The parish church of St Marks has been present on the edge of the common in Pennington since 1859. A grade II listed building designed by the architect Charles Edward Giles, the church of St Marks replaced a smaller chapel on the same site to serve a growing community in and around Pennington village. It has been largely unchanged since it’s original construction, barring the addition of a choir vestry in 1933 and an enlargement of the Lady chapel in 1948.
The church at it’s original build cost £2,023 – the equivalent to £51,000 in todays money.
St Marks was designated a grade II listed building for various reasons, but notably as a good example of the ‘Gothic Revival’ – the erecting of lower cost places of worship in a two-tone brick finish influenced by the architect William Butterfield. Being largely unchanged from the original building also helps St Marks uniqueness amongst buildings of its age.
The first time visitor would find that the building is a brick built church, with a theme of striped brick around it’s walls. A single arched door welcomes visitors through a buttressed porch into the north-west of the building, where the entrance to the choir vestry lies to the right, the main body of the church and pews to the left, the font in front of you. The font is made of stone and dates back to 1890, with an octagonal basin tapering to a narrower pillar to the floor. The theme of striped brick pattern continues inside, under a high open vaulted roof secured with scissor braced wooden beams.
Walking up the nave of the church towards the altar, there are seventeen rows of pews for the congregation to use, with various memorial plaques adorning the walls either side, as well as the fourteen stations of the cross. Within the body of the church there are thirteen stained glass windows, capturing the light from outside: On a bright sunny morning, the colours of the glass send rainbow patterns through the inside of the church.
At the end of the nave is the pulpit to the left, the reading lectern to the right. The pulpit was installed in 1914 and stands above the pews, with narrow steps leading to the top. Constructed in limestone, the pulpit is made of five openwork traceried panels. The lectern is that of an eagle, cast in brass with wings outstretched to support the Bible that is read from on its back.
Within the chancel are the organ and choir stalls with the sanctuary and lady chapel ahead and to the right. The organ is largely unaltered from the originally installed instrument in 1906 and sits behind the choir stalls – the musical pipes nestled within an oak carved trellis. The choir stalls stand in two rows flanking a black and red tiled path to the altar and are elaborately carved oak in warm, dark colours that pick up the leafy carvings sculpted out of the wood.
Separating the sanctuary from the church is a brass railing, behind which sits the altar and crucifix. The sanctuary itself is elaborately appointed, with wall arcading containing alabaster panels in warm, orange tones. Wall paintings surround the sanctuary and extend back into the chancel, depicting Christ’s birth, crucifixion and delivery of the gospel.
To the right of the chancel under a large archway is the lady chapel. More minimally appointed, the lady chapel and altar are a quiet and reflective area, with a large window looking out over the green of the church grounds outside.
St Marks is a quiet, calm church in a modern world that is full of stress and bustle. For those interested in architecture, it’s worth a visit – but when filled with the members of the church, the character of the building changes. A church is more than bricks and stone and a warm and friendly reception awaits any who enters our doors.