St Mark's Church has reopened after undergoing extensive restoration to make the church suitable for a wide variety of community uses, as well as enhancing its key role as a parish church. The Bishop of Kingston led a service of re-dedication on Sunday 24th June, when the church officially opened its doors again after closing for major work in September 2010. A new parish hall has been built adjoining the church and the space inside the church has been redesigned to include contemporary meeting facilities and room for group gatherings and celebrations.
Rev'd David Houghton, vicar of the parish (recently retired), said: "Central to this project has been a desire to integrate the church buildings themselves into the life of the wider community here in Surbiton. The new facilities in the church will make it accessible for a wide range of community uses.
Paul Edey, Director at IID Architects, responsible for managing the project said: "The work at St Mark's provides a significant, 20 per cent increase in floor area. It has sought to do this in a manner complimenting the external appearance of the established landmark church, using traditional materials that match the existing building in both colour and tone. "A much more radical approach internally has integrated worship and community facilities, along with clergy and administrative accommodation, to provide a series of large and small spaces that have a good degree of flexibility in their use."
For the past 20 years the parish of St Andrew and St Mark Surbiton has worked to see through its Vision to realise the value locked up in two decaying parish halls, and fund the revitalisation of its two church buildings and construct new community facilities. St Andrew's Church also underwent extensive restoration and extension and was re-dedicated in April 2010. A new vicarage was also built in 2010.
It has a light airy interior, with a traditional layout of chancel and nave, and also a Lady Chapel. St Mark's is oriented in the traditional way, with the high altar at the east end of the church. The main entrance is through the south porch and door. The first impression is of light, from the white-washed walls, bleached wood and plenty of windows, few of which contain stained glass.
In front of the entrance is the font, which is placed near the door to remind us that Christians enter into their faith through baptism, and is raised on a step to symbolise the first step on the Christian path. The font shows Our Lord standing in the River Jordan, with a Dove descending on Him, as the Holy Spirit begins to be given to us at our baptism. Around the Jordan stand a vast throng of people, who are both those present at Jesus' baptism and those who are still not Christian and await baptism. In the water swim fishes: the fish is an ancient Christian symbol, because the Greek word for Fish I-Ch-Th-U-S gives the initial letters for Iesus-Christos-Theos-Uios-Soter: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
To the left is the west window at the back of the church, which was designed by W. Carter Shapland. Its theme is the Mission and Commissioning of the Church, which began at Whitsunday or Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples "like flames of fire", and continues to this day through the Sacraments. At the top are the hands of God, and a dove. Fire then descends from heaven, first on to the prophet Isaiah, who heard God's call in Old Testament times and received the Holy Spirit. A six-winged seraph, or angel, brings a live coal of fire in his hand (as described in Isaiah 6). Below him stand the twelve apostles, each with a tongue of flame behind their heads as on Whitsunday they receive God's power and commission. Each carries his characteristic symbol, traditionally used in art. Seven doves fly among them, showing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. At the foot of the window the modern commissioning of a Christian is shown in the sacraments of Holy Baptism (left) Confirmation (right) and, for some, Ordination to the priesthood in the two centre lights.
To the right is the north aisle. Near the tower door is the St George window, also designed by Carter Shapland. This shows St George and a fiery dragon, and commemorates Peter Court, who was killed in the Second World War. (The previous church commemorated a Victoria Cross parishioner in a similar window.) The badges of the regiments in which Court served flank the saint; on the left the Hampshire, on the right the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. Beneath the window lie the Books of Remembrance, containing also the Rolls of Honour for 1914-18 and 1939-45. Book One records names previously on gravestones; Book Two is arranged on a 365-day basis to commemorate the faithful departed of the church of St Mark: the calligraphy was done by Mildred Ratcliffe. The Children's Altar, to the right, has a panel by Enid M. Chadwick. This depicts the birth of Jesus, with shepherds and wise men greeting him. The frame at the side holds a picture relevant to the season of the church year.
At the end of the north aisle is the Lady Chapel. The engraved glass over the door, depicting Christ ascending into heaven, was made by F.B. Barker of the London Sand Blast Decorative Glass works. The Lady Chapel's doors are almost sound-proof, as it is kept as a quiet place for private prayer. The window shows the Archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Lord. Her response, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord", is written on the altar frontal which will usually be seen below. In the season of Lent, the frontal displaying symbols of the Crucifixion of Jesus is used instead. The silver cross on the altar (during services) shows similar symbols, but from them light rays shine to indicate the triumph of the cross. The candle-sticks are in the shape of an open flower: this set was made by Neil Harding. A lamp hangs over the altar to show that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved here, in the aumbry to the left. On the wall to the right are copies of an Italian work of art made by Christine Hall: terracotta plaques of the Virgin and Child, with attendant archangels.
To the right of the Lady Chapel, on the north side of the chancel arch, a small mediaeval worked stone from Southwark Cathedral is built into the wall. "It is the custom of the mother church" wrote the Cathedral Provost "to give away pieces of herself to be built into her daughters". It has been inscribed with the Diocesan Arms and the word "Southwark".
During the Easter season a special candle called the Paschal Candle is lit, and placed in a tall candle-holder which was made in 1994 by David Kortright, a member of the congregation. He also made the two wooden stools on which the Priest and Deacon sit in the chancel (the enclosed area around the altar). The Reconsecration stone in the chancel carries the Arms of the Diocesan Bishops who consecrated in 1845 (Winchester) and 1960 (Southwark).
The chancel roof was painted by Robert L. Hendra and Geoffrey F. Harper. Immediately above the altar the Hand of God and the Dove carrying a wafer of bread emphasize God's action in the Consecration of the Holy Communion. To the left and right two open books give the first and last words of St Mark's Gospel in the authorised version. Two winged lion s passant each with a gospel beneath an upraised foot are for St Mark, whose emblem in the New Testament is the lion. Immediately above the Communion rail four symbols of Jesus' life read from left to right: the Annunciation (lilies and a sceptre); the Nativity (king's crowns and shepherd's crooks); the Baptism (a shell); and the Passion (crown of thorns). Behind the altar the last bay of the roof has sun, moon and stars, representing Heaven; joyous angelic trumpeters worship God.
Behind the high altar the Reredos (altar piece) is decorated with doves, which always represent the Holy Spirit. Two angels stand in prayer, echoing those at the west end who play trumpets: these were designed by Harold Youngman and carved by Arthur Robinson, whose daughter Mary was a member of the congregation. The panel at the north end is carved with honeysuckle; the panel at the south with clematis. The altar itself has beneath its frontal a carved oak panel depicting chalice and wafer. The high altar cross has as its centrepiece the Lamb of God. The cross, silver communion plate and candle-sticks were made in 1960 by Hurst, Franklin & Co to designs by Milner and Craze. On weekdays and in Lent they are replaced by a wooden set. The altar frontals vary with the season.
The East window of the chancel is by J. Dowling, who also designed the Lady Chapel window. In contrast to the west window, this is Victorian in flavour. In the centre is the Cross of the Crucifixion. The Mother of Jesus, in green, is on his left; the Centurion looks up in faith, while the soldier, playing with his dice, is unmoved. John the beloved disciple is on Jesus' right; Mary Magdalene kneels below. On the right John Mark, our patron saint, is included by courtesy though he was not present; and on the extreme right is R.M. Benson, the curate of St. Mark's referred to in the History page. The cross blossoms above into the tree of life. The band of red surrounding it connects the Son with the Father, for "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself". At the Father's feet a dove completes the Trinity. Around the Father are the four creatures of Revelation 4:7 who represent the four evangelists: "and the first creature was like a lion, the second like a calf, the third creature had a face as a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle". At the top of the window the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet Alpha and Omega remind us that God is the beginning and end of all things (Revelation 22:13). On either side of the Father there is a symbol of sacrifice: on the left the Lamb "standing as it had been slain" with a flag of victory in his hand; to the right the pelican "in her piety" feeds her young with her own blood. All above the spring of the arch represents Heaven, and so stars fill up the smaller openings. The design of the tracery is original, giving more scope to the artist than either a conventional rose or decorated tracery, but is based on the design of a three-light window in Whitby Abbey. This design is echoed in the Communion rail.
The limed woodwork is carved with matching designs. The altar rails divide the sanctuary from the nave, where the congregation sits. The Pulpit shows the symbols of the four evangelists whose gospels will be proclaimed, and a symbol of St John Baptist, together with a panel of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The two principal Hymn Boards record the links of St Mark's with St Andrew's, Surbiton, once our daughter (and now our sister) church, and with Surbiton County Grammar School for Boys (now Hollyfield School) who used to worship here. Their lion, derived from the lion of the Surbiton Borough crest, which is in turn derived from the St Mark lion, is more flamboyant in character. There is a matching carved wooden lectern: the original lectern in the form of a brass eagle is now in St Andrew's Church.
At the head of the south aisle is a statue of Christ the King or "Majestas", by Anthony Southwell (who married Christine Hall, the sculptor of the terracotta plaques in the Lady Chapel). It shows Our Lord crowned, robed in majesty, standing on the globe and with the head of the serpent, symbolising the devil, beneath his feet. One hand is raised in blessing: the other welcomes us.
The organ console stands against the wall of the south aisle. The organ pipes are located in the space above the priest's vestry to the left of the organ. A detailed description of the organ is available. Briefly, it was built in 1951, originally for a private house, and later rebuilt here by Noel Mander and Son. There is an additional organ at the west end of the church, where the choir originally sat. It was found to be impractical for the choir to lead the services from that position so the choir stalls were built in the south aisle in 1964. This is not entirely satisfactory, since the pillars stop some sound reaching the rest of the church. The choir stalls and the organ stool are decorated with more angels. There are in fact more angels than lions depicted in St Mark's church.
The first Heraldic Window (going from east to west of the south aisle and from top to bottom of each window) shows the arms of the diocese of Winchester, above those of Rochester, to which St Mark's was transferred in 1877. This first window is a memorial to Francis Humphry, the Diocesan architect who surveyed the ruin and later worshipped here; it was designed by the artists who painted the chancel roof. The second window shows the arms of the Province of Canterbury above those of the Diocese of Southwark. The third window has the arms of Surrey, and below are the Arms of Robert Baden-Powell, first Chief Scout, recording the jubilee of 1st Surbiton (St Mark's) Scout group. Their flag hangs in front of this window. The corresponding flag of St George, for the 3rd Surbiton (St Mark's) Guide Company which closed in 1991, was formerly displayed here also. The fourth window shows the shield, with three salmon, of Kingston parish, of which this area was once part, and the former Borough of Surbiton, absorbed into the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon- Thames in 1974. At the end of the south aisle is a display board for current exhibitions, and above it a modern stained glass window with three interlocking circles, symbolising the Trinity.
Leaving the church by the south door and following the path to the right leads around to the tower and the exterior north wall. These are the only surviving parts of the original church which survived the bombing, although the tower has since had to be repaired. They are thus the only places where the work of the Victorian masons and stone carvers can be seen. The exterior of the tower doorway has moulding carved with a variety of leaves, in the medieval fashion seen at its best in the Chapter House of Southwell Minster. Leaves of ivy, vine, and maple on the right, and oak, sycamore and hawthorn are depicted: even a bunch of grapes can be seen. There are also a number of drip stones with portrait heads, and more leaves, particularly along the north wall. The great wooden doors have massive nails and ironwork decoration. On the tower itself are a number of statues, much eroded by time and the weather: it is reputed that the Virgin Mary and St Peter are among them. Most of the gravestones have been removed from the churchyard, as they were broken and damaged, but some interesting monuments remain.
Taken (with amendments) from the leaflet "A guide to St Mark's Church" by Anne Nichols, 1996, and from the part of the pamphlet "Surbiton Parish Church: Beauty for Ashes" written by Canon Blair-Fish in 1960 to celebrate the reconsecration of the rebuilt St Mark's Church.