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St Jude-on-the-Hill

Gazetteer No. G0580

Date 1908-20

Address Hampstead Garden Suburb London, Greater London NW11 7AH England


St-Jude-on-the-Hill 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 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.

Lutyens clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Henrietta Barnett, a founder of the Hampstead Garden Suburb, and one his few clients not to be charmed by the architect. Mrs. Barnett saw the Anglican church as the centerpiece of the community and, as such, had a particular vision for it. In April, 1908, Lutyens wrote to his wife Emily, “She wanted a gothic church, and ‘I have designed a Romantic-Byzantine cum Nedi.’” The description perfectly describes the unique building.

On the exterior, the horizontality and dominance of the great roof, as it sweeps down to just above the cornice line, is counter-balanced by the verticality of the soaring tower and spire. Miller notes a connection with the great barns of Surrey that Lutyens would have been familiar with since childhood. Tall aedicular dormers light the aisles and punctuate the roofscape. The Lady Chapel and the Harmsworth Chapel (1923) are visible on either side of the east end.

The square brick tower incisively rises through the large roof in a series of five delicate set-backs to meet the spire. Pierced by the large transept windows and the open archways of the bell tower, the tower retains its square shape up until the top stage where it transforms into an octagon accentuated by four diagonal buttresses and four smaller intermediate buttresses. The tapering spire is covered with ornamental leadwork in a chevron design.

The dominant roof, as well as the materials chosen for the exterior, are characteristic of Lutyens’s designs for the Central Square buildings. The architect chose to work with a palette of small, silver-grey Collier brick accented with red brick dressings, ornamental leadwork, and handmade roofing tiles. Stone provided additional accents, but was used sparingly.

The Byzantine aspects of Lutyens’s design become most apparent on the interior featuring thick piers, semi-circular brick arches, saucer domes, and barrel-vaults. Butler and Pevsner site the influence of the Westminster Cathedral design by J. F. Bentley (1839-1902). The barrel vault over the nave, decorated with a gift of frescoes by Walter Starmer, was intended by Lutyens to remain pure white. From the west end, Lutyens designed the nave with three bays of 25 foot span by 19 feet deep with a fourth bay which is 25 feet square and domed beneath the crossing tower. Beyond this is a fifth bay measuring 25 feet by 19 feet followed by a final square bay for the Chancel with its apsidal end. Butler notes that even though the four corner piers of the crossing bay carry the load of the tower and spire, they are not much larger than those of the other nave bays, and are much smaller than those of the chancel piers which carry only a concrete dome. Thus, the chancel becomes the focal point of the interior. The side aisles juxtapose the Byzantine with the Medieval as the open timber roof meets brick strainer arches at each bay. Timber crown post structures support the roof purlins, intersecting each side of the aisle brick archways. (Contributor: Robyn Prater)


Described by Pevsner as ‘the aesthetically most satisfactory and socially most successful of all twentieth-century garden suburbs’, Hampstead Garden Suburb was the creation of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust which was chiefly inspired by Dame Henrietta Barnett. Lutyens was asked by the Trust’s chairman, Alfred Lyttleton (for whom he built Greywalls and Wittersham) to design the central buildings and work with Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, the architects and planners of the Suburb. He designed the Anglican and Free Churches, the vicarage and manse, the Northwest wing of the Institute, and house on the West side of Erskine Hill and North Square. Lutyens’s work influenced the whole project; his idea of a little hill-top town, where roofs predominate and house are built of small silver grey bricks with red dressings, gives the whole suburb a consistent framework.

He was determined that the centre of the suburb should have a strong urban and architectural quality. Preliminary drawings show a church with a portico and high tower forming a central part of a square of arcaded buildings, with the links to the church taking the form of triumphal arches. The scheme was not fully realized, and the centre of the suburb suffers from too much open space around Lutyens’s buildings. St. Jude’s Church has a great roof broken by tall dormers of aedicular form and a spire grows out of a square base through an octagon to the sixteen sided shaft. This rich geometry produces a creative discord between the Baroque and the Medieval which is at its most extreme in the interior where tunnel and dome vaults meet the open timber roofs of the aisles. Lutyens described this church in a letter to Herbert Baker in 1910 as ‘a gathering up of all that men can do’, and Pevsner regards is as, ‘one of Lutyens’s most successful buildings’. The Free Church is a variation of similar themes but has a dome instead of a spire. The Institute building shows Lutyens in a vert Wren-like mood. It is beautifully detailed and restrained. Lutyens had difficulties at Hampstead, he did not care for organized ‘do-goodery’ and felt that Dame Henrietta Barnett had little appreciation of architecture. ‘A nice woman but proud of being a philistine – has no idea much beyond a window box fill of geraniums, calceolarias and lobelias, over which you see a goose on a green’. (Letter to H. Baker, 1909) (Amery et al, 1981, Cat no.176)


Amery, C., Richardson, M. and Stamp, G., (1981) Lutyens, the Work of the English Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944): Hayward Gallery London, 18 November 1981 – 31 January 1982. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

Also Cited In

Cherry B & Pevsner N (1998) LONDON 4: NORTH. The Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Gradidge, R. (1982) Edwin Lutyens: Architect Laureate. London: Allen & Unwin.

Weaver, L. (1913) Houses and Gardens by E L Lutyens. London: Country Life.

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