roof is delicately decorated with floral details in white, red and green: there is similar decoration over the spandrels of the windows.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The sanctuary is richly treated. Its centrepiece is a tripartite reredos with straight-sided gables and deep recesses beneath. The long, tapering sills mirror similar features on the exterior. Between the recesses are dark marble shafts. The flanking walls have two painted scenes (Entry to Jerusalem and the Road to Calvary) and texts of the Lord¿s Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments on alabaster. The dado is tiled. The pulpit too is an ornate piece, polygonal with pierced traceried sides and standing on red marble shafts. The font is another example of the architect¿s delight in extraordinary forms: it has a circular bowl but with rectangular projections and is mounted on a tapering base with dark marble shafts in the cardinal directions. It is placed in the baptistry of 1903 which has a rich blue tiled dado. The seating both in the chancel and body of the church is relatively simple: the latter has poppy-headed ends. The organ was built by J W Walker, was enlarged in 1906 and rebuilt in 1978. There is a large amount of C19 stained glass. The W window is a good example of the work of Clayton and Bell. Theirs is also the St James and St George window in the S aisle. Heaton, Butler and Bayne designed the Elijah and Faith and Charity windows also in the S aisle. Theirs to are three central windows in the N aisle. The sanctuary E windows are by O;Connor.

HISTORY: The area of Broadwater Down began to be developed in approximately 1860 with the building of a number of large houses. The Rev. William Nevill had taken holy orders and, despite being a younger son, had inherited as the fourth earl of Abergavenny following the death of his father and elder brother. He offered to build a church here at his sole expense. The foundation stone was laid on 20 October 1864 by the Countess of Abergavenny and the church was consecrated on 21 August 1866. The architect, Robert Lewis Roumieu (1814-77), was from London and had been articled to B D Wyatt in 1831. From 1836 to 1848 he was in partnership with A D Gough. At St Mark's he was able to give free rein to creating novel forms. Such work was not without its critics at the time, the Building News referring to what it termed 'acrobatic Gothic' while it was dubbed in the slang of the day as having 'GO'. GO enjoyed much popularity throughout the 1860s and early 1870s but gradually came to be sidelined by more restrained architecture introduced under influence of late Gothic revivalists such as G F Bodley, G G Scott junior and J D Sedding. St Mark's stands as one of its most lavish creations.

Roger Homan, The Victorian Churches of Kent, 1984, p 97.
John Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, 1980, p 556.
Anon., St Mark's Tunbridge Wells: a Little Guide, nd.

The church of St Mark is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is of special interest as a large church of the mid-1860s showing a wide variety of inventive and unusual detail that was characteristic of the free treatment of Gothic at this time.
* It has much of its original fittings intact.

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