DescriptionThe Free Church is part of the ensemble of buildings designed by Lutyens to complete his vision for the Central Square of the Hampstead Garden Suburb. Lutyens’s plan for the formal center of the development placed three linked squares around the Central Square, with each linked square anchored by a major public building. St Jude-on-the-Hill, on the South Square, faces the Free Church, on the North Square, with the Institute anchoring the east side. The west side of the Central Square was kept open to preserve views of the surrounding countryside.
Striking similarities exist between the exteriors of the Free Church and St Jude-on-the-Hill, the primary distinction being the choice of a dome over the crossing tower at the Free Church rather than the spire and tower at St Jude’s. The Free Church was shortened to its present length during the planning stages. The west ends of both churches were initially uncompleted.
Lutyens was a great admirer of Sir Christopher Wren and his treatment of the dome for the Free Church has links with Wren’s design at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Free Church dome has a concrete cone that sits above the saucer dome of the crossing and inside the brick exterior tower and dome. This interior cone supports the tile-covered timber cupola and the lantern, much in the way that Wren used a similar brick cone in St. Paul’s. A central ocular opening in the saucer dome was provided to allow a glimpse of the intermediate concrete cone.
The dome adds a Byzantine accent to the exterior that contrasts with the calm, classical treatment of the interior, Lutyens’s interpretation of the Tuscan Doric order. A concrete barrel vault covers the nave while a saucer dome and pendentive arches articulate the crossing. Tuscan columns and pilasters line the nave aisle and rest upon brick piers. The steeply pitched roofline impacts the treatment of the side aisles, making the slope of the roof visible on the interior between each of the dormers. (Contributor: Robyn Prater)
Also Cited InCherry B & Pevsner N (1998) LONDON 4: NORTH. The Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Weaver, L. (1913) Houses and Gardens by E L Lutyens. London: Country Life.